Practical Steps: What to do When Someone Dies


Practical Steps: What to do When Someone Dies

1. Report the death: At the time of death, call the Coroner’s Office/Medical Examiner, the mortuary/cemetery, and your rabbi.  During business hours, please contact the IKAR office (323.634.1870) and ask to speak with one of our rabbis.  To reach our rabbis after business hours or on a weekend, please contact our rabbinic emergency line (323.634.1870 x118) and email [email protected].

2. Schedule the funeral/burial: Speak with the funeral home about available times for the funeral and then contact the rabbi to establish which times work.

3. Send all relevant information to IKAR for the condolence email: Condolence Notice Information Form.

4. Set an appointment with the mortuary/cemetery to make funeral arrangements: This may involve choosing a plot, signing forms and going over any logistics. This can be challenging—we encourage you to visit the cemetery with a trusted loved one who can help navigate the many decisions you’ll have to make at that time (i.e. number of death certificates, etc.). Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions that you need help answering.

Note:

  • Jewish law and tradition encourage the simplest burial rites, from a plain pine box to takhrikhim, simple linen shrouds that the deceased is dressed in.
  • Jews are traditionally buried in the earth, though some choose to be buried in a mausoleum, an above ground burial monument.
  • Cremation is strongly discouraged in Jewish law, though you should speak with us if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Flowers are not traditionally used in Jewish funerals.

5. Funeral Costs: The mortuary usually asks that their services be paid for in full at the time of need. You may contact them in advance to find out an approximate cost and to plan on who is paying for the funeral arrangements. If you are unable to cover the cost of the funeral, please contact us—we can offer some support from discretionary funds. The highest priority is laying your loved one to rest in dignity.

  • The rabbi is paid separately from the funeral home. While you should ask the rabbi what they charge, the average honorarium is $500, which should be written out in a check directly to the rabbi or their synagogue.  If you’re a member of IKAR, the rabbis are not paid for officiating funerals. Instead, many community members choose to donate $180-$1,800 to the rabbi’s discretionary fund.

6. Directly after the funeral: It’s traditional to have a seudat havra’ah, a meal of consolation that first evening. Some will choose to keep this meal private for family and separate from the first night of shiva. Others will choose to invite family and funeral guests to the home directly after the funeral. Don’t be surprised if visitors show up with food – this is an expression of love and support. However, if it’s too overwhelming to receive food, you can ask a friend to communicate with visitors about what you need and don’t need.