End of Life

“May God’s Presence be a source of comfort for you along with those who mourn among the people of Israel and in the world.”

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

As we mourn, Judaism provides ritual, teachings, and community to help us process and honor the life that was lived and loved and to support us in our time of grief.

Beth Emet clergy will guide you through these rituals and help you honor the life of your loved one.

To learn more about Jewish end-of-life rituals and tradition, and how Beth Emet can guide you:

Knowing that a death often occurs unexpectedly, we have developed The Beth Emet Funeral Plan. Our simple resource will help you plan and respond to the loss of a loved one, easing the burden of decision-making during a period of great emotional stress.

Beth Emet is part of the Progressive Chevra Kadisha, a volunteer inter-congregational society dedicated to conducting the ceremony of Tahara (cleansing of the body) in preparation for Jewish burial. The Progressive Chevra Kadisha is facilitated by volunteers from Beth Emet, the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Lomdim, Or Chadash, and the Egalitarian Minyan/Ner Tamid of West Rogers Park to serve the needs of members and their families.

When someone dies, Progressive Chevra Kadisha members visit the funeral home– as part of the Beth Emet Burial Plan or at a family’s request–and prepare the body of the deceased according to the centuries-old customs of our people. Progressive Chevra Kadisha members wash the body (rechitza), perform a tahara (ritual cleansing), and dress the deceased in a set of tachrichim (simple white garments) for burial. The Progressive Chevra Kadisha performs this service anonymously as gemilut chesed (an ultimate act of lovingkindness) to honor the dead and to comfort the living who remember them.

To learn more about the work of the Progressive Chevra Kadisha, to inquire about arranging a tahara, or to volunteer, call 847-440-4725 or reach the organization via email (pckadisha@gmail.com).

Jewish law and tradition encourages us to surround mourners with love, support and warmth in community.

When you’re looking to fulfill the mitzvah of sitting Shiva, we are happy to arrange for a Shiva Minyan Leader to join you in your home to lead a prayer service including Mourner’s Kaddish.

To request this arrangement, please contact the office.

To volunteer to be a Shiva Minyan Leader, learn more here.

In lieu of flowers, many families suggest that gifts be given to charity in memory of the deceased. Beth Emet The Free Synagogue is honored to be a named charity. Learn more.

Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word meaning “a year’s time” and it is the remembrance of the anniversary of a loved one’s death. It is observed each year on the date of death.

Perhaps the best known custom for observing a Yahrzeit is lighting a candle made to burn for at least 24 hours. We light the candle at home in the evening that the Yahrzeit begins, and it is a symbol of the soul and spirit of the deceased.

The Yahrzeit observance lasts a full day and it is customary to attend services on the Shabbat following the Yahrzeit.

You will receive a reminder from the office each year sharing with you the date in which the name of your loved one will be read, and the name will be read prior to the Kaddish prayer. Should you wish to change the date in which you want the name to be read, please contact the Synagogue office.

Comforting Mourners at Beth Emet

A Brief Guide to Practices in Our Community

Jewish laws and traditions encourage us to surround mourners with a supportive community. At Beth Emet, there are many ways to provide comfort and support to those in mourning. Your presence at a funeral is one important way to honor the person who died and provide comfort to those who are grieving. It is also a mitzvah to visit the home of mourners during the shiva period, which may range from one day to seven, and to participate in the prayer service held in their home.

According to Jewish custom, mourners should not greet or entertain visitors during shiva, or provide food for visitors. However, in our Beth Emet community – as in many others – friends often help arrange food for family and shiva visitors.

At the shiva, don’t worry about what to say – a simple “I’m sorry” will be appreciated. In fact, tradition counsels comforters to respond to the needs and mood of the mourners, rather than to initiate conversation. Your presence is what is most meaningful. Often, sharing memories or asking questions about the deceased can offer a way to provide comfort.

Remember that shiva is not a social gathering and chitchat is discouraged unless initiated by the mourner, who may prefer silence. Whether or not you are able to make a personal visit, you can also call, write a note, sign an online guestbook, and/or donate to Beth Emet or a charity identified by the mourners in memory of the deceased. Knowing that their loved one is remembered helps comfort those who are grieving.

As Judaism recognizes, healing is a process that takes time. Staying in touch or offering a meal in the weeks or months following a death also can be a source of support and comfort. If you would like additional information or guidance about Jewish mourning practice, contact Rabbi London.