Jewish Condolence Traditions

Written by brooke turner
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Jewish Condolence Traditions
The Jewish culture holds many traditions centred around its religious beliefs. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Jewish people hold many traditions that are centred around their religious beliefs. With the death of a loved one in the Jewish community, they practice these traditions. A Jewish funeral is a solemn and sacred occasion. Honouring the dead means that the Jewish people still consider a person to be holy, even after their death.

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Paying Condolences at a Funeral

A funeral is a very sacred occasion for the Jewish people. Flowers and music are considered too flamboyant for a funeral that they believe should be giving dignity and respect to the deceased. Guests at the funeral dress in sober attire, which includes dark colours and simplicity of design. The body is not viewed at a funeral, nor do the Jewish people have a wake or "viewing" at another time.

Sitting Shiva

When a person is "sitting shiva," he is in a mourning period. This period is observed mostly by parents, spouses, brothers, sisters or children of the deceased. The shiva lasts for seven days. The family stays home to grieve over the lost family member. During this period, guests are received to support the mourning family. Guests are permitted to bring food to the family members during this time but flowers and gifts are traditionally discouraged. A sympathy card is generally permitted.

Hevra Kadisha

The Hevra Kadisha is a group organised within the Jewish community that assists the family in organising the funeral. The members are volunteers who support the family, completing tasks that will relieve the stress of those who are grieving. They also see if the traditional Jewish funeral practices are being followed correctly.

Behaviour Toward the Grieving

When first visiting a grieving family, it is best to remain silent until the mourners have begun speaking. According to Jewish tradition, it is best to be a listener in the beginning of the mourning period. If the one in grief is silent, remain silent, as well. Those visiting the grieving may offer a handshake or even a hug, if it is appropriate within the context of the relationship. If the conversation leads to storytelling about the deceased, the visitor may share her own stories about the dead or photographs of him.

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