When A Death Occurs In Your Family
When a death occurs in a hospital, you will be asked to sign a release so that the body of the deceased may be removed to a funeral home. Currently, Beth Torah is working with:
Dallas Jewish Funerals, 1611 N. Central Expressway, Plano, TX, 75075 (972-424-1144)
North Dallas Funeral Home, 2710 Valley View Lane, Farmers Branch, TX (972-484-1903),
Restland Funeral Home Greenville Ave. and Restland Road, Dallas, TX (972-238-7111),
Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home, 7405 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas, TX (214-363-5401).
Please request that the body be sent to the facility of your choice.
If the death occurs at home, immediately contact the deceased’s physician and notify the local Police Department. The funeral home of your choice must also be contacted to arrange for transfer of the body to that funeral home.
In both cases the funeral home should be advised in this initial contact that you are a member of Congregation Beth Torah, that traditional Jewish funeral and burial practices are to be observed and the deceased is not to be embalmed.
No matter where a death occurs, you will receive immediate assistance when you contact the Rabbi and/or the Co-Chairpersons of the Cemetery Committee. These names and telephone numbers are found in the synagogue directory. You may contact them at any time of the day or night. During Synagogue office hours, you may contact the Beth Torah secretary.
The family will need to make decisions on the following issues:
- Whether you want a chapel or a graveside service
A chapel service is always followed by a brief graveside service.
- Selection of a gravesite
If the family owns plots in the Beth Torah Cemetery, inform the Committee Chairman. If not, the Chairman will assist in the selection and purchase of a gravesite.
- Selection of six pallbearers
Pallbearers are required for the chapel service, and to carry the casket from the hearse to the gravesite. Pallbearers must be Jewish, and sufficiently healthy and strong to carry the heavy casket. Other individuals may be mentioned as “honorary pallbearers.” The pallbearers are required to be present one-half hour before the scheduled start of the funeral service.
- Make an appointment with the funeral home
It will be necessary to make personal contact with the funeral home. Telephone to make an appointment to go there in person. If you wish, a member of the Cemetery Committee will accompany you. You will need to assemble certain information about the deceased (Social Security number, veteran information, date of birth, etc.) plus certain personal items belonging to the deceased (tallit, kipah) and take them with you. Bring a checkbook or credit card with you.
You should be prepared to discuss the following with the funeral director:
- Personal transportation arrangements for the family
- Selection of a kosher casket
- Information for newspaper notices of the death
- Information for the official death certificate
- Payment arrangements for services performed by the funeral home
- Payment for the Shomer* watching the body
The Cemetery Committee is responsible for:
- Confirming the arrangement with the funeral home for the Shomer* (guard) who will sit with the body at all times through burial and the filling of the grave
- Arranging for the Chevra Kaddisha* (Burial Society) to prepare the body for burial
- Confirming the correct burial place with the cemetery
- Coordinating funeral arrangements between the Rabbi, the funeral home and the family – Date and time of the funeral must be confirmed with the Rabbi before publicizing the funeral
As a sign of respect for the deceased, Jewish burial practice encourages the body’s return to its natural state…”for from dust were you taken…and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
The deceased must be buried in a casket made entirely of wood. Although a plain pine box is recommended by Jewish tradition, the funeral homes offer a variety of acceptable kosher caskets.
A member or veteran of any branch of the U.S. Armed Services may have a United States flag draped over the casket. This flag is arranged for by the funeral home.
No airtight vaults may be used. Standard concrete grave liners are used in Beth Torah’s cemeteries, as per Cemetery guidelines.
The funeral should take place as soon as possible after the death, preferably within 24 hours. Burials in Beth Torah’s cemeteries do not take place on the Sabbath, Jewish or American legal holidays. The burial shall be conducted in accordance with Conservative Halacha* (Law) as interpreted by Congregation Beth Torah through its Rabbi.
Preparation of the Body
All clothing and jewelry will be removed from the body prior to ritual preparation, and it will be held in safekeeping for the family of the deceased. The Beth Torah Chevra Kaddisha* will prepare the body for burial. The deceased will be washed in a manner prescribed by Jewish tradition (referred to as Tahara*) and dressed in the Tachrichim*, the linen shroud. Men, (and women, if requested), are then wrapped in a tallit and a kipah is placed on the head.
As another sign of respect, a person will sit with the deceased until burial is completed. This person is known as the Shomer*. The funeral home will make arrangements for the Shomer, and the family will be billed through the funeral home.
Jewish Law prohibits public display of the deceased. Open casket funerals are not permitted. The immediate family is permitted a private viewing if requested.
Routine autopsies are not permitted because they violate the principal of Kevod Hamet*. An autopsy is permitted when medical professionals deem that it will help others who suffer from the same condition(s) as the deceased. It is also permitted when the law requires it in order to determine cause of death. The Dallas County Medical Examiner and Collin County Justice of the Peace are sensitive to the needs of Jewish families and cooperate with their desires when they are able to do so. In general, you should consult the Rabbi before allowing an autopsy to take place.
Because of the emphasis which Jewish tradition places on Pikuach Nefesh* (saving a life) and the general desire to bring healing to the living, organ donations are permissible.