Honoring a Memory by Planting Trees

In the Jewish faith, there are many ways to celebrate, honor and commemorate the life of a loved one and perpetuate their legacy for future generations. Planting a tree in their memory is a time-honored tradition that is symbolic and heartfelt, and a very common and appropriate way to show your support. Tree planting ceremonies may help a mourner fill a void felt after the funeral and shiva period have ended. Alternatively, it is very common to make a donation to a tree-planting organization such as Jewish National Fund, in someone’s memory.

Traditionally, a fruit tree is planted because it symbolizes continual nourishment by the fruit it bears. A story is told of a man named Honi, who encountered another man planting a carob tree. “How long will it take to bear fruit?” he inquired. “About 70 years,” the man replied. “So you think you will live long enough to taste its fruits?” The man explained, “I have found ready-grown carob trees in the world. As my forefathers planted them for me, so I plant for my children.”

This is a great way to teach younger generations about the circle of life and the beliefs we hold regarding life and death in the Jewish faith. The life cycle is not only about raising families and participating in your community, but teaching the reasons why we take care of one another, and providing for future generations as was done for us.

Many families are thankful for the visual reminder of how their loved one made a positive mark on the community, and it is uplifting to see a beautiful tree adorn the community in a loved one’s name. It also gives a place to visit, when perhaps the memories associated with visiting the cemetery may be too painful.

The options available to those interested in planting a memorial tree are many. While it is common to plant a tree in the yard of the mourning family, there are many places, such as a park, synagogue or school where family members and friends could remember and reflect on this symbol of a life well lived. The family’s rabbi may even conduct a small service.

 

Life Happens – first educational series

LifeHappensLogoWe have just completed a very successful first-time educational series, in partnership with LifeBridge Health, the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Jewish Community Services. Thank you to all the speakers and participants.

Over the course of six weeks, we covered the following topics:

  • The Greatest Gift: Discussing and Planning for Future Financial, Medical and End-of-Life Matters with Loved Ones
  • Estates and Eldercare: Planning and Resources
  • Health Expectations and Challenges Facing Baby Boomers
  • Navigating the System: Aging in Place, Independent and Assisted Living, Households and Nursing Homes
  • Palliative and Hospice Care: Difficult Conversations, Valuable Resources
  • The Jewish Funeral: Traditions, Options and Funeral Home Tour

Each presentation was very well attended and we received a lot of excellent feedback. As we review the series and plan for future events, is there a topic you would like us to consider? Please comment here, send an email to feedback@sollevinson.com, or call Matt Levinson or Eliza Feller at 410-653-8900

Life Happens – A free educational series on healthy living, caring for our loved ones and planning for the future

Attendance is free and open to the community. To register for any or all of these Life Happens sessions, go to www.lifebridgehealth.org/communityevents, email Gail Wolven at gwolven@lifebridgehealth.org or call 866-404 DOCS (3627).

Yizkor – Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

yizkorThe Yizkor service is a special service recited four times a year in synagogues, to honor the memory of the departed. It is recited on Yom Kippur, on Shemini Atzeret (at the end of Sukkot), the final day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot (or the first day for those who only observe one day). The Yizkor service is not only an opportunity to remember loved ones, it is also an opportunity to recommit oneself to doing mitzvahs – acts of charity – in a loved one’s memory. By doing a good deed in someone’s memory, it carries on their legacy in this world.

Some synagogues have the tradition of everyone reciting Yizkor, with those who have not lost an immediate mourner reciting Yizkor for victims of the Holocaust or for other martyrs. In other synagogues, it is customary for only those who have lost an immediate family member to recite Yizkor.

A yahrzeit candle is traditionally lit the evening before the service. 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.

 

The Empty Place at the Table: Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Family gatherings can be painful for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Empty Seat at the TableSol Levinson & Bros and Jewish Community Services invite you to join us for help in finding support and comfort during the holidays.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 7:00pm
Oakland Mills Interfaith Center
5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, Maryland

Facilitated by Rabbi Amy R. Scheinerman and Donna Kane, M.A., JCS Clinician

Pre-registration is preferred. Please visit jcsbaltimore.org/griefsupport or call 410-466-9200.

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.

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.

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.