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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At 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.