VI. Making Funeral Arrangements
Consulting the Clergy
The Temple’s rabbis and cantor are available for counsel, advice and help, before and after a death. They are anxious to help you and will make every possible effort to accommodate their schedules to your needs. If you wish one of them to be involved in the funeral or memorial service, either a family member or your funeral director should contact Chris Fox, Director of Operations at The Temple, who will assist you in making arrangements. No decision or announcement of the day or time of the service(s) should be made before doing so.
Because their primary obligation is to members of the congregational family, our clergy are available to assist non-members and family members outside of the household only as their schedules permit. When that is impossible, they will gladly assist in locating someone who is available.
If you have not done so previously, cemetery arrangements may be made at the time of death. The Temple’s cemetery is Mayfield Cemetery on Mayfield Road in Cleveland. Arrangements can be made by calling the cemetery office: 216-321-1733.
Burial vs. Cremation
In ground burial has been the normative Jewish practice for at least two millennia. Jewish tradition bars cremation as representing an unnatural acceleration of the process of our physical remains reuniting with the earth. While Reform clergy urge that the traditional practice be followed, we respect the choice of cremation and will officiate at memorial services for those whose bodies have been cremated.
Funeral Director / Chevra Kadisha
At the time of death, family members should contact the funeral home they have chosen. Most members of our congregation and Jewish community entrust this sacred task to Berkowitz, Kumin, Bookatz Funeral Home on Taylor Road. 216-932-7900. The funeral home will perform such tasks as removing the body of the deceased, obtaining a death certificate, placing obituary notices and preparing the body for burial or cremation. It is normally necessary to meet the funeral director at the funeral home to select a casket and other services and arrange for payment if this has not been arranged in advance. As an institution serving Jewish community, Berkowitz, Kumin, Bookatz Funeral Home provides funeral and burial services to all. Please discuss the matter with your funeral director if you have financial concerns.
The Jewish value of equality in death calls for the avoidance of ostentation and excessive expense in making final arrangements. An elaborate coffin is not required; on the contrary, Jewish tradition discourages this. It prescribes, instead, a simple, all wood casket.
While permitted, these are discouraged by Jewish tradition, which favors tsedakah, a charitable contribution to assist the living. Flowers soon fade and wither, but an act of lovingkindness can have a profound and lasting effect.
Time and Place of the Services
Jewish tradition calls for burial as soon as possible after death, but is mindful that travel arrangements may need to be made by out-of-town mourners. This generally means the second or third day after death occurs. Funerals are never held on the Sabbath or Jewish festivals and are conducted during daylight hours.
The Talmud indicates that the funeral service was once held in the home of the deceased or at the cemetery. In modern times, services are normally held at a synagogue, funeral home or cemetery. When the deceased is a member of The Temple – Tifereth Israel, the service may be held at the synagogue, in the Mandel sanctuary or the Hartzmark Room. When desired by the family, the service may take place at a funeral home, followed by interment, or may be combined with the interment and the entire service held at the cemetery.
Children at Funerals
Children are more aware of death than we may realize, though their understanding of death evolves as they get older. Between the ages of 5 and 9 children generally become able to understand the meaning of physical death, and by the time they are 9 or 10 they often have a realistic concept of the finality of death. The ability of children to understand death varies with age, maturity and intelligence, but regardless of the variables, children cannot be shielded from death or protected from its reality.
Death is a crisis that should be shared by all members of the family. The needs of children are sometimes overlooked by grieving adults. When parents discuss death openly with their children, they enable them to develop a concept of death in a healthy manner. Attendance at the funeral can aid children in understanding the finality of death and in dispelling the greater fears and fantasies that can arise when they are kept away. If they are old enough to attend a synagogue service and comprehend a good part of what is taking place, they should be allowed to attend a religious ceremony to say goodbye to a significant person in their lives. Of course, children should not be forced to attend.
If apprehensive children choose to remain at home, they should be allowed to do so without being made to feel guilty or neglectful. Parents may visit the cemetery with them at another time. It is very helpful to children to explain to them in advance what is going to take place and the fact that people may be crying. For more extensive advice on this subject you may obtain a copy of the pamphlet, How to Explain Death to Children, by Rabbi Earl A. Grollman in our clergy suite. Our clergy are also available to discuss this matter with you and offer advice.
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