How long do we sit shiva? Is one day okay? Three?

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.

You can find more extensive details about this and other Jewish funeral practices on our Jewish Resources page. We also have a helpful page on how to set up a shiva house.

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.

 

 

Yizkor Reminder – Shavuot

yizkorThe Yizkor memorial prayer is recited four times a year at synagogue services, including on Shavuot. Practices for length of holiday observance vary between denominations, so please check with your rabbi or synagogue to confirm this information. For those who observe two days of Shavuot, the Yizkor service is held on Thursday, May 16th. For those who observe one day of Shavuot, the service will be on Wednesday, May 15. A yahrzeit candle is traditionally lit the evening before.

Please see our website for a full calendar of Yizkor dates (based on 8-day observance).

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.

2013 Bereavement Lecture Highlighted in the Baltimore Jewish Times

The Baltimore Jewish Times highlighted tomorrow’s 15th annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture Series on Death, Dying and Bereavement in a recent article.

We hope you will take a few moments to read the article and then join us at Levinson’s on Wednesday, May 8 from 6-9:15pm

Presenters:

Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.: “Nothing Was the Same: Grief and Loss”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt: “Living in the Shadow of Death: Lessons for Living”

Bereavement Lecture Highlighted on Shalom USA Radio

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt

This Sunday, May 5 at 8:30am, tune in to Shalom USA Radio on 1300 AM, WJFK (in Baltimore), to hear one of our lecture speakers, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, MD, and Jewish Community Services representative Janet Kurland, LCSW-C, discuss the upcoming lecture.

Details about this year’s lecture can be found on our website’s Aftercare services page or by going directly to the flyer.

Google Maps partners with Levinson’s

The Google truck will be in Pikesville on Friday, April 25. Users of Google Maps Street View will be able enter Levinson’s parking lot and walk through the front doors of the funeral home. Levinson’s will become the first Jewish funeral home in the country to partner with Google in this way. Users will have the ability to walk through and tour our lobby, chapels, library, parlors, arrangement offices, and more using a 360-degree panoramic view.

I’m Not Affiliated With A Synagogue And I Don’t Have A Rabbi: What Do I Do When My Loved One Dies?

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.

How To Set Up A Shiva House

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.

Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture Series: May 8, 2013

LectureSeriesSlideAt Sol Levinson & Bros. we believe that our service to the community does not end with the funeral. Since 1998, in memory of Irvin B. Levinson, we’ve hosted an annual lecture series in his honor. Levinson’s, in collaboration with Jewish Community Services, sponsors both national and local experts in the field of death, dying and bereavement. This event is open to the public and provides ongoing support and resources to the community.

This year, the lecture is on Wednesday, May 8 from 6-9:15pm. Please see the flyer for full details, but we are thrilled to have Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. speaking on the topic “NOTHING WAS THE SAME: GRIEF AND LOSS” and Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt discussing “LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH: LESSONS FOR LIVING”.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

 

Yizkor Reminder

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.

The Yizkor memorial prayer is recited four times a year at synagogue services, including on the last day of Passover. Practices for length of holiday observance vary between denominations, so please check with your rabbi or synagogue to confirm this information. For those who observe eight days of Passover, the Yizkor service is held on Tuesday, April 2nd. For those who observe seven days of Passover, the service will be on Monday, April 1. A yahrzeit candle is traditionally lit the evening before.

Please see our website for a full calendar of Yizkor dates (based on 8-day observance).