No matter where you go in Levinson’s Funeral Home, you will find artwork. If you have been here, you probably noticed the stained glass, prints, paintings, the beautiful stone of the chapel walls and more. Most – though not all – of the artwork has a Jewish theme. Many images of Jerusalem can be found throughout the funeral home, as well as the tree of life, the twelve tribes, and many other events in Jewish history.
Why do we have so much artwork? First of all, the simple reason is that it beautifies the space, and makes it seem less formal and more like a home. Also, much of the work is by Jewish and Israeli artists, which we feel is an important community to support. But the most important reason is the first: the artwork serves to create a comforting environment in many places – in the offices where we make arrangements with grieving families, in the family rooms where you come to offer condolences prior to the service, and elsewhere in the building as decoration and inspiration.
The next time you are here, we encourage you to take a closer look at the works on the walls and appreciate their symbolism and beauty.
We’re going to start this answer out by saying we strongly recommend you talk to a rabbi about this issue.
Shiva technically means “seven” and by definition lasts for seven Jewish calendar days starting immediately after the interment (burial). There are many important reasons for this first period of official mourning, but due to various considerations such as family needing to return to their homes in other cities or changes in religious observance, many families sit shiva for fewer than seven days. The length of this observance is now often determined by each family based on their needs.
A frequent question is whether it is appropriate for young children to attend the funeral. Our answer is generally that this is something best determined by the parent, and really depends upon an individual child’s personality. This approach has changed significantly from a few decades ago – the tradition of excluding children from funerals or mourning rituals is no longer understood as best for children. The common approach these days is if a child is old enough to have some understanding of the concept of death, it is important and far less traumatic for them to attend (unless they really do not want to).
At Sol Levinson & Bros. we try to make sure there are options for families who want to include children in the funeral service. First, you can take your children on a virtual tour of our building, showing them the chapel and family room ahead of time so their surroundings are less intimidating when they arrive for the service.
For families with very young children, our Family Rooms have overhead speakers so if a parent or caregiver needs to step out with a child in the middle of a service they are able to continue to listen. In our bereavement library we have workbooks for children to express their emotions through drawing or other activities, as they often do not have the words to express the complex emotions they are feeling and they have not yet developed the coping mechanisms necessary to focus on the appropriate memories of a loved one. Some families choose to place photographs, drawings, letters or cards into the casket and this is an opportunity to allow children to participate.
We also have resources in the library for how to talk about death with children. The words we as adults sometimes want to use to soften the blow are not always the best ones. There is a story used as a lesson to be careful of what to say when speaking to children. As the story goes, a child was told that his grandfather’s body was at the funeral home. As grownups, we understand what this means, however the child became distraught and nobody could figure out why. They finally realized that he thought this meant his grandfather no longer had a head and it was just the rest of his body that was going to be buried. Children have no choice but to be very literal if our words are the only input they have to inform them about a new experience. Here is an article that shares some useful information on how to speak to children about death.
For a little more reading, here is a New York Times article on the changing approach to letting children share in grief.
The changing face of the Jewish community in the United States means that there are families who are not affiliated with a particular synagogue. There is obviously a benefit to being a member of a synagogue and having a rabbi who is familiar with your family. However, if you are not affiliated with a synagogue, Levinson’s does engage clergy – for a fee set by the Baltimore Board of Rabbis – to officiate at funeral services. The members of the clergy (rabbis and cantors) are skilled at pulling together multiple people’s memories and crafting an accurate reflection of a person’s life. Because there is not a long-standing relationship with the family, it is especially important that the rabbi or cantor speak with as many members of the family as possible, to put together the eulogy.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
People often struggle to know what to say to someone who is seriously ill, to their families, or to the family of someone who has died. This article from the LA Times suggests a sort of “Ring Theory” for determining where people fall on the spectrum of intimacy with the family, and what they should say to others, depending on the relationship of everyone in the conversation.
We react emotionally to difficult situations, for good reason. But this is a helpful reminder to think carefully about how our reactions affect others.
Have you seen this new resource page with suggestions for setting up a shiva house? Several people asked us for such a list and so we put on as many recommendations as possible, including thoughts for how to help the family during the shiva period (remembering medications, trash and recycling pickup, grocery shopping, etc). The most important thing we can suggest is that you find one person to manage the tasks and a few others to whom that person can delegate.
If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments section below.
A funeral home with a blog – seems a little strange, no? We think that as you have a chance to read our upcoming posts you will find it very useful. The purpose of this blog is to answer less formal questions about funeral practices, especially Jewish funeral practices. Also, it is a good place for us to highlight available resources that may be helpful for the families we serve, and provide updates on newsworthy events in the community and the funeral industry.
If you have any pressing questions that you have always wanted to ask a funeral director, first check our FAQ on our website or search this blog, and if you don’t see the answer to your question please let us know by sending a comment at the bottom of this page or by submitting an “Ask the Funeral Director” form. We look forward to hearing from you!
We are conveniently located just 1/2 mile north of 695, on Reisterstown Road at the intersection with Mount Wilson Lane. To reach our parking lot, turn onto Mount Wilson Lane and we are the first entrance on the right.
If you are coming to our offices: when you pull into the parking lot, continue along the right side of the building until you see the door labeled “Offices.”
If you are coming to attend a funeral: our staff should be at the entrance to the parking lot. If you are going to the cemetery, they will give you a sticker for your windshield and direct you where to park. If you are just attending the service in our building, they will tell you to park on a certain side of the lot. By parking where they indicate, it will help avoid you possibly getting blocked in by attendees for another service!
Whenever possible, we have the days and times of shiva services on an individual’s funeral notice, which can be found by visiting our website’s home page.
If you are looking on information for a funeral that has already taken place, start typing the person’s last name into the box where it says “Search by last name”, and after you have entered a few letters their name should come appear. Click on their full name and it will take you to their page.
No matter where your loved one passes, call Sol Levinson & Bros. immediately. We are the only phone call you have to make, and we contact everyone else, such as the rabbi, cemetery, doctor or out-of-state funeral home. This makes it easier (and, in the case of an out-of-town death, often less expensive!) for you and your family.