New Educational Program: Ask the Expert discussions in private homes

Sol Levinson & Bros. is pleased to introduce a new program:

 

“Ask the Expert” educational conversations
about funerals and advance planning.
In the comfort of your home. 
With the guests of your choice.

 

AdvancePlanningHomeGroupTalking

 

Why we are offering this option:
Talking about death and funerals is hard – we understand that – but every day we see the importance of having these difficult discussions ahead of time.

We want to make these conversations easier for you, so you can make things as easy as possible for your family. Some people feel uncomfortable asking questions surrounded by a group of people they don’t know, and we hope this solves that problem.

 

What it is:
These private gatherings, designed for 4-8 people, offer an informal opportunity to speak with one of our funeral directors who also specializes in advance planning. If you have a wine or book club, mah jongg group, or even a couple of close friends, you can gather in someone’s home to have a relaxed conversation and ask questions that may be a little more personal:

  • What happens after someone dies?
  • What does a “Jewish funeral” mean?
  • How do you want to make a service better reflect you and your life?
  • What happens if you want a non-traditional service?
  • What happens if you don’t have a rabbi?

We can answer all these questions, and more.

 

How it works:
You invite the guests. We provide informational literature and, of course, the expert. We can also provide light snacks, if you wish.

We are flexible on day, time and location, so talk to your potential guests about a few scheduling options, and then get in touch with us to coordinate.

 

Next steps:

To plan your gathering or get more information, you can reach Eliza Feller, Director of Advance Planning and Funeral Director, at AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or call 410-653-8900 and ask to speak with Eliza or with Candace Cannon, an Advance Planning Specialist and Funeral Director.

Howard County Bereavement Groups: 2018-2019

Bereavement Group for Spousal Loss (Series I and III)

In partnership with Sol Levinson & Bros., the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s Community Social Worker, Michalah Hoffman, and Dr. Barry Frieman, Ed. D., LCSW-C offer a bereavement support group exclusively for those who have lost a spouse or partner. The group will focus on helping those who have experienced the loss of a loved one navigate their grief in a small group discussion environment.

Bereavement Group for General Loss (Series II)

Similar to Series I and III, however this bereavement support group is for those who have lost a family member or friend (excluding a spouse). The group will focus on helping those who have experienced the loss of a loved one navigate their grief in a small group discussion environment.

 

Free and open to the community, but advance RSVP required to mhoffman@jewishhowardcounty.org


 

Series I: Bereavement Group for Spousal Loss
Thursdays, September 12, 19, 26 and October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
Afternoon Group
3:00-4:15 pm at the Federation Office
10630 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Suite 400, Columbia, MD 21044
Evening Group
6:00-7:15 pm at Sol Levinson & Bros.
5560 Sterrett Pl, Suite 204, Columbia, MD 21044

Series II: Bereavement Group for General Loss
Thursdays, December 12, 19, 26 and January 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
Afternoon Group
Time TBA / Location TBA
Evening Group
6:00-7:15 pm at Sol Levinson & Bros.
5560 Sterrett Pl, Suite 204, Columbia, MD 21044

Series III: Bereavement Group for Spousal Loss
Thursdays, March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 23, 30; and May 7
Afternoon Group
3:00-4:15 pm at the Federation Office
10630 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Suite 400, Columbia, MD 21044
Evening Group
6:00-7:15 pm at Sol Levinson & Bros.
5560 Sterrett Pl, Suite 204, Columbia, MD 21044

What is a Yahrzeit?

Yahrtzeit_candle

While many people find meaning in marking the anniversary of someone’s death, Judaism is unique in having rituals for this commemoration, from lighting a candle to reciting Mourner’s Kaddish. But are those the only ways to observe a yahrzeit? Where did these rituals begin, and why? Check out the resources and writings we found:

 

 

Whatever type of observance you choose, we hope you will find a ritual which is meaningful to you and serves to make your loved ones’ memories be a blessing.

Memorialization and Unexpected Deaths

 

**This is an incredibly emotionally-challenging topic, and we ask you to please use your judgment as to whether this is an appropriate article for you at your personal stage in the grief journey.**

 

The grief experience is complex even in the most straightforward circumstances. That already-difficult experience can be compounded by a sudden death. The process can be even harder yet on those who have lost someone due to choices their loved one made.

 

ConsolationSome of the challenges families face in circumstances of a sudden death are explained in this brief overview by a grief educator. The questions of how to best remember the life of someone who has died suddenly – and how that memorialization can also help the family heal – is an important one.

 

Please know that we at Sol Levinson & Bros. are here to be a resource, to help find ways to honor a life and a relationship in the way that best reflects your loved one, and to provide memorialization that meets your needs. If that means taking a little more time to carefully craft a service, or to provide the family a little time to gather together and regroup before being surrounded by community, we are here to help. If you are concerned about finding a sensitive way to share a loved one’s life story, we work with many members of the clergy who are compassionate and understanding.

How your loved one dies does not take away your need to grieve.

