Jewish funerals

Jewish funerals are known as ‘k’vod hamet’, they're based around honouring the person that has died. It’s believed in Judaism that after death you're judged to determine whether or not you can go to a higher state of being known as The World to Come.

Here's a guide to help you plan or prepare to attend a Jewish service.

What happens before a Jewish funeral service?

In the Jewish faith, when someone dies, they should be buried as soon as possible. This is to uphold the tradition of honoring the dead.

There are four different types of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform. The funeral traditions vary for each, but what happens immediately after someone dies does not. A prayer is recited (Dayan Ha’Emet) by a Jewish legal guardian (shomer) and they’re asked to take care of the body until the burial. The shomer can be a family member, a member of the synagogue, a friend or a member of the Jewish burial society (chevra kadisha).

Before the funeral, the deceased is washed and purified by members of the chevra kadisha, they must be the same sex as the loved one who passed away. They’re then dried and wrapped in plain white linen or muslin. Once placed in the pine coffin (aron), they'll not be viewed again.

What is a Jewish funeral service like?

A Jewish funeral service lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. It begins with a eulogy led by the rabbi and is followed by hymns, psalms and prayers. A ritual that may be observed is that mourners rip off pieces of their clothes as a demonstration of their grief.

After the service is finished, mourners follow the hearse to the place of burial where they'll line up in two rows. The rabbi then leads the mourners in a hymn. When the coffin's lowered into the ground, some mourners, generally family may throw earth over it.

Once the burial is complete, the family will lead the mourners away.

What do you say at a Jewish funeral?

At all prayer services, the Mourner’s Kaddish is a hymn led by the rabbi. The tradition surrounding this varies depending on the ceremony. At some, it's customary for everyone to stand whilst it's being read.

Do you send flowers to a Jewish funeral?

Unlike Christian ceremonies, sending flowers is not part of the Jewish funeral tradition. Some think of it as inappropriate and an interruption to the mourning process. Sending food trays, fruit baskets or charitable donations are more common to the Jewish tradition.

What should I wear to a Jewish funeral?

Black or dark colours are the most appropriate to wear to a Jewish funeral. As a sign of respect, it’s best to dress smartly such as suits, dresses or conservative business wear.

What happens after a Jewish funeral service?

After a Jewish funeral, there is commonly a reception with food at the bereaved family’s home. Following this is a period called shiva. Shiva takes place over the seven days following the funeral and it's a period of mourning. During this time, a candle is lit and burned for the duration. The family of the deceased stays at home to mourn and pray.

After shiva is shloshim which takes place for thirty days after the burial. During shloshim, the family of the deceased resumes their normal lives but they recite their prayers and hymns daily.

How much does a Jewish funeral cost?

The cost of a Jewish funeral depends on where in the UK it's taking place. Your local funeral director will be able to let you know how much the funeral will cost. Find out more about funeral costs.

Our funeral directors can help you arrange a Jewish funeral service for your loved one. We’re experienced in arranging funerals for all, regardless of faith, religion or culture. We’re available to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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