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for over 125 years

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The Jewish Funeral

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question that is not answered below, please click here to ask a funeral director directly.

Q: What do I do when my loved one passes away?

A: No matter where your loved one passes, call Sol Levinson & Bros. immediately. We are the only phone call you have to make, and we contact everyone else - such as the rabbi, cemetery, doctor or out-of-state funeral home - for you.

Q: What should I bring when making funeral arrangements?

A: At the arrangement, you will be asked to provide statistical information that the state issuing the certificate of death will require, including date and place of birth, social security number, and parents’ names including mother’s maiden name. You may also want to bring any cemetery information you have, including a cemetery deed if available.  Although it is helpful to have as much information ready prior to the arrangement as possible, it is not required to move forward with the arrangement.

Q: My family member lives out of state, but wants to be buried in Baltimore. What should I do when he/she passes away?

A: When a death occurs outside of Maryland, call Sol Levinson & Bros. directly. The professional staff at Sol Levinson & Bros. will make arrangements to transfer your family member back to Baltimore and provide funeral services. By simply calling one funeral home, you can make the arrangements easier, and also less expensive.

Q: What if the burial is to take place out of state?

A: Many families have cemetery lots in the New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia areas, and our professional staff is available to conduct services at your cemetery without the need for a second funeral home. We conduct graveside services in the mid-atlantic region on a regular basis, and have good working relationships with all of the cemeteries.

Q: Is there a difference when a death occurs at home rather than in a hospital or nursing home? Will someone come right away?

A: If your loved one was under home hospice care, you will need to contact the hospice provider. If not, you will need to contact the paramedics. In either situation, have them call us as soon as they arrive. We will have our staff there as soon as possible after we speak with the hospice or paramedic personnel qualified to make a pronouncement of death.

Q: 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?

A: Many families reduce assets in this way. Please see our Plan Ahead section and contact our office by either filling out the Begin Planning form or by contacting us directly for more information.

Q: Does the funeral service need to be held within 24 hours after someone passes away?

A: Jewish tradition encourages us to have the funeral service without unnecessary delay, but it is not required to have the service within 24 hours. Especially in today’s world, with families spread across the country, it is customary to wait 1-3 days to hold a service, in order to allow close family the chance to attend. You can read more here about the Jewish principles guiding funeral services.

Q: I can't decide if I should have a chapel or graveside service. What should I consider?

A: Our Funeral Directors would be happy to discuss the options available, and the differences between the services, to help you make an educated decision about what type of service is best. Some things to consider are the weather, the availability of seating, whether people are out of town and unable to attend who would benefit from being able to watch a video of the service, et cetera. For some introductory information, please click here.

Q: I am not Jewish. What should I expect at the funeral? Is there a viewing?

A: The actual funeral service is very similar to non-Jewish services, with the exception of the fact that the casket is closed during the service. In lieu of a viewing, the family generally receives visitors starting 45 minutes to an hour prior to the announced service time. The family may also receive visitors at home or another location after the service. Please see our information on Shiva  and Funeral Etiquette.

Q: Do you accept flowers? What is appropriate to send to the funeral home or shiva house?

A: Most Jewish families do not have flowers at the funeral service, however some do. Check the notice on our website to see if it says “please omit flowers.”  Charitable contribution suggestions are also available on our website.  Some people prefer to send a food tray or fruit basket to the shiva house.

Q: 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?

A: Please refer to Links of Interest for transportation information.

Q: My family member has passed away. Should I wear a kriah ribbon? Where do I wear it?

A: Kriah ribbons are traditionally worn by immediate mourners - a spouse, child, sibling or parent of the person who has passed. Children who are mourning a parent wear the ribbon on their left side, symbolizing that they are the direct lineage of the person who passed. All others wear the ribbon on the right side.

Q: I am planning an unveiling. Does Sol Levinson & Bros. assist with that? How do I go about planning?

A: Unveilings may take place as soon as 30 days after someone has passed, but many families hold them about one year after passing. If you need suggestions or contact information for clergy or monument companies, please do not hesitate to call. See our detailed information on unveilings to learn more about the process and who you will need to contact.

Q: I want to find the cemetery where my family member is buried. They passed away many years ago. Do you have that information?

A: We have records going back many years and if we handled the service, we often have cemetery information. We would be happy to check our records for you. Email us or contact us at 410-653-8900 and we will research your request.  Prior to the 1950s, we recommend contacting the Jewish Museum of Maryland at 410-732-6400.

Q: I want to order a Yahrzeit calendar. How do I get one?

A: You can print one from our website or place an order with us by completing the Yahrzeit Calendar Order form and providing the information required. If you don’t know the date of death, please contact us and we will check the information in our records.

Q: I need additional death certificates. Can you order those for me?

A: If we handled the service and the death occurred in Maryland on or after January 1, 1969, please contact us to order additional death certificates. If the death occurred in Maryland prior to 1969,  you will need to contact the Maryland Archives at 800-235-4045.  For deaths occuring out of state, please refer to the Death Certificate - General Information by State on our Links of Interest page to obtain ordering information for that state.

Q: How do I choose pallbearers? How many should we have? How old must they be? What is the difference between active and honorary pallbearers?

A: Your funeral director will discuss pallbearer options with you, as practices vary from one denomination to another. In Jewish tradition, pallbearers are not the immediate mourners, but in-laws and grandchildren are usually acceptable. Active pallbearers physically lift and carry the casket both at the end of the service in our chapel and at the cemetery, so they should be physically capable of doing so. We recommend 5-10 individuals as pallbearers, ideally at least 13 years of age due to the physical requirements. Honorary pallbearers form a guard of honor in our chapel at the end of the service. This is a nice way of recognizing people who are physically unable to lift, or if you have more than 10 people who wish to serve. If you do not have enough pallbearers, Sol Levinson & Bros. will provide additional staff to assist.

Q: What Social Security benefits may I be entitled to?

A: Sol Levinson & Bros. notifies Social Security of a person’s passing, but benefits vary greatly depending on family situations. We recommend you contact Social Security directly at 800-772-1213. As a general rule, a surviving spouse is entitled to a one-time nominal payment. Also, they are entitled to have the amount of their monthly check to be changed to a higher amount (if their spouse’s benefit was higher than the surviving spouse’s). Any Social Security benefits must be applied for by the family.

Q: 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?

A: Veteran’s benefits also vary and you can contact the VA for full information at 1-800-827-1000. A veteran with an honorable discharge may have a flag on their casket and be eligible for an honor guard at the cemetery if Sol Levinson & Bros. is provided with their DD-214, a form usually found on the back of the discharge papers. Sol Levinson & Bros. will arrange for a flag and will contact the honor guard, as long as we receive the paperwork with enough advance notice.

Q: Where is the shiva house? Do you have directions?

A: Shiva information can be found on the individual service page for an upcoming service or in our archives for services within the past six months. You can get directions by following the link on that page to get a map.

Q: What are the days and times for shiva services?

A: Whenever shiva times are provided to us with certainty, they will be provided on the individual service page. The rabbi will also announce the information at the end of the funeral service.

Q: Where can I call to get my loved one's Hebrew name?

A: The best person to call for a Hebrew name is the clergy who officiated at the service, or their synagogue. We do not keep Hebrew names on file.

Q: The headstone is knocked over at the cemetery. Who do I call for assistance?

A: The caretaker at the cemetery is the person to contact. Please refer to the Cemetery Information for the name and contact information for the appropriate caretaker.