 

As funeral directors, we have found that the initial reaction of family members in these situations is often a survival instinct – to shut down and handle the final arrangements for the person as quickly and privately as possible. That may serve an immediate need, but sometimes that instinct makes the grief experience harder and more complicated in the long run. Just as with the importance of the stages of mourning in Jewish tradition to honor a loss and transition slowly back into the world, a funeral or memorialization is important to acknowledge and honor the loss a family is experiencing. As a recent Connecting Directors article noted, “When a loved one dies under tragic circumstances, some families choose to not have a funeral. They may be embarrassed and worried what others will think due to how their loved one died. Regardless of how someone died, there are, very often, memories worth commemorating.” (“NFDA Addresses Tragic Deaths in New Public Service Announcements.” NFDA, National Funeral Directors Association, 25 March 2019, www.nfda.org). How your loved one dies does not take away your need to grieve.

 

 


 

Resources

There are many articles that talk about and provide resources for various types of sudden loss and grief. Whether the death is due to an accident, overdose, suicide, heart attack or other causes, the family’s needs are incredibly important. Below is a list of some articles and videos that address these issues. There are also many local resources for survivors of different types of sudden death. Jewish Community Services is the main Jewish organization in Baltimore that can help direct people to bereavement support groups or other assistance, and you can reach them at 410-466-9200 or see their services on their Emotional Well Being page

 

**Warning: the videos and articles can be intense and may be upsetting for those who have experienced these types of loss. Please be sure you are with someone supportive when you watch or read them.**

 

Videos

The National Funeral Directors Association recently created some PSAs for those experiencing certain types of sudden, traumatic loss.

When a Parent Dies of an Overdose”

When a parent dies of an overdose, it can lead to strong emotions, especially among children. Having a funeral gives the family the opportunity to remember their loved one and the good times they had with other family members and friends. A funeral offers a time to gather, grieve and support one another.

 

“Remembering A Good Friend Who Made Bad Decisions”

We may not always agree with the life decisions made by our loved ones, especially if they involve illegal activity. A funeral provides the opportunity to come together and reflect on a loved one’s entire life history and remember the good times you had together.

 

Articles

 

Mourner’s Kaddish: Traditions and Alternatives

PrayerbookJewish mourning practices are designed as a series of steps that allow us to set time aside for grieving and then gradually move forward in a natural progression – shiva for seven days, sheloshim for the first 30 days, then the full year for a child mourning a parent, not to mention the yahrzeit and yizkor services – but why do we do this, and what do people do if they can’t make it to a minyan every day, or if they don’t find meaning or support in the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish?

 

To begin with, Shiva.com has a brief explainer of the various periods of mourning. As with all religious practices, we strongly encourage you to have an open conversation with your rabbi about your needs and the options, within your level of observance. Judaism is unusual in that it has a defined set of mourning practices in order to help the bereaved transition back into “normal” life, without feeling they have to jump back in after a few days. Many people find this series of steps gives them the freedom to fully grieve, without having to put on a false front to the rest of the world.

While most rabbis would encourage you to go to shul on a regular basis to be in community as you remember your loved one, perhaps you can find a way to incorporate your own spiritual practices into that process. Rabbi Dana Saroken, of Beth El Congregation, believes in the healing power power of reciting kaddish as a part of a community. She shared, “I always encourage people, even if the words don’t feel fluid or natural or they aren’t regular ‘shul-go-ers,’ to try attending a minyan on a regular basis. The Jewish tradition is that we recite kaddish for immediate family for a month for a child, sibling, or spouse and for 11 months (minus a day) for a parent. I have found that when people make time in their lives to channel their grief, especially among a community of people who understand what it feels like to experience love and loss – they have structure in their journey through grief and also tend to emerge from that time feeling more ‘ready’ to re-enter the world of the living when their period of mourning comes to an end. Whether it’s daily or weekly – creating a fixed time for connecting to G-d, to others, and to the presence and memory of our loved ones – is a precious opportunity and it matters.” Rabbi Saroken also shared that, “People can use the mourner’s kaddish to focus on the words that praise G-d (even in moments of loss) or they can spend their time bringing to mind a memory/memories of their loved one. Sometimes, I just think of the rhythmic recitation of the prayer as a heartbeat or an umbilical cord that continues to connect us to the person that we love.”

It is also helpful to understand exactly why these Jewish practices have come to be, before making a decision about your own practice. This article in the Forward makes some important points about What Judaism Teaches Us About Grief and Loss. And this post from the ritualwell website encourages people through the process of saying Kaddish, from the perspective of someone who initially struggled to even pronounce all the words.  

 

If saying Kaddish is not for you, it may be helpful to find other ways to incorporate the set periods of mourning into your routine, even if you choose not to attend synagogue to say Kaddish. If your family is only having shiva for a few days, you may still want to find some way to mark the full shiva period whether by spending your evenings at home with family sharing memories of the person, by making some of their favorite recipes, or by doing something like not listening to music or not watching tv for those seven days. If you are not attending a minyan but you’re looking for something a little more formal, Judaism encourages study of a text such as Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of Our Fathers), for the appropriate length of the mourning period, taking time to consciously think about your loved one before you begin.

