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.  

Why Advance Planning?

Advance Planning is the number one thing you can do to make the funeral process easier for your family.

Why Advance Planning?

Advance planning allows your family to spend the time after someone’s death focusing on grief and healing, instead of funeral particulars.

What is Advance Planning?

Advance Planning is deciding ahead of time what your wishes are for your funeral or that of a loved one. We are here to make this conversation as easy as possible. There is no obligation to pay anything, and no fee for the appointment.

How does it work?
Simply schedule a time to meet with or speak by phone with one of the funeral directors who specializes in advance planning. When you meet with us face-to-face, we will provide you with a detailed and personalized Pre-Planning Guide that includes all the information regarding your funeral selections, as well as helpful resources to help you get organized and to make the time surrounding the funeral much easier for your family. If you make arrangements with us by phone, we can email you a copy of your Pre-Planning Guide.

Pre-paying comes with the obvious benefit of your family not having to come up with funds or worry about finances while grieving, and we would be happy to discuss our various payment options to pre-pay some or all of the funeral. However, we feel it is most important that you start the process and put your wishes on paper.

To learn more or start filling out a Begin Planning Form, please visit our website. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us or call 410-653-8900.

Family Caregiver Resources

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMAccording to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 72% of families are providing care for adults who are 50 or older. That number will continue to grow as our baby boomer generation ages. Being a caregiver can be a daunting undertaking, but here is an article from Hadassah about the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves. There has even been publicity recently about Millenials becoming caregivers.

Here are some links to some resources that we hope you will find helpful:

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 [email protected]

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.

Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Ask the Expert Luncheon

Physical health & exercise, diet & nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement – join us to hear from a representative of the Alzheimer’s Association who will provide the latest research on how to live a full, vibrant, healthy life.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
12-1pm
Linwoods
25 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills

A vegetarian/fish meal will be served. No fee to attend. Attendance by reservation only. Space is limited.

RSVP by Monday, May 7
to Levinson’s via:
410-653-8900 or [email protected]

Passover, Jews and Israel: A Journey of Purpose

Greg King, Funeral Director, shared with us his reflections on the connections between the Passover holiday and a recent trip with The Associated to Israel:

At the Passover season, as we sit with our families at the seder table, we are reminded, even fixated, on the struggle of the Jewish people as slaves under Pharaoh. We consider how difficult it must have been under brutal, totalitarian rule. We reflect on how Moses repeatedly had to show Pharaoh the error of his ways until the unrelenting despot was shown, once and for all – as the Red Sea parted and then crashed in on him and his army – the overwhelming power of G-d. As well, we remember how Moses led them out of Egypt and into the desert only to roam for 40 years. However, discussed far less, if not almost completely forgotten, is that Passover is as much about a people as it is about the characters that make up the story. In fact, it is not just about the people but the journey these group-minded individuals took, and its purpose: to live in the Land of Israel as Jews.

 

A few weeks ago, along with roughly 20 men ages 32-42, my colleague, Matthew Levinson, and I embarked on a weeklong journey of our own to Israel, coordinated by The Associated. All of us live and work in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and all are Jewish husbands and fathers, but come from different backgrounds and different careers. Some of us had visited Israel in the past but many others had never been. Much like the ancient Israelites, we also had a purpose for travelling to Israel. Collectively, our journey – much less weighty than that of the Jews fleeing Pharaoh’s oppression – was meant to learn about Israel and what The Associated is doing to promote and support the Jewish homeland.

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The trip was not your typical sightseeing tour of Israel. Instead of visiting classic Israeli historic sites like Masada or submerging ourselves in the Dead Sea, we were guided through extensive and enlightening tours of the Gaza border area and West Bank settlements by IDF experts whose decades-long careers were deeply enmeshed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This afforded an amazing and different insight into a conflict so complex and layered it could only be truly understood through the optics provided by these experts. Through their perspective, we learned about the devastating effect of Hamas’ terrorist tunnel system and corrupt governance. As we physically walked parts of the Gaza border, I began to understand the importance of The Associated’s support of the city of Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city in Israel, which lies dangerously close to the Gaza border and has seen its share of Hamas rockets. While in Ashkelon, we met with a former collegiate lacrosse player from New York who has made Aliyah. He now captains the Israeli national lacrosse team and runs a program that teaches the sport to Israeli youth. We had the privilege to visit and play lacrosse with the kids that he teaches. Jacob, the founder and director of the program, has a goal to make lacrosse the Israeli national sport and to draw youth into the sport along the way. We were also taught to paddleboard in the Mediterranean Sea by instructors who volunteer with a program called HaGal Sheli, which teaches at-risk youth how to surf and then encourages them to apply those lessons in order to get them back into school with renewed confidence and life-skills. Another program supported by The Associated, called Project Leket, is designed to help support the National Food Bank. The Associated, along with other Jewish agencies, supports the farm, which grows food strictly for food donation programs. On this day, we picked oranges along with a group of engineers from Hewlett Packard. The oranges we picked will help feed over 250 families.

