If you know of someone who is ill or in hospital, please tell the Rabbi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rachel as soon as possible. They run our Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) service. They will keep in touch for as long as support is needed. It is very important if someone is in hospital and needs a visit, that you let them know, as the hospital authorities are not allowed to tell us about Jewish patients.
If you feel that the person may be close to death then it is particularly important to let the Rabbi know as soon as possible
Rachel will also arrange for visits and phone calls to members of the community who may not be able to get out and about and would enjoy the opportunity to chat and have company.
If death is anticipated within a few days then you should contact the Rabbi to talk about what to do.
As soon as you can after the person has died, let the Rabbi know. If you are unable to contact him then please contact the Synagogue Administrator on 020 8339 2689.
Jewish Law requires a burial as soon as possible. You must first obtain a death certificate (strictly a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) from the doctor at the hospital where the person died, or from a GP if the person died at home. You should then contact the Office of the Burial Society of the United Synagogue as soon as possible on 020 8950 7767. If the deceased was a member of a community which is not part of the United Synagogue, then other arrangements will apply.
If the Burial Society Offices are closed and you would like to speak to someone, ring 07957 119 119 (this service is not available on Shabbat or Yomtov).
The most important thing is to remember to tell the Society. If the office is shut leave a message and a contact number. There is a helpline number on the answering machine if the office is closed.
The Burial Society will collect the body as soon as is practically possible, but not at night, on Shabbat or on Yomtov. If the person died in hospital then your loved one may be moved to the hospital mortuary or, if the hospital does not have a mortuary, private arrangements will have to, be made. You may be able to pay for extra time in the room in a private hospital. If at home make sure the room being used is kept cool. The eyes should be closed and the arms straightened by the sides, with hands open – not crossed on the chest. Ideally the body should not be left unattended.
Registration of the Death
After the Death Certificate has been issued, it should be taken to the Registrar for Births and Deaths in the borough in which the person died. If possible, take with you evidence of your identity, and the deceased’s birth and death certificates. It is possible to register the death elsewhere, but there is a small charge and some delay. The Registrar will then issue a green certificate giving permission for burial to take place. There is no charge to register a death, but there is for Death Certificates (strictly copies of the entry in the register).
The Kingston Registrar of Births and Deaths (020 8547 4600) is open from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday; no appointment is required. For more details about arranging this in Kingston upon Thames, see www.kingston.gov.uk. For members who die in Nightingale House, the death should be registered at Wandsworth Town Hall by appointment on 020 8871 6120, between 9 am and 4.30 pm Monday and Friday. (Correct in August 2018)
In Surrey, look at the County Council web-site.
In Kingston special arrangements have been made so that the green certificate can be obtained on a Sunday morning when someone has died between Friday evening and Sunday morning. ‘Phone 0208 547 4600, and the call will be diverted to the Brent Borough Registration Service. In Wandsworth, ‘phone 020 8871 6000, and the Borough Emergency Service will put you in touch with a registrar, between the hours of 9 am and 11 am on a Sunday or Public Holiday.
Preparing the Shiva house prior to the funeral
A candle should burn throughout the seven days following the burial (the “Shiva”). These can be bought at Jewish delicatessens and bookshops. Some burn for one day, some for three or seven days.
Two candles in candlesticks should burn during every prayer service. These may be extinguished at the conclusion of prayers and used more than once.
It is the custom to cover the mirrors in the home of the mourner, in the rooms that he/she will use. There is no need to cover television screens, The coverings can be removed for Shabbat.
Mourners are the parents, brothers/sisters, spouse or children of the deceased. These are the only people for whom the laws of mourning apply. If other relatives, such as stepchildren or adopted children wish to be considered as mourners, they must consult the Rabbi.
All mourners should have non-leather footwear ready to put on after the funeral; these should be worn throughout the shiva.
All mourners should sit on low chairs, which will be supplied by the synagogue. If mourners have problems sitting on low chairs they should consult the rabbi.
The synagogue will provide prayer books for the services and a book detailing the customs and laws of morning.
Preparing for the funeral
All mourners are expected to tear items of clothing, which symbolizes the permanent rent that has taken place in their lives. This is called ‘Kriah’. ‘Kriah’ is sometimes done as soon as the mourner hears of the death, but it is normally done at the burial grounds prior to the funeral or, for mourners not attending the cemetery, at the shiva house.. These items are then worn throughout the shiva period, except for Shabbat. It is sensible not to wear good or new clothes for this purpose. Garments that are torn include: a suit jacket, cardigan or sweater and shirts or blouses, but not a tie or scarf.
It is not our custom for mourners to wear black at funerals or during the shiva. Similarly, flowers are not sent to the funeral. People should be dressed modestly (as they would when visiting a synagogue). Men and married women need to have suitable head covering.
Other information about the funeral should be obtained from the Burial Office or the Rabbi.
On returning from the funeral
It is the practice for neighbours or friends to prepare the first meal that the mourners eat. This is called the Meal of Condolence. It usually consists of bagels (or soft round rolls) and hard boiled eggs, accompanied by a drink.
It is not the custom for food or drink to be provided for friends and family on returning to the shiva house. However, those who have travelled a long way may be offered some light refreshment.
This is the seven day period of mourning, which begins on the day of the funeral and continues until the morning of the seventh day,. The rules of shiva are different on Shabbat, and on Shabbat we do not wear torn clothing or non-leather shoes. Instead, normal Shabbat clothes and shoes are worn. The full seven days of shiva are not observed if a Yomtov intervenes. In such cases, you should speak to the Rabbi for advice.
During the week of shiva, the synagogue wardens can arrange services. You must ask them for help and guidance on these matters. If you do not wish, or are not able to have prayers in the shiva house, mourners can attend services at the synagogue. It is advisable to check times and availability beforehand.
The Shiva house is traditionally open to visitors to pay condolences during the day and until after evening services. However, mourners do need to be able to rest and eat, and it is quite acceptable to ask people not to call at certain times.
Someone who is not one of the actual mourners should prepare meals, open the door to visitors (some people leave it slightly open all the time), and answer the telephone.
It is usual that some visitors will bring items of food, or will offer to prepare meals.
It is not the practice to offer refreshments to visitors unless they come from a long distance.
A visit to a shiva house should not be treated as a social occasion and traditionally visitors wait for the mourner to initiate conversation.
Visitors may wish the mourners ‘Long Life’ or may pray that they be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem — a short Hebrew prayer, which can be found on the card sent by your local synagogue.
There are differing views about changing to a different seat in the Synagogue and the Rabbi should be asked for guidance.
Kingston Bereavement Service
A local source of counselling is Kingston Bereavement Service or 020 8547 1552 (as of January 2015)
It is advisable to telephone Cemetery Maintenance Office at Bushey on 020 8950 7767 soon after the shiva to arrange this. Please also contact the Rabbi at the outset to ensure, as far as possible, that he will be available.
This guide is not a comprehensive set of burial and mourning laws. If further information is required, including laws relating to the first month and the first year; these should be obtained from the Rabbi. The synagogue will provide a book on mourning laws and customs, and prayer books for the shiva services.