FAQs

We frequently receive questions that may require a slightly longer response than what we have room for on our main website. From details about Jewish funeral practices to slightly more unusual questions that may have been nagging at you, we’ll try to provide some answers here.

Any information about ritual practice is intended as a general overview for the broader Jewish community and there are many differences of opinion within this community. Concerns about specific ritual practices should be directed to your rabbi. Opinions expressed in blog posts and in external links may not represent the opinions of the staff or ownership of Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc.


Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits

Did you know that there are several benefits that veterans of the United States military are entitled to for their burials? There are both ceremonial and financial benefits available to any veterans that have served our country and were honorably discharged.

You may have attended a funeral that had a flag draped over the casket, heard the moving sounds of a bugler playing Taps at the cemetery, and then witnessed the flag being folded and presented to a mourner on behalf of our grateful country. It can be a powerful and meaningful moment in what is already a very emotional experience.

If you wish have military honors at your own or a loved one’s funeral, all you need to provide to your funeral director is what is known as form DD-214. This form states that the veteran has been honorably discharged from his or her service and is eligible for an honor guard to be present at the funeral. There is no charge for this service and it is something that Levinson’s will coordinate on your behalf with the United States military. If you have already pre-planned your funeral with Levinson’s, we can keep this document on file to present at the time of burial. If you do not have access to the DD-214, you can obtain one by going to this web site or by contacting the National Personnel Records Center at 314-801-0800.

There are also several financial benefits that are provided to veterans for their burials. For example, every veteran who has been honorably discharged (and their spouse) is entitled to a grave at a state veterans cemetery at no charge. The veteran is also entitled to a free lining in the grave, a grave marker, and the opening and closing of the grave at no charge (spouses of veterans are entitled to extreme discounts for these items). Burial at a veterans cemetery does sometimes entail a little bit of a wait for interment and our funeral directors can provide you some information on that. Families of veterans can be reimbursed (up to a certain amount) for the cost of a grave at another cemetery, as well as for some funeral expenses. These amounts vary and to receive them the family must apply directly to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after the veteran’s death by going to their website or calling 1-800-827-1000.

Membership in Jewish War Veterans of America (JWV) also provides benefits. Members of JWV will provide a ceremony (upon request) that involves standing at attention in front of a casket in our chapel, and they will also serve as honorary pallbearers. According to jvw.org “The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is an American Jewish veterans’ organization created in 1896 by Civil War veterans to prove that Jews have proudly served this country since the Revolutionary Era.” The JWV works to help preserve veterans’ healthcare, as well as benefits for their caregivers, and can even help to provide service dogs to veterans in need. For more information about how to join or donate to the JWV please visit their website.

For more information about veterans’ benefits related to the funeral, please give us a call or schedule a time to sit down and speak with one of our funeral directors.

What Happens to Social Media Accounts After Death?

Social Media has become as much a part of our everyday lives as eating and breathing. In today’s world, it is hard to find someone who hasn’t left at least one digital footprint behind for others to find online. Whether you use social media to catch up with friends, show off pictures of grandchildren, or keep informed of community events, it is an open door for other people to see what you are doing with your life. With that being said, have you ever thought of what will happen to your social media accounts in the wake of your death?

 

Luckily for those of us not so technically inclined, many social media applications have already thought of this task for us. Setting up a “legacy,” or a person you select to maintain your social media accounts, is a way that your pages can be memorialized at the time of your death, and let friends and family pay tribute to your everlasting memory. Your “legacy” can monitor the account and manage the features in your absence, making sure that friends and loved ones won’t receive insensitive messages, such as automatic birthday reminders after your death. People often forget that social media applications don’t know when a person has died, and these automated reminders and messages will continue to be sent unless the proper protocol is followed.

 

webcasting

Although this may be an unpleasant thing to think about, the reality is that your social media accounts are an extension of you, and should be managed by someone you trust (or closed out upon your passing). If for nothing more than letting long lost contacts know what has happened to you, the social media pages maintained by your “legacy” can be an important bereavement tool for loved ones who may find comfort in visiting your pages, posting tributes and reliving happy memories.

