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What Happens When a Jewish Person Dies While Away from Home

In a trend that appears to be growing every year, many members of the Jewish community in New York and along the East Coast have become “snowbirds”—people who, after retirement, keep their home in the north, but spend the winter months in the warmer climate in Florida or other points south. Many Jewish retirement groups in New York and New Jersey say that up to half of their community members go to Florida for the winter.

Winters in Florida can be relaxing and life-sustaining for many elder members of the Jewish community, but there can be significant challenges when an elderly person of the Jewish faith, whose permanent residence is in the north, dies while in the sunny south. First of all, there’s the admonition that burial take place within 24 hours of death. If the interment is to be in New York, but the person dies in Florida, it’s unlikely that the burial will happen within the prescribed parameters. Under Jewish law, an interment may be delayed, but only if doing so will honor the decedent. As a practical matter, it’s not uncommon for a rabbi to allow the brief postponement of the burial to accommodate such things as the legal transportation of the body, the completion of all required paperwork to permit the transport of the body, or for any post-mortem examinations that must be completed before burial, such as a mandatory autopsy in a health department investigation.

What Must Happen to Transport a Body from One State to Another

When your loved one dies in another state or country, the body must still be taken to a funeral home and prepared for transportation to the state where burial will take place. There will also be paperwork that must be completed before the transfer can occur. If sent by plane, the body must be in an airline-approved transfer case. A funeral home may transport a body by hearse, typically only for relatively short distances. If you need to ship a body to its final destination, it’s recommended that you use an airline that’s been designated as a “known shipper.” That means that they have experience safely and securely transporting deceased persons and know the TSA guidelines that apply.

As a general rule, when your loved one has died away from home, you should make your initial call to the funeral home that you want to handle the funeral service and burial. They may have relationships with funeral homes where the person died. If so, they can arrange to have that funeral home pick up the body and prepare it for transportation. If your loved one was a member of the Jewish faith and you will have the service conducted by a Jewish funeral home, you can be confident that all the parties will work together to ensure that appropriate customs and traditions are followed.

Gutterman’s—Providing Comprehensive Funeral and Burial Services to the Jewish Community

At Gutterman’s, with chapels in New York and Florida, we have worked with thousands of Jewish families over the last 125 years, providing compassionate funeral and burial services. We have a comprehensive knowledge of Jewish customs and traditions, and can assist you with all matters related to memorial services or burial, from the details of the service to the selection of a monument or the creation of a Yahrzeit calendar.

We know that these are uncertain times, but we also understand the importance of funerals and burials as part of Jewish custom and part of the grieving process. We will work closely with you to identify ways that you can respect the deceased, allow for grieving and remembrance, and stay safe. We adhere to all state and federal recommendations governing social distancing and mask etiquette, so that we can help minimize the spread of COVID-19. To see a statement of the safety measures we currently have in place, visit our website.

To learn how we can be of assistance to you after the death of a loved one, call us at one of the numbers provided below. We are currently available to consult with you by phone, text message or videoconferencing. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.