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Our first eNewsletter is out – did you receive it? We expect to send it out a few times a year to inform you of upcoming events, helpful information about mourning and bereavement or changes in funeral practices, as well as information about Levinson’s. We hope this provides valuable resources to our community beyond our funeral services. If you would like to be on the email list to get the newsletter in the future, just click here.

Check out our blog post titled “Let’s Talk About Death?” for the lead newsletter article on the fascinating and important discussions taking place across the United States about death and dying.


2013 Bereavement Lecture in Howard County

On Sunday, October 20, 2013, Levinson’s hosted our annual bereavement lecture in Howard County. With about 100 people in attendance from the Columbia, Rockville, Bethesda and Washington, DC areas, this lecture allows us to provide outreach and aftercare services to the families we serve in those neighborhoods. The lecture is also a way of providing ongoing training to the social workers and caregivers who live in these communities.

Presenter J. Shep Jeffreys spoke about “Helping Grieving People: When Tears Are Not Enough”. J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., F.T. is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in the treatment of grief related problems. He is a Fellow in Thanatology (ADEC). In addition to his practice at the Family Center in Columbia, he is an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he presents seminars on loss and grief to psychiatric residents. He is Affiliate Assistant Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland, teaching Loss and Bereavement.

Dr. Jeffreys is author of Helping Grieving People: When Tears Are Not Enough: A Handbook for Care Providers, 2nd Edition, and of Coping with Workplace Grief: Dealing with Loss, Trauma and Change, Revised Edition. His column “Grief Psychologist’s Corner” has been a regular feature in Living With Loss magazine. A speaker and storyteller, he consults with and provides training programs for religious, medical, and educational institutions as well as business organizations. For twelve years he worked with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., as a trainer and grief/loss workshop leader in the United States and abroad, and he has served as consulting psychologist for The Johns Hopkins AIDS Service. Dr. Jeffreys is a member of and consultant to Bereaved Parents USA, Howard County (MD) Chapter.

Feedback after the lecture was that Dr. Jeffreys was very informative, a great speaker and people really got a lot out of the morning. All in all, it was an experience that was very helpful to the attendees.

If you are interested in the lectures either at the Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home (usually every Spring), please check in with us in February. If you would like to know more about upcoming Howard County lectures, please check in with us next summer.

You can always contact us with any questions.


This event was co-sponsored by Jewish Community Services (An agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore) and The Jewish Federation of Howard County.

Let’s Talk About Death?

Have you ever talked to your friends or family about death? Do you know what your loved ones’ wishes are for long-term care? Have you told them what your wishes are? What does it mean to decide to send a family member to a nursing home, hospice facility or receive hospice care at home? Is your family prepared in case someone dies suddenly? What are your wishes regarding a funeral, and does your family know what they are?

The separation many of us have from death or those who are dying – due to extended life expectancy and the rise of long-term care facilities – means that this subject is rarely discussed and has almost become taboo. This does a disservice to those who are dying and those who are struggling to cope with the loss or imminent loss of a loved one. Several interesting communities and resources have recently stepped in to fill that gap.

Now you can gather a group of friends or family to discuss “Death Over Dinner“, sending out a resource for people to read in advance and then gathering to talk about your reactions or thoughts. They point out on their homepage that “How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having.” Bloomberg recently highlighted these dinners in an article which looks into some participants’ experiences. Or you can attend a “Death Cafe” which gathers people together over cake and coffee (or tea) to share their thoughts and fears about death. Back in March, NPR interviewed the man who started them, and you can read that interview here.

If you have any questions about Jewish funerals or the mourning process, funeral options available, or would like information about resources in the community, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Ask the Funeral Director – FAQs

There are many questions people have about Jewish mourning customs and the process of arranging funerals. On our website we have attempted to address the most common questions with our “Ask the Funeral Director FAQ”.

  • What do I do when my loved one passes away?
  • What should I bring when making funeral arrangements?
  • My family member lives out of state, but wants to be buried in Baltimore. What should I do when he/she passes away?
  • What if the burial is to take place out of state?
  • Is there a difference when a death occurs at home rather than in a hospital or nursing home? Will someone come right away?
  • My parent is going into a nursing home. I was advised that I could reduce their assets by pre-funding funeral expenses. How do I go about that?
  • Does the funeral service need to be held within 24 hours after someone passes away?
  • I can’t decide if I should have a chapel or graveside service. What should I consider?
  • I am not Jewish. What should I expect at the funeral? Is there a viewing?
  • Do you accept flowers? What is appropriate to send to the funeral home or shiva house?
  • I’m arriving from out of town for a funeral service. What transportation is available from the train station? From BWI Airport? How long a trip is it?
  • My family member has passed away. Should I wear a kriah ribbon? Where do I wear it?
  • I am planning an unveiling. Does Sol Levinson & Bros. assist with that? How do I go about planning?
  • I want to find the cemetery where my family member is buried. They passed away many years ago. Do you have that information?
  • I want to order a Yahrzeit calendar. How do I get one?
  • I need additional death certificates. Can you order those for me?
  • How do I choose pallbearers? How many should we have? How old must they be? What is the difference between active and honorary pallbearers?
  • What Social Security benefits may I be entitled to?
  • I served in the military. Are there Veteran’s benefits that I may be entitled to? How do I plan for military honors at the funeral and graveside?
  • Where is the shiva house? Do you have directions?
  • What are the days and times for shiva services?
  • Where can I call to get my loved one’s Hebrew name?
  • The headstone is knocked over at the cemetery. Who do I call for assistance?

If you have any questions that you do not see here or there are any important topics you feel we have not covered, please contact us.

Should Children Attend Funerals?

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.



What Is This Blog For, Anyway?

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!