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.

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.  

Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits

Did you know that there are several benefits that veterans of the United States military are entitled to for their burials? There are both ceremonial and financial benefits available to any veterans that have served our country and were honorably discharged.

You may have attended a funeral that had a flag draped over the casket, heard the moving sounds of a bugler playing Taps at the cemetery, and then witnessed the flag being folded and presented to a mourner on behalf of our grateful country. It can be a powerful and meaningful moment in what is already a very emotional experience.

If you wish have military honors at your own or a loved one’s funeral, all you need to provide to your funeral director is what is known as form DD-214. This form states that the veteran has been honorably discharged from his or her service and is eligible for an honor guard to be present at the funeral. There is no charge for this service and it is something that Levinson’s will coordinate on your behalf with the United States military. If you have already pre-planned your funeral with Levinson’s, we can keep this document on file to present at the time of burial. If you do not have access to the DD-214, you can obtain one by going to this web site or by contacting the National Personnel Records Center at 314-801-0800.

There are also several financial benefits that are provided to veterans for their burials. For example, every veteran who has been honorably discharged (and their spouse) is entitled to a grave at a state veterans cemetery at no charge. The veteran is also entitled to a free lining in the grave, a grave marker, and the opening and closing of the grave at no charge (spouses of veterans are entitled to extreme discounts for these items). Burial at a veterans cemetery does sometimes entail a little bit of a wait for interment and our funeral directors can provide you some information on that. Families of veterans can be reimbursed (up to a certain amount) for the cost of a grave at another cemetery, as well as for some funeral expenses. These amounts vary and to receive them the family must apply directly to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after the veteran’s death by going to their website or calling 1-800-827-1000.

Membership in Jewish War Veterans of America (JWV) also provides benefits. Members of JWV will provide a ceremony (upon request) that involves standing at attention in front of a casket in our chapel, and they will also serve as honorary pallbearers. According to jvw.org “The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is an American Jewish veterans’ organization created in 1896 by Civil War veterans to prove that Jews have proudly served this country since the Revolutionary Era.” The JWV works to help preserve veterans’ healthcare, as well as benefits for their caregivers, and can even help to provide service dogs to veterans in need. For more information about how to join or donate to the JWV please visit their website.

For more information about veterans’ benefits related to the funeral, please give us a call or schedule a time to sit down and speak with one of our funeral directors.

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

Yahrzeit Email Reminders

In order to enhance our service to families, Sol Levinson & Bros. recently added the ability to receive annual yahrzeit reminders via email.
If you would like to receive annual yahrzeit email reminders from YahrzeitMemorial.com for your loved ones, please copy and paste the following form to email us with information:
Your name:
Your email address:
Loved one’s name:
Hebrew date of death (if known):
English date of death (MM/DD/YYYY):
     Before or after sundown:
yahrzeitcandle
We ask your patience as we process your requests, and that you please allow us several weeks to add you to the system. Once you are signed up to receive the emails, you will receive a reminder one week prior to the yahrzeit date. As always, if you need an updated 20-year yahrzeit calendar you may create one on our website. If you have any questions regarding the new email reminder service, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Twilight in the Woods

Join us on the evening of October 22nd as we light up the night in honor of those we have loved and lost, including those fallen heroes who have proudly served our country and community.  This outdoor event will provide a time for reflection and remembrance and will embrace attendees in a warm, meaningful glow.

To register for the event, please contact Gilchrist Grief Services at 443-849-8251.  Please register by Monday, October 16, 2017.

Candle and HeartsSponsored by Gilchrist Grief Services, Sol Levinson & Bros. and Inner Arbor Trust, Inc.

*There is no fee to attend this event. If you would like to purchase a luminary to honor your loved one(s), there is a cost of $10 per luminary.

 

Day/Time: Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 5:30pm 

(Registration begins at 5:00pm; the event will be held rain or shine.)

 

Location: The Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods 

10431 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD, 21044

 

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss – September 2017

Levinson’s is partnering with Jewish Community Services and Gilchrist Grief Services to present a powerful program designed to help people who are grieving the death of a loved one.

Grief specialists from JCS and Gilchrist along with Rabbi Steven Schwartz from Beth El Congregation will help participants understand their feelings of grief, recognize what to expect during the grieving process, and acquire new coping skills. The program is designed to help those who have lost a loved one come away with a renewed sense of hope and meaning.

