How to  preplan a Jewish funeral

Key elements to consider when preplanning a Jewish funeral.

Making Certain You Have Preparations in Place before Your Death

In the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one, one of the most difficult tasks for survivors can be handling all the details related to the funeral and burial. One of the greatest gifts you can give those you love involves preplanning your funeral. Because of the distinct funeral and burial traditions within the Jewish faith, there are some very specific steps you want to take. This blog walks you through a checklist to make certain everything is in order at the time of your death.

Plan the Funeral

As a general rule, the first step in preplanning your funeral is to select the funeral home and director who will handle all the details. You’ll want to notify the funeral home who your rabbi is and who will be officiating, as one of the first calls the funeral director will typically make will be to the officiant. If you are not affiliated with a synagogue, your funeral home director will typically be able to provide you with a list of rabbis or others who can lead prayers and/or give a eulogy. If you want a meaningful service, you should take time during your life to get to know the officiant. 

Decide who you want to speak at your funeral service. You may have a single eulogy delivered by the officiant, or you may have family members or others involved. The eulogy may be in a chapel or it can be graveside at the cemetery.

 If there are persons you want to serve as pall-bearers, prepare a written list (you may also want to confirm their willingness to do so as part of your planning). 

Plan the Burial Arrangements

Shortly after your death, a watcher will be posted and, if you will have a traditional burial, the chevra kadisha (burial society) will be notified. The chevra kadisha will then perform the ritual cleansing and preparation of the body for burial. It’s in your best interest to have a chevra kadisha lined up as part of your preplanning. Check with your rabbi—there may be a chevra kadisha at your synagogue. 

The traditional burial, though, is optional. You can always opt for a non-traditional ceremony, where you will typically be buried in your own clothing without the participation of a chevra kadisha. 

Though cremation is not consistent with traditional Jewish funeral practices, many families still opt for cremation. If that’s your desire, you need to make the necessary arrangements with a funeral home. That includes the cremation process, the choice of an urn or the potential placement of the ashes. 

If you plan a traditional burial, you will need a burial/funeral plot. Your synagogue may have one or there may be a cemetery where family members have already been buried. You’ll want to contact the cemetery directly and complete the process of purchasing the burial plot. If you wish to have a monument on your grave, you will also need to confirm with the cemetery whether there are any restrictions on the placement, size or type of monuments. You’ll also need to make any necessary arrangements with the funeral director for the purchase and placement of a monument. 

Plan How You’ll Pay for Everything

Even though Jewish funeral traditions eschew ostentation, such as mausoleums and ornate coffins, there will still be expenses. Worries about how the funeral or burial will be paid for can be particularly stressful and interfere with the natural grieving process of your loved ones. 

In New York and in Florida, you can make arrangements in advance that will ensure that all costs are pre-paid. In both states, you set up an account and make contributions to that account. Payment plans are typically available. 

  • In New York, you must set up a contract, which will be administered by the New York State Funeral Directors Association. You’ll have an FDIC-insured account that will be supervised by the state. You can enter into an irrevocable or a revocable contract. If the contract is revoked before your death, all payments into the account will be refunded, with interest. You can also set up an irrevocable trust for pre-funding your funeral arrangements. Such an account is not subject to Medicaid restrictions, so it can’t be touched if you need nursing home or long-term care before your death. 
  • In Florida, you must set up a pre-need contract, which will be held in trust by Gutterman Warheit, and regulated by the Florida Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services. Your pre-need contract may be cancelled at any time, with all fees for services refunded. 

Make Certain Your Loved Ones Know about Your Plans

Though it may be difficult to discuss the eventuality of your death with your loved ones, it’s essential that they know of your specific plans, so they can follow your wishes. It’s a wise idea to put all of your plans in writing. You may share the details with loved ones before your death or you may choose to let them know where they can find documents that set forth your requests. 

Let Us Help You in Your Time of Mourning

At Gutterman’s, we provide comprehensive and compassionate funeral home services to individuals and families in New York and Florida. For assistance in your time of loss, or to learn about the ways that we can be of service to you, call our offices at one of the numbers provided below. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you.  


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