 

For more information on how to assign a “legacy” to maintain your Facebook account, click here. There are also many articles online where you can read more about the benefits of having a social media “legacy,” and how to set up a “legacy” for social media accounts other than Facebook.

The Levinson’s Difference

Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Directors.

Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Directors.

Most people know that at Sol Levinson & Bros. we pride ourselves on our high level of service while tending to people in our care. People sometimes wonder what makes Levinson’s so different than other funeral homes, and even other businesses in general.

Sol Levinson & Bros. has been family owned and operated for more than 125 years, making us one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Baltimore. It is an exceptional and unusual legacy. Thus far, we have had five generations of the Levinson family privileged to serve Baltimore and the surrounding communities. Since our beginning in the 1880s when Max Levinson began his funeral transportation service (which later became our very first funeral home) we have built our business on strong family values which we hope are reflected in how well we are able to assist your family. Our long-standing and close relationships with area rabbis, synagogues, cemeteries and community organizations allow us to excel at providing service to the families we serve. We believe that having a robust family commitment is what builds a strong community, and Levinson’s is honored to be an integral part of the city we call home.  

Mission Statement: Providing exceptional funeral care to our community from generation to generation through compassion, education, and personalization.

Being a family-owned business allows us a great deal of flexibility when it comes to helping others. We are able to handle each family’s needs with a personal touch, accommodating everything from the most traditional funeral to the most personalized alternative services a family would like. As funeral directors, our role is to provide information, options, and experience in order to help families as much as possible. Our flexibility as a business also allows us to provide innovative programming and outreach, such as bereavement support groups, educational series’ on topics such as healthy living or living wills, bereavement programs in partnership with local hospice organizations, special programs on topics such as the Opioid Epidemic, and our Levinson’s Volunteer Initiative where we provide social action projects at local festivals and fairs.

The Levinson’s difference extends to the staff, as well. No matter what time of the day or night, when you call Levinson’s you will always be greeted by a warm, caring, and knowledgeable member of our staff, whereas most other funeral homes and businesses turn their phones over to an answering service after hours. At Levinson’s we have many employees that have been here for ten years or longer, and we try our hardest to ensure that there is continuity of service and relationships, even when that spans decades. If you have dealt with a specific funeral director in the past, we try to make sure you deal with that person again whenever possible. Finally, we have extensive training for our staff, to ensure they know how to handle all of the logistics that go into planning a funeral, and we hire people we know to be warm and compassionate in addition to being detail-oriented.

We know a lot of the families that we work with, and they have been allowing us to serve them for years; but even for the families who are not familiar with us, we pride ourselves on making everyone feel like a part of our family, and not just a client. Sol Levinson & Bros. is honored to have spent the past 125 years providing families with the personalized care that they need and deserve, and we look forward to doing so for many years to come. We want every family we serve to feel as comfortable as they can during one of the most difficult parts of life. We understand that planning the funeral of a loved one is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make it as easy on families as possible. Thank you for entrusting us with this vital service to the community.

Jewish Views on the Afterlife

When we invited Rabbi Steven Schwartz, of Beth El Congregation, to present on the topic of Jewish Views on the Afterlife at the October 2017 “We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss” program, we had no idea how many people would be interested in the topic. As it turned out, he had a large group of people gathered to learn more.

We followed up with Rabbi Schwartz to get a summary and he said “Many Jews don’t realize how much Judaism has to say about life after death. The tradition understands that God plants a soul inside of us when we come into the world, and when we die God takes our soul back. In that sense, the souls we carry during our earthly journeys are eternal, and will continue to exist even after our physical bodies are gone.” Rabbi Schwartz emphasized to us that “a core idea of Judaism is that we don’t understand death as being the end, but transitional, from one state of being to another state of being.”

After a little more research we came to the conclusion that, as with many aspects of Judaism, belief in what an afterlife looks like varies across the board. Below are a few websites that discuss the Jewish view on the afterlife in depth and from different perspectives. We at Levinson’s do not promote any particular belief, but we understand this is an important topic and people are searching for more information. We encourage you to talk to your Rabbi, do a little more reading and come to your own conclusions on this deep and meaningful subject.

