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.

Medicare Supplement: Ask the Expert Luncheon in Ellicott City

Tim Barnaba photo

Tuesday, January 15
12pm
Eggspectation, Ellicott City

Join 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 Director of Advance Planning, will briefly discuss the benefits of the Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide.

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

Registration is required by January 7 to AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or 410-653-8900.

Life Happens: Jewish Perspectives on Aging and Planning for the Future

Life HappensThe Gordon Center for the Performing Arts
3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD, 21117
Tuesday, Oct. 30
6:30-8:30 p.m.

SPEAKERS:

Rabbi Dana Saroken, Beth El Congregation
Deborah Hamburger, Esq., Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Community Services

THE DISCUSSION WILL COVER:
Jewish perspectives on aging and end of life.
Planning for financial, medical and end-of-life matters with loved ones.

Learn how to create a comprehensive binder for your family members that will provide them with all the useful information they will need in the event of your death or other emergency.

Attendance is free and open to the community. To register for this session, visit lifebridgehealth.org/lifehappens or call 410-601-WELL.

This event is co-sponsored by Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Community Center of Baltimore, Lifebridge Health, Edward A. Myerberg Center, and North Oaks.

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMAsk the Expert Luncheon

Tuesday, October 16, 12pm

Linwoods, 25 Crossroads Dr, Owings Mills

Join us for this informative presentation by the Alzheimer’s Association. We will also briefly review the benefits of Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide. A vegetarian/fish meal will be served.

 

This program is designed to:

  • Provide compelling information about Alzheimer’s disease
  • Provide testimonies from families living with the disease
  • Encourage early detection, early diagnosis and early intervention
  • Provide information on knowing the difference between age-related memory loss and dementia
  • Provide answers on what to do when you or someone you know exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease

 

Lunch is free but registration is required by October 9 to AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or 410-653-8900

Understanding Addiction and Recovery – Free 2-Part Series

stonesinwaterPart 1: The Disease of Addiction

Weinberg Park Heights JCC
5700 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD, 21215
Tuesday, October 9

7:00 – 9:00pm

What causes addiction? Why is the battle so much tougher for some than for others?

 

Keynote: Understanding the Disease of Addiction
Richard Haber, MD, Medical Director
Jewish Community Services Outpatient Mental Health Center
Breakout Sessions:

  • Increasing Resiliency in Our Children
    Larry Ziffer, MSW, Charles Crane Family Foundation and Susan Kurlander, MEd, Jewish Community Services
  • The Unique Challenges of the Orthodox Family
    Aviva Weisbord, PhD, Shemesh and Howard Reznick, LCSW-C, Jewish Community Services
  • How Can We Help the Addict We Love?
    James Ryan, MA
    Ashley Addiction Treatment

Narcan overdose response training to follow presentation.

Free and open to the community. Attend one or both programs (part 2 on October 23). Registration preferred at jcsbalt.org/AddictionPrograms or to 410-466-9200.

Co-sponsors: Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services – Baltimore, Baltimore Board of Rabbis, Edward A. Myerberg Center, Jmore.

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Part 2: Addiction Treatment Options

Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC
3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD, 21117
Tuesday, October 23

7:00 – 9:00pm

 

Keynote: “The Range of Treatment Options and Who Does Best Where”
Marc Fishman, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Panel: Individuals discuss their paths to recovery.

Narcan overdose response training to follow presentation.

Free and open to the community. Attend one or both programs (part 2 on October 23). Registration preferred at jcsbalt.org/AddictionPrograms or to 410-466-9200.

Co-sponsors: Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services – Baltimore, Baltimore Board of Rabbis, Edward A. Myerberg Center, Jmore.

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

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 AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com

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.

 

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  AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com