A Look at Jewish Burial Traditions

Jewish Cemetery Customs

Jewish burial customs reflect the highly codified and traditional nature of the religion. While some of the traditions are similar to Western secular and Christian funeral and burial conventions, Judaism also prescribes specific proceedings for the remains of the deceased.

This is one of the most important aspects of caring for the Jewish deceased. Respect for the remains of the dead is the motivating force for many Jewish traditions. For example, the body should be interred as soon as possible. Waiting for family members to travel from afar is acceptable because this shows respect for the loved one who passed. To show respect to the body, Jewish tradition also prohibits embalming, viewing, and cremation. At the burial, friends and family of the deceased perform chesed shel emet ––shoveling dirt onto the casket. This is a sign of unselfish love and respect, since there will be no opportunity for reciprocation.

The death of a loved one is taken very seriously in Jewish tradition, which shows in the level of care given to the departed. Between the time of death and interment, the body is constantly looked after by a shomer , or watchman. Many communities have chevra kadisha , Jewish burial societies, who prepare the body of the deceased.

Jewish burials are notable for their austere atmosphere. The body of the deceased is dressed in a tachrichim , a traditional burial garment of simple white cloth. Unlike Christian funerals, traditional Jewish services have no music or flowers, and the ceremony is very solemn and minimal to show respect for the dead.

For help planning a burial ceremony, no matter the tradition, consult Chapel of the Chimes – Hayward . With experience in handling funeral preparations for a wide range of cultures, Chapel of the Chimes – Hayward will help you to honor your loved one. Schedule an appointment by calling (510) 471-3363.

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