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Understanding the Needs of Jewish Families

As manager of Millspaugh Camerato, Bob Gaus has over 30 years of experience in providing funeral or cemetery services in accordance with Jewish custom. We understand the needs of today’s Jewish families because we share their history and experiences.  Bob is an honorary member of the Greater Kingston Chevra Kadisha and has been honored by Congregation Ahavath Israel, Kingston and the Chabab of Ulster County.  Bob has also provided a Jewish funeral seminars with Rabbi Zoe Zak at Temple Israel, Catskill and other area synagogues.

The most important thing to remember, when death is imminent or when death occurs is to contact your Rabbi and Millspaugh Camerato Funeral Home (518-943-3240).  We will work together to plan the service, arrange the day/time and answer questions you may have.

It is always helpful to have some specific information at hand:

  1. The person’s Hebrew name
  2. Father’s Hebrew name
  3. Mother’s Hebrew name
  4. Cemetery plot information
  5. Alternative wishes i.e. cremation, anatomical donation.

Based on centuries of tradition and sensitive to Jewish law, the Jewish funeral is a modest, solemn religious service designed to honor the dead and provide support to the family and friends of the person who has passed. Through the traditional Jewish funeral, family and friends can honor the legacy their loved one leaves behind. Today's Jewish families are also finding ways to blend Jewish tradition with their changing lifestyles.

Jewish funeral tradition pays tribute to two primary principles. The first is Kavod Ha-Met, or Honoring the Dead, which teaches that it is of utmost importance to treat the body with respect and care from the time of death until the burial is completed. In addition, performing acts of kindness for someone who has died is done with the knowledge that the kindness cannot be repaid by the deceased and thus has long been regarded as the ultimate act of selflessness.

The second principle is the view that death is considered a natural part of the life cycle. As in the familiar concept “From ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Jewish law teaches that the body should be returned to the earth from which it came.

Together, these two principles influence the following basic requirements of a traditional Jewish funeral:

Traditional Washing

In Jewish tradition, the body of the deceased is thoroughly washed. The Chevra Kadisha (holy society) prepares the deceased for interment by performing a bath known as the Taharah (purification), or the Rehisa (bathing). Such bathing ceremonies are performed for men by men, and for women by women. Millspaugh Camerato has the facility for Taharah and relationships with area Chevra Kadishas.

Shemira / Watching

The body of the deceased is watched over until burial is completed. This practice honors the dead, and may be performed by a family member or other person arranged by the family and funeral home.

K’reeah / Tearing of Garments

Before the funeral begins, immediate relatives tear their outer garments as a symbol of their anguish and grief. The rabbi may perform this ritual or present black ribbons to pin on the mourners’ clothes.

Tachrichim / Burial Garments

In traditional families; the deceased is buried wearing a simple white shroud, known as a tachrichim. The traditional white shroud symbolizes that all are equal before their Creator.

Aron / Casket

The deceased is buried in a casket constructed solely of wood and not made on the Sabbath. Use of a wooden casket is in keeping with the Rabbinical teaching which states, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.”  Millspaugh Camerato has a selection of traditional Jewish wood caskets.

K’vurah / Burial

The K’vurah B’kara is the actual burial of the deceased in the ground, filling the grave with earth until a mound is formed. To participate in filling the grave is considered a religious privilege and duty, and an expression of honor for the deceased. According to Jewish law, burial traditionally takes place as soon as possible after the death occurs.

After the burial, Jewish families mourn by sitting shiva, generally at the home of a close family member. Shiva is the traditional seven-day mourning period observed by the bereaved. During this period, condolence visits by friends and extended family are welcomed.

The Monument and Unveiling

Bob Gaus is experienced in all facets of Jewish monuments, foot markers and other memorials. Knowing the appropriate time for preparing the design and lettering on the monument, ordering the granite and arranging for the engraving/etching, knowing the cemetery regulations, arranging for the concrete foundation and appropriate covering (veiling) of the stone and coordinating with Rabbi to ensure that all Hebrew and English are accurate.

We will first speak with you about your thoughts and concerns.  Bob will then prepare a complimentary sketch for your review. This may include Hebrew name, Hebrew date of death, other traditional Hebrew sentiments, as well as English names, dates and sentiments.

Millspaugh Camerato can provide personalized temporary grave marker. This permits the grave to be properly marked on the day of burial. The name, dates of birth and death and a Mogen David are included.

It is customary for the grave marker to be put in place and for an unveiling ceremony to be held after the Kaddish period [11 months for parents and 30 days for other close relatives] is over, but no later than one year after the death. While many families wait until almost the full year has passed to do the unveiling, it may be done sooner; in Israel the stone is usually placed soon after sheloshim [the first 30 days of mourning].