Shomers – Guardians of the Soul

 

Have you ever wondered what the word Shomer means?

Or what is the purpose of the Jewish tradition of someone staying with a deceased at all times?

 

Shomer literally means “guardian,” and there are some very important reasons we still honor the tradition of having a shomer in our building.

 

“The body is understood to be the creation of G-d and the dwelling place of the soul. As such, a body must be accorded every respect, in life and in death.”

Our Jewish faith teaches us that our most important responsibility is to care for our loved ones after death. According to jhvonline.com, “the body is understood to be the creation of G-d and the dwelling place of the soul. As such, a body must be accorded every respect, in life and in death. In practice, this means that a dead body should not be left alone.”

 

Caring for the dead is one of the highest mitzvahs you can achieve – or a chesed shel emet – which jewishpress.com defines as a “kindness of truth (i.e. with pure intent), since one cannot be thanked by the recipient of the chesed.” Part of respecting and caring for the dead involves having a shomer, or “watcher” with the deceased, beginning at the time of death up until the time of the funeral.

 

PrayerBookStudyResized

At Sol Levinson & Bros., we have several people we engage to serve as a shomer so that no deceased is ever left unattended. They stay in a dedicated room adjacent to where the deceased is, where they read psalms (“Tehillim,” in Hebrew). On occasion, a family may decide that they or some friends prefer to sit shomer for their own loved one, and we have accommodations for this as well.

 

 

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.

Medicaid Spend-down: Ask the Expert Luncheon

  • What is Medicaid spend-down?
  • Is it for me?
  • How do I spend down my assets in an acceptable way?

Join us to hear from Jason Frank, Esq., professor of Elder Law at University of Baltimore Law School, Towson University, The Johns Hopkins University, the MSBA Continuing Education Program, and the University of Maryland School of Law.

Eliza Feller, Levinson’s Pre-Planning Manager, will briefly discuss the benefits of the Levinson’s Pre-Planning Guide.

Tuesday, June 12
12-1pm
Eggspectation
10209 Grand Central Ave #126, Owings Mills

A vegetarian/fish meal will be served. No fee, but attendance is by reservation only.

Space is limited. RSVP by Friday, June 8 to Sol Levinson & Bros. via 410-653-8900 or AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com

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

Life Happens Series in Columbia

Life Happens

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE?
It can be hard to discuss what happens when you or a family member needs skilled nursing care or passes away. But taking time to explore and make decisions about these issues now will make it easier on your loved ones. Facing these difficult issues can provide everyone with peace of mind for years to come.

LifeBridge Health, Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Federation of Howard County and Sol Levinson & Bros. want to make the hard conversations about aging and planning for the future easier for you. Join us in Columbia this September for Life Happens, a free series of talks from experts who help navigate others through these topics.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events. 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, or call 410-601-WELL (9355).

  • The Greatest Gift: Discussing and Planning for Future Financial, Medical and End-of Life Matters with Loved Ones. Get the much sought-after “Binder.” On Tues., Sept. 6, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Beth Shalom, 8070 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia, MD 21044
  • Jewish Perspecitves on Aging and End of Life. On Tues., Sept. 13, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Vantage House, 5400 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD 21044
  • Healthy Living for a Healthy Future. On Tues., Sept. 20, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of Howard County, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Ste. 400, Columbia, MD 21044
  • The Jewish Funeral: Traditions and Options. On Tues., Sept. 27, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Services P.A., 5560 Sterrett Place, Ste. 204, Columbia, MD 21044

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).

Seventeenth Annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture Series on Death, Dying and Bereavement

Wednesday

May 20, 2015

6:00 PM – 9:15 PM

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc.
8900 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, MD 21208

Featured Speakers:

Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb – “Trauma and Loss as Opportunities for Psychological Growth”

William C. (Bill) Dietrich – “Companioning the Dying: Opening Fully to Living”

Limited Seating.  Doors open at 5:15pm on a first come, first served basis.  No registration required and no reservations can be taken.

Funeral directors, psychologists and social workers attending the program may earn 3 CEUs (category A or 1).

2014 Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. and Jewish Community Services
welcome the entire community to:

The 16th Annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, May 21, from 6-9:15pm. We are pleased to announce the following presenters and topics:

Glenn J. Treisman M.D., Ph.D. – “Depression and Demoralization in Patients with Chronic Illness”
Doreen Horan, LCPC, FAMI – “Creative Grief Counseling for Children and Adults: The Wisdom of Integrating Therapy, Intuition, and Life Skills to Live Freely, Fully, Joyfully”

Dr. Treisman is the Director of the AIDS Psychiatry Service, Co-Director of the Chronic Pain Treatment Program, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Ms. Horan is the Manager of the Counseling Center at Stella Maris, Inc., a hospice provider in Timonium, MD.

2014Postcard

The lecture will be held here at Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD. Limited seating. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. No prior registration or reservations. 3 Category A or I CEUs available for psychologists and social workers. The lecture is provided in conjunction with Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

2013 Bereavement Lecture Highlighted in the Baltimore Jewish Times

The Baltimore Jewish Times highlighted tomorrow’s 15th annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture Series on Death, Dying and Bereavement in a recent article.

We hope you will take a few moments to read the article and then join us at Levinson’s on Wednesday, May 8 from 6-9:15pm

Presenters:

Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.: “Nothing Was the Same: Grief and Loss”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt: “Living in the Shadow of Death: Lessons for Living”