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/life-after-death/

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/afterlife-in-judaism

http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/afterlife

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2970/jewish/Do-Jews-Believe-in-an-Afterlife.htm

What is Aging-in-Place?

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMWhat does it mean to “age in place”? According to the U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention the definition is, “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The average life expectancy in this country continues to rise, and with this blessing comes challenges and responsibilities to help maintain the safety and quality of life for a growing senior population. With families more spread out than ever, many adult children worry about making decisions for – and ensuring the well-being of – their aging parents from a distance.

Most people’s first desire is to remain in their own home as they age, and there are important ways that homes can and should be updated to ensure one’s physical safety. Some of these modifications involve removing tripping hazards, placing assistive devices in bathrooms, re-arranging furniture, adding ramps, ensuring kitchen safety, and more. There are also concerns about medication management and transportation that may need to be resolved. There are many resources available in Baltimore to help people continue their independent lifestyle and remain in their communities and their own homes.

Jewish Community Services offers an Elder Care Management program. From their website, “JCS Elder Care Management supports individuals in their desire to continue living in their own homes or in other settings with maximum independence and dignity while providing their family and caregivers with peace of mind.” Please see their website for the many ways they can assist, including consultations, assessments, and care management services. 

Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. or, CHAI presents a broad range of community resources for seniors. They offer a supportive community network, housing services and loans, home repair, and other community outreach and volunteer programs. You can find all of these resources, as well as ways to volunteer or donate, by visiting their website.

Another vital part of being able to remain independent includes taking care of one’s self not only physically but mentally as well. The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore offers a multitude of classes and events for seniors that allow them to socialize and remain connected to their community while staying physically active, strengthening both body and mind. There are classes available for visual arts, performing arts, book clubs, as well as their Lifelong Learning programs which offer enrichment classes on art and literature. Many of the programs and classes they offer are free or low cost. To find out more and see a comprehensive list of services they offer, you can visit their website.

If you are interested in learning about how to create more opportunities for  the community to better “age in place” you can also visit the National Aging in Place Council.

Thinking about our future or our parents’ futures isn’t always easy, but putting plans and practices in place now can help us ease into the next phase of life. Albert Einstein said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” With the proper care and planning you can continue that balance well into the future, independently, safely and comfortably.

The Best Gift I Could Give My Children

Portrait Of Senior Couple Relaxing Together On SofaWe recently sat down to make pre-arrangements with a woman who told us her children thought that pre-planning her own funeral was the strangest thing for her to do, but she knew it was the best gift she could give them. Once all the decisions were made and everything was taken care of, she knew that all her family would have to do is pick up the phone and call Levinson’s when the time came. She said it gave her peace of mind to know they would not have to worry about making decisions while grieving, nor about the financial aspect of the funeral, and they would then understand how much of a gift she had given them.

It may seem surprising, but several hundred people a year come in to plan ahead for their funerals, or the funeral of a loved-one. We hear an incredible amount of positive feedback from them, with comments such as “That was a much easier conversation than I expected,” or “I feel so much better having had this conversation.” People uniformly thank us for making the process so easy.

When you come in to talk to us there are no obligations and there is no pressure. We give you all of the options and information, allow you to ask any questions you may have, and put together a personalized Pre-Planning Guide with funeral information and valuable resources for your family.

Funeral directors are available by appointment to meet you at either the funeral home in Pikesville, or at our Columbia Arrangement Center. If you wish to learn more about the benefits of planning ahead, include a video testimonial, please visit our website.

“Don’t Worry, I Took Care of Everything.”

Has a loved one ever told you they’ve “taken care of everything” related to their funeral? Do you know what they mean by that?

So many times we, as funeral directors, have taken a call from a family notifying us that someone has died and “they told me everything was taken care of” – and we have no record of them ever coming in to make decisions or to pre-pay anything. It turns out the person purchased cemetery plots and that is it. This is a horrible shock for the family at an already emotionally overwhelming time. Imagine believing the funeral has been paid in its entirety and finding out that is not the case.

