Dress Etiquette for Jewish Funerals

Updated March 21, 2017

Jewish funeral customs vary from sect to sect. Among Orthodox Jews, funeral practices are still very traditional, but they are somewhat more relaxed among Conservative Jews and may be much more informal among Reform Jews. The sect to which the mourners belong will determine what types of dress are appropriate.

Orthodox Jewish Funerals

At an Orthodox Jewish funeral, a number of ancient customs are still observed, not all of which would be found among other Jewish sects. In addition to dark and conservative clothing, all of the mourners must keep their heads covered at an Orthodox Jewish funeral service. The men are expected to wear the small cap, or "yarmulke," while the women are required to wear headscarves. If you don't bring a yarmulke or headscarf with you, the synagogue will usually be able to provide one for you to use.

Conservative Jewish Funerals

At a Conservative Jewish funeral service, the men are obligated to wear yarmulkes, but the women do not have to cover their heads, so no headscarf is required. In addition to the yarmulke, men should also be dressed in semi-formal attire -- a dark suit with a dark tie. Women should dress modestly and conservatively as well. Other than the requirement for men to wear a yarmulke, the expectations at a Conservative Jewish funeral would be similar to those for any other funeral. The main emphasis is on respectful behaviour.

Reform Jewish Funerals

At a Reform Jewish funeral service, the head covering is a matter of choice for both men and women. You may see some men wearing yarmulkes, while others do not, and the same is true for women and headscarves. The same rules of general funeral etiquette still apply, so you shouldn't wear anything that would be considered risque or offensive in this context. As at all funerals, bright colours should be avoided, even though it is no longer an absolute rule for mourners to wear black.

Other Aspects of Jewish Funeral Etiquette

Sending flowers should not be done at a Jewish funeral. It is appropriate to bring food, but it should be kosher food if the grieving family follows kosher practices. The family is expected to observe a seven-day mourning period, according to Jewish custom. Only family members of the deceased person would normally visit during the first two days of the morning period. Friends are expected to wait until the third day. From afternoon on Friday until after sunset on Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and no visit should be made during this time.

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About the Author

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.