The History of an Unveiling?

The unveiling is the physical act of erecting and unveiling a monument, which allows for the expression of the sad and painful emotions of grief. Family members gather together, often from cities that are miles apart, and continue their mourning as a family, lending each other comfort and support in dealing with their grief.

For individuals who were not able to attend the funeral or shiva, the unveiling ritual provides yet another opportunity to grieve and to acknowledge one’s loss. Although painful, this realistic experience of grief can, over time, be very healing for mourners.

During the unveiling of a monument, as one sees the name of a beloved family member etched in stone, there is a stark realization of the finality of death. The impact can be quite jarring to some, and yet, at the same time, can provide a further opportunity to accept the reality of the loss. Thus, the unveiling ritual allows mourners to face death and loss realistically, and to affirm a commitment to life and to living.

The unveiling also allows the bereaved family members to honor and to recall the memory of their departed. It is a chance to continue to reflect upon the significance of that person’s life, his or her accomplishments, and the people who were important. In a sense, through the unveiling, the memory of a person’s life is etched permanently into the collective memory of the Jewish community.

The Unveiling Service and Prayers

Generally, the unveiling of a headstone is a private service for family and close friends. The service is ordinarily very short and simple, consisting of a handful of prayers, an abbreviated eulogy and the Kaddish. The service is usually led by a rabbi or cantor, but there is no requirement. Many choose to appoint an officiating rabbi to conduct the unveiling, however, this is not mandatory, and it may be performed by a family member or anyone of the family's choosing.

Below is an overview of a how an unveiling ceremony may progress, including psalms that may be read, prayers that can be spoken and words that can be expressed during an unveiling:

  • The service beings with an introduction and words of commemoration for the dearly departed person.

  • Recitation of a Psalm, such as Psalm 23 or any other. click here to view Psalm 23 and others >>

  • Removal of the veil from the memorial. A suggested prayer:

      We now fondly dedicate this monument (plaque) to the blessed memory of (name) realizing that his (her) remains lie not only in this plot of ground but in every heart his (her) life did touch.

      We are grateful for the years we were privileged to share with him (her) - years when he (she) brought us so many pleasures and taught us so very much by example.

      And even though he (she) has left our midst, we know he (she) will never leave our hearts where his (her) memory will endure as a blessing forever.

  • Family and friends are invited to say a few words commemorating the life of the departed.

  • The recitation of the Kel Maleh Rachamim (the Prayer of Mercy) click here to view the Kel Maleh Rachamim >>

  • The Mouner's Kaddish. click here to view the Mourner's Kaddish >>

  • A Minyan (a gathering of 10 Jewish adults) is required for the recitation of Kaddish. If there is no Minyan available, the Kaddish is usually omitted.

  • If desired, additional poems or prayers can be said at this time. click here to view Poems of Comfort>>

Sample Unveiling Ceremony