 

After a few days touring the Gaza border and the Makhtesh Ramon in the Negev Desert, our bus meandered through the Valley of Elah. It was here that David – choosing little armor, swift and nimble – slew the lumbering giant, Goliath. Our journey then took us on to the holy city of Jerusalem. Upon entering the ancient city, our first stop was Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum. Here we were reminded of our all-too-recent tragic past and how essentially critical the existence of Israel is to the survival of the Jewish people. The Holocaust stands as a grievous yet poignant example of the dire need for agencies like The Associated, if not for any other reason, to continue its mission to aid and support Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.

 

The next day, we moved forward with our broadly-scoped itinerary while keeping our painful history in mind. Just outside of Jerusalem, a tour of the West Bank brought us to a small farm. There we were introduced to two people, an Israeli-American Jewish settler who has resided in the West Bank since the late 60’s, and a 27 year old Palestinian man from Ramallah, both of whom are fed up with the stalled peace process and are participating in a unifying approach which seeks to find common ground between the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers. Our new friends acknowledged that they each face opposition from their respective peers for working with “the other side,” but they are each choosing a different path. How much of the world’s suffering could be avoided if more people chose a different path? The Associated, willing to fund a program that brings people together rather than divide them, is doing its part to assist in building a lasting, constructive, peace.IMG_0341

 

As the week ended, I began to think about our own small journey and how it could possibly relate to Passover. More specifically, how can what we witnessed and learned be looked at through the lens of the Exodus? What I see is simple. The Jewish people, who fled slavery for what they saw as a better life, are not much different than the Jewish people who live in Israel today. Like the ancient Jewish people, Israelis today are willing to take the hard road. Living in Israel is not as easy as living here in the United States. Creature comforts abound in the U.S. In Israel you live with far less. As they fled Egypt, the Jewish people took very little, leaving behind most, if not all, of their possessions. As the Israelites journeyed through the desert, they met with many foes, constantly under threat from the different kingdoms and tribes they encountered along the way. In modern Israel military service is compulsory, maintaining a constant state of readiness as a people, to be ready to fight the existential threat that has loomed large since Israel’s very beginnings 70 years ago…and long before. The ancient Jews of antiquity travelled through the desert with a purpose. Their purpose was to reach the Land of Israel where they could be free to be Jews. The modern Israeli’s purpose is not too far removed from that original goal. Israelis sacrifice, living under a constant state of threat and awareness, and refuse to take no for an answer. The modern Israeli is willing to live under these conditions for a singular purpose just like the ancient Jewish people that travelled such a great distance so long ago through the Sinai; to live and preserve the Jewish life that has been promised to them for so many millennia.

 

However, this epic 40-year journey by a bedraggled group of former slaves could not have come to its conclusion without help along the way. The Torah discusses at length the divine assistance provided by G-d as the Jews travelled through the desert but, undoubtedly, if you believe that man is inherently good, the ancient sojourners were provided help along the way by regular people who saw an exhausted, starving, and desperate group that simply needed a helping hand. Maybe it was just offering shelter from the harsh desert heat. Possibly it was allowing access to an oasis that only a local resident would know existed. Whatever the act of chesed (lovingkindness) was, the Jewish people would have likely withered away in the desert had it not been for those acts of kindness to keep them hopeful and alive. We can point to innumerable examples since those ancient times when Jews have needed help to survive as a people. Today, we have organizations like The Associated whose mission is to help Jewish people every day. Whether it is a surfing program for at-risk youth in Tel Aviv, a youth lacrosse program for underprivileged children, a gleaning program to provide food for needy families, or an outreach program which seeks to bridge the divide between Jewish settlers and Palestinians, The Associated is helping Israelis fulfill the same purpose that the ancient Israelites intended. That purpose is still alive in Israel today. Just as those kind local desert dwellers must have assisted the Jews so desperately lost in the desert for 40 years, The Associated is helping people fulfill their own purpose in Israel and around the world.

 

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.

 

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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.

Ask the Expert Luncheon: Medicare Supplement

Tim Barnaba photoJoin us to learn about Medicare Supplement from Tim Barnaba, adjunct professor and teacher of “Understanding Medicare and Social Security” at CCBC, and Founder and President of Barnaba Insurance & Financial Services.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
12-1pm
Eggspectation
10209 Grand Central Ave #126, Owings Mills

A vegetarian/fish meal will be served. No fee to attend. Attendance by reservation only.

Space is limited. RSVP by Monday, April 2 to Sol Levinson & Bros. via 410-653-8900 or  [email protected]

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.