If these more traditional approaches still do not meet your needs and you are looking for a way to honor the traits of someone you loved by creating a spiritual practice, the ritualwell website has a helpful post on this topic. Ritualwell also has an entire section dedicated to Mourning and Bereavement, where you can find poems, stories, ritual guidance and more. One suggestion would be to dedicate yourself to 30 days or a year (for a parent) of silent meditation each morning, dedicated to thoughts and memories of your loved one. Also, many people choose to begin a volunteer project for a cause their loved one supported, start an awareness project in their memory, or get involved in an organization that meant something to their loved one.

 

Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that it reflects your needs and supports you as you move through this journey.

Tips for Cleaning a Relative’s Home, Downsizing for a Move, or Decluttering to Help Your Family

CleaningHouse

Have you ever faced the overwhelming challenge of cleaning out a loved one’s home for a move to a smaller place or a nursing home, or felt rushed to do this after their death?

It can seem insurmountable, especially if you are grieving their death or juggling their healthcare needs, as well as your own family and work life. Several recent articles provide suggestions and resources for these situations, as well as tips for decluttering your own home so that this burden does not fall on your own children.

  • Cleaning out a relatives home: Many people have heard of Marie Kondo, or the KonMari Method, where you go through all of your items and consider whether they “spark joy.” This is a helpful method for going through someone else’s items to make hard decisions. Check out this article for suggestions on how to follow this approach. Some people also choose to contact a home or estate clean-out company to help handle this task.
  • Cleaning out your own home:
    • Marie Kondo also promotes her method to encourage people to clean up their homes before someone else has to do it for them. Tips for going through the process with your own items using this approach can be found in this article.
    • Another approach comes from a book titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” which some people find less daunting than the KonMari Method. It may sound like an odd title, but it is a straight-forward and often funny book by Margareta Magnusson that provides encouragement and tips for people who may be downsizing. It is also beneficial to those who are point in their life where they want to reevaluate their possessions and how they want to ease the burden on their own children. This article talks about her approach, which involves taking your time to gently regard the objects in your home, consider their value to you and your family beyond just their nostalgic value, and make decisions based on that.
  • Paperwork: One other suggestion for cleaning up that Sol Levinson & Bros. can be of assistance with is tackling paperwork. We have experienced firsthand the dread in people’s voices when they realize they have to go through someone’s whole office – or even just a file cabinet – to find important details about wills, birth certificates, insurance policies, and bank accounts. That’s why when you come in to discuss Advance Planning with us we provide you with a personalized resource called the Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide. This guide contains a simple, easy-to-find space to write down all the important information for your family. It’s kind of like a summary of your personal affairs. The added benefit is that we also gather important information ahead of time, and ask you the questions we need to so that your family does not have to also be burdened with those tasks at the time of your death. There is no charge for our time to meet with you and there is no obligation to pre-pay (though that is yet another thing you could do for your family ahead of time to make things easier on them).

Whichever cleaning method you choose, be sure to let family know in case they want a particular item you may not have been aware of. If you would like to make an appointment to meet with us and get your personalized Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 410-653-8900 or use our Online Appointment Scheduler to pick a time that works for you.

Why do We Place Earth in the Grave?

Have you ever wondered why it is Jewish tradition to fill in the graves of our loved ones? To some it may seem like a painful process and, truthfully, it is. But our Jewish faith teaches us to care for one another, and that doesn’t stop after death. In fact, the guiding Jewish principal after someone dies is “Kavod HaMet” or honoring the dead. According to chabad.org, “Burial is the last physical act of kindness that we do for our departed loved ones. We have cared for them in their lifetimes, and now we care for them in their passing by ensuring they have a proper Jewish burial.”  Many rabbis even say that it is the highest mitzvah that you can do, as it is truly selfless, since you know that the deceased will never be able to repay you for this act of kindness.

The more traditional Jewish burials involve filling the grave entirely with large shovels, while Reform or Conservative burials may involve ceremonial earth with small hand shovels. Some families have a tradition somewhere in between that requires ensuring the top of the casket is covered before departing the cemetery. You may have noticed some people using the back of the shovel for at least one of the scoops. Using the back of the shovel shows our reluctance in burying our loved one, that we are differentiating the act from a standard use of a shovel, and that it is not an easy task. Finally, as we place the earth into the grave, we might hear the rabbi recite the words Al mekomo yavo veshalom (for a man) or Al mekomah tavo veshalom (for a woman). This translates to may ________ go to his/her place in peace.

It is so important to care for each other in death as we care for each other in life. The tradition of burying our own is one of healing, and the beginning of a long process of mourning our loved ones. It symbolizes closure, allowing us to move forward into the shiva period and navigate a new world without the deceased. Knowing that we did everything we could to help our loved one transition on to what is next hopefully brings at least a small feeling of comfort.  

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