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A Guide to Death and Mourning

The time of death of a loved one can be overwhelming for families and friends. Please know that as part of the Temple Adat Elohim community, you will not be alone traveling the mourner’s path. While the following is meant to provide basic answers for your immediate concerns, our doors and arms are always open for further guidance, support and comfort.

Immediate Considerations

When death occurs at home, call 911. If the deceased was under hospice care, contact the hospice. If the deceased was in a hospital, the hospital staff will make the necessary arrangements.

Call the Temple

Please call the Temple as soon as possible: 805-497-7101. If you are unable to speak with someone during business hours, choose option 4 during the “welcome message”. This will give you the phone number of the clergy “on call”. One of our three clergy is always “on call”. However, if you receive their answering message or relay operator, please leave a detailed message and they will be in contact with you as soon as possible. Even if the deceased is out of town, we encourage you to call so that we respond with support and comfort.

Call a Mortuary

There are many mortuaries and cemeteries to choose from in the Greater Los Angeles area. Our congregants typically use the services of:
  • Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries (Simi Valley): 800-600-0076
  • Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks (Westlake Village): 818-889-0902
  • Arrangements may be made through the Temple for the purchase of a burial plot at either of these locations. Please contact Aliza Goland, our Executive Director.
  • A memorial service may be held at a cemetery, a private home, or the TAE sanctuary. In the case of the latter, the body of the deceased may not be present.
  • One of our clergy will be available to officiate at a funeral service for members of TAE, their parents and their children. They may also be available to officiate at funerals for other family members and friends.
  • Please consult with one of our clergy before setting a time for the funeral service.

Organ Donation

Organ donation is considered a mitzvah (sacred obligation). For more information please visit the Reform Movement's Organ Donation Website.

Cremation

Jewish tradition holds that cremation is not in keeping with the value of kavod hamet (dignity of the deceased). While our clergy discourage cremation, they will conduct a memorial service.

The Casket and Other Preparations

In keeping with tradition, caskets for a Jewish burial are of simple wood construction and remain closed prior to and through the duration of the service.

A chevra kadisha (burial society) may be requested through the mortuary or by contacting the Chevra Kadisha Mortuary: 1-800-654-6772. For more information on the role of the chevra kadisha, please speak with one of our clergy.

Embalming and autopsies are discouraged. However, state and local laws take precedence over Jewish laws and customs.

Interfaith Questions

Our clergy are available to conduct a funeral or memorial service for a family member even if the deceased was not Jewish. The service may be appropriately modified in consultation with the clergy to reflect the unique needs of the family.

We also encourage our families to follow the path of mourning for non-Jewish family members. For guidance, please see the information below or consult with one of our clergy.

Funerals and The Path of Mourning

Timing

Funerals are held as soon as possible. The traditional view is that the funeral is within 24 hours of the time of death. However, for the consideration of out-of-town relatives and friends, the funeral service is often two or three days after death. Funerals are not conducted on Shabbat (Saturday) or on Jewish holy days.

Shivah

Immediately following the service at the cemetery, guests visit the family at their home to pay their respects. Members of our Sisterhood often participate in the mitzvah of kavod ha’met (the sacred obligation to show respect for the deceased) by preparing the home for the family’s return from the cemetery. Please let us know if you would like the Sisterhood to prepare your home.

It is considered a mitzvah (a sacred obligation) to sit “shivah” for seven days after the loss of a parent, spouse, child and sibling. Shivah traditionally consists of reciting the kaddish (memorial prayer) and refraining from daily activities and business pursuits. Each night, a member of the TAE clergy or a fellow-congregant will be available to lead a short service at your home. Typically, members of our congregation “sit shivah” for 2 or 3 days. However, we would be honored to lead a service each night of the first week of mourning. If a minyan (a quorum of 10 Jewish adults) is not expected, we can also arrange to have congregants join you in your house of mourning. Mourners recite kaddish with the congregation at the Temple on Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday morning) and then resume shivah on Saturday night.

Your loved one’s name is recited at the Temple on Friday night and Saturday morning for 30 days.

Shloshim

Shloshim is the balance of the 30 day mourning period following shivah. During this time the mourners return to most of their daily activities but often refrain from social events. At the end of shloshim, the mitzvah (sacred obligation) to recite kaddish daily only continues for those mourning the loss of a parent.

Yahrzeit

The yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death. It is customary to light a 24 hour yahrtzeit candle at sunset the day before the anniversary date. Members of our congregation choose to observe either the Jewish or secular date of the yahrzeit. The name of the deceased is read in the synagogue on both Friday night and Saturday morning of the yahrzeit and typically the mourner chooses to honor the memory of the deceased with a contribution to the synagogue.

Unveiling

The unveiling and dedication of the grave marker is usually in the 11th month of mourning. This brief ceremony may be conducted by a member of our clergy, a family member, or friend.

Yizkor Services

Four times each year the Temple conducts a special memorial service: Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. We encourage you to make a special effort to attend these services each year.

Mourning the Loss of Friends and Non-Immediate Family

While there is no obligation to formally mourn for those who are not in our immediate family, we certainly grieve for the loss of close friends and extended family members. Please contact our clergy for guidance and support if you are experiencing such a loss.

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