 

Comforting

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

 

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. Funeral Home

8900 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore MD  21208

 

 

Gilchrist Logo JCS Logo Levinson Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

Free and Open to the Community

To Reserve a space please register by September 7, 2017

Call: 443-849-8251 or email gs_grief@gilchristservices.org

____________________________________________________

Program

6:30 – 6:45   Welcome

6:45 – 7:15   Realistic Expectations While You Are Grieving

7:15 – 7:25   Break and Refreshments

7:25 – 8:15   Breakout Sessions led by Gilchrist Grief Services, Jewish Community Services Bereavement Clinicians, and Rabbi Steven Schwartz

8:15 – 8:30   We Remember Them presented by Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Beth El Congregation

 

 

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. – 125th Anniversary

125BoldIn 2017 Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. celebrates 125 years of operation as one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Baltimore. Currently, the third, fourth and fifth generations of the Levinson family are active in the running of the funeral home on a daily basis. The Levinson family is aware of the unique nature of their organization in today’s rapidly evolving world.

Levinson’s owes a great deal of our continued success to our ability to change with the times while maintaining core values. We place an emphasis on high quality of service and dignity shown to all families. Levinson’s also navigates the delicate balance of incorporating technological and societal changes into Jewish funeral practices that are thousands of years old. In addition, a few years ago, Levinson’s reached out to the families we serve in the Columbia area by opening an arrangement center near the Mall in Columbia.

In addition to our commitment to the families we serve, Levinson’s is also consistently listed as one of the Baltimore Sun’s Top Workplaces. Many team members who are not part of the Levinson family have been here 20-25 years and find the work environment to be collegial and supportive.

As the Jewish funeral home in Baltimore, Sol Levinson & Bros. is aware of our responsibility to the community. We emphasize this commitment to the community by supporting area synagogues, organizations, schools, and more. Levinson’s also partners with The Associated, Jewish Community Services, LifeBridge Health, Jewish Volunteer Connection and area hospice organizations on many outreach programs. Levinson’s ongoing resources to families and community members in Baltimore and Columbia include bereavement support groups, bereavement libraries, educational programs, grief support programs, and much more.

In honor of Sol Levinson & Bros. 125th anniversary, we are proud to be launching the Sol Levinson & Bros. 125th Anniversary Volunteer Initiative. This project is dedicated to the memory of Burton H. Levinson, a third generation member of the Levinson family, who passed away in 2015. Burton taught that the most important thing to keep in mind in the funeral business is “do the right thing.” In keeping with this, we want to expand our dedication to the community, with the goals of Action, Caring, and Tikkun olam (repairing the world).

This coming year Levinson’s will have a presence at several major Jewish festivals in Baltimore and Columbia, with a booth where families can participate in a social action project. Members of the Levinson’s team will be there to help facilitate the projects and answer any questions people might have, but mostly to show the family’s commitment to giving back to the community and to the Jewish value of tikkun olam. Levinson’s greatly values the partnership of Jewish Volunteer Connection and The Associated in making this new project possible.

Sol Levinson & Bros. looks forward to serving the community for generations to come.

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss – Columbia Seminar

 

Thursday, April 27 from 6:30-8:30pm

At The Meeting House: 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, MD, 21045

Gilchrist Grief Services, Jewish Community Services, Jewish Federation of Howard County and Sol Levinson & Bros, Inc. Funeral Home present a Community Seminar:

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

Comforting

Grieving the death of a loved one is a complex journey; it is a unique process for every individual.

This seminar will provide attendees an opportunity to learn new coping skills, to better understand their feelings, and come away with a renewed sense of hope and meaning.

Program

6:30 – 6:45   Welcome

6:45 – 7:15   Creating New Purpose: Finding Hope and Meaning

7:15 – 7:25   Break and Refreshments

7:25 – 8:15   Breakout Sessions led by Gilchrist Grief Services and Jewish Community Services Bereavement Clinicians

8:15 – 8:30   We Remember Them

Free and Open to the Community – to reserve a space please register by April 19, 2017.

Call: 443-849-8251 or email gs_grief@gilchristservices.org