If a loved one has told you “I took care of everything,” please ask them what they mean, and specifically ask if they have come to Levinson’s to review all the options. If they haven’t, consider bringing them in to sit down and have this – admittedly difficult – conversation. You will receive a personalized Pre-PlanniCompleted Guideng Guide, which contains:

  • funeral selections,
  • location of vital documents,
  • space to write down important information to be used in the eulogy,
  • resources for families to use at the time of someone’s passing,
  • and much more.

If they HAVE been in to discuss all the options, but it has been a while, we want to offer the opportunity to come in and get our new Pre-Planning Guide reflecting your selections. Please give us a call to come in and meet briefly with one of our funeral directors, who will review it with you and give you a copy. You don’t have to make any changes to your existing selections.

We are available to meet with you by appointment in our Pikesville and Columbia, MD locations. As always, information on planning ahead is available on our website.

Why Do We Place Stones At A Grave?

The Symbol of the Stone at the Grave

Have you ever wondered why Jews leave stones at the graves of their loved ones? Our Jewish faith teaches us to respect, mourn, remember, and care for the dead. Leaving stones at your loved one’s grave is a way of doing just that, for long after they have left this world.

StonesFrom the moment someone passes away, we go to great lengths to care for them. Not only in memory, by planning a respectful funeral that reflects the kind of life they lived, but also physically – as some opt for the ritual ceremony of Taharah (please see our previous blog post here) – and spiritually, by having a Shomer sit with them, ensuring they are never left alone. Visiting a loved one’s grave offers you time to reflect, meditate, and remember them. Leaving stones there commemorates those you’ve lost, as well as your visits.

So, why do we leave stones rather than flowers that you may see in a secular cemetery? There are two reasons for this. The first one being that the stone symbolizes permanence. We wish for our loved one’s soul to live eternally in the world to come. Flowers may be beautiful, but they do not last – their beauty fades, and petals fall – while a stone remains sturdy even against the elements. The second reason being that in life, flowers symbolize luxury, a prize or even status. Judaism tells us that in death, like in birth, we are all equal. We are all rocks against the elements to stand the test of time.

 

Honoring a Memory by Planting Trees

In the Jewish faith, there are many ways to celebrate, honor and commemorate the life of a loved one and perpetuate their legacy for future generations. Planting a tree in their memory is a time-honored tradition that is symbolic and heartfelt, and a very common and appropriate way to show your support. Tree planting ceremonies may help a mourner fill a void felt after the funeral and shiva period have ended. Alternatively, it is very common to make a donation to a tree-planting organization such as Jewish National Fund, in someone’s memory.

Traditionally, a fruit tree is planted because it symbolizes continual nourishment by the fruit it bears. A story is told of a man named Honi, who encountered another man planting a carob tree. “How long will it take to bear fruit?” he inquired. “About 70 years,” the man replied. “So you think you will live long enough to taste its fruits?” The man explained, “I have found ready-grown carob trees in the world. As my forefathers planted them for me, so I plant for my children.”

This is a great way to teach younger generations about the circle of life and the beliefs we hold regarding life and death in the Jewish faith. The life cycle is not only about raising families and participating in your community, but teaching the reasons why we take care of one another, and providing for future generations as was done for us.

Many families are thankful for the visual reminder of how their loved one made a positive mark on the community, and it is uplifting to see a beautiful tree adorn the community in a loved one’s name. It also gives a place to visit, when perhaps the memories associated with visiting the cemetery may be too painful.

The options available to those interested in planting a memorial tree are many. While it is common to plant a tree in the yard of the mourning family, there are many places, such as a park, synagogue or school where family members and friends could remember and reflect on this symbol of a life well lived. The family’s rabbi may even conduct a small service.

 

Debbie Taylor’s Passover Kugel Recipe

With Passover quickly approaching, here at Levinson’s we’ve been sharing recipes and family traditions. Here is a recipe from one of our “family members”, Debbie Taylor:
 matzahcartoon
Passover Matzoh Kugel Recipe
2 cups matzoh farfel, softened in boiling water for 15 minutes then drained well
4 large eggs, beaten
1 lb cottage cheese
1pt. sour cream
1 large can of crushed pineapple(with juice),optional
3/4 cup sugar.
Mix all ingredients
Pour into a greased 8×8 Pyrex dish
Bake at 350 for 1 hour