Planning a Jewish Funeral- What should I do?
Aninut is the time between death and burial.
As soon as you learn that your loved one has died, call your Rabbi.
Your Rabbi will coordinate the memorial service with the Funeral Director.
According to Jewish tradition this should take place within twenty four hours, however it is permissible to allow time for the arrival of family members. Note that funerals are not held on Shabbat or the High Holy Days, Sukkot, Passover or Shavuot. The days you will “sit shiva” may be influenced by Shabbat and these holidays.
If you are not affiliated with a synagogue, call the funeral home to arrange for transfer of the deceased to the funeral home, a rabbi to officiate, the funeral service and the interment. When possible, preplan for this event, not only to insure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out, but also to avoid the need to make decisions at a more stressful time.
In selecting a casket, Jewish tradition suggests that it be made of wood. We are asked to consider "simplicity" and not be ostentatious, as "we came into this world as equals in the sight of God and we should leave the world in the same way." While in ground burial is the most universal Jewish practice, Reform Judaism may accept mausoleum or cremation.
A holy burial society (chevra kaddisha) may be contacted to prepare the deceased for burial. Your Synagogue or the funeral home can make those arrangements for you, or you may find one here at http://www.nasck.org. They provide a shomer (guardian) who will remain with the body until burial. Tahara, a ritual cleansing is performed and the appropriate prayers are recited. They dress the deceased in a shroud, a simple white garment, with men (or women if they so choose) also being wrapped in their tallit (prayer shawl) with one ritual fringe cut.
Plan to have your family meet with the officiating Rabbi to share memories of your departed loved one. The Rabbi will need the Hebrew name of the deceased and will also want to discuss any personal preferences, special family circumstances or anything that should or should not be mentioned at the funeral. Make a list of those who wish to speak, however, you may want to limit the number of people and the length of each speech. You can also discuss a schedule for "sitting shiva" and when prayer services will be held, taking into consideration Shabbat and any Jewish Holidays at that time.
If the deceased was a veteran, or a spouse or dependent child of a veteran, you may want to learn about veteran's burial and memorial benefits at http://www.cem.va.gov/.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Psalm 23