When a Death Occurs

What to do when there is a death in your family

Notify the synagogue at (301) 762-7338 and ask to speak to the Rabbi (ext. 115) or Executive Director (ext. 111). When a death occurs outside of regular office hours, please call the rabbi’s cell phone (202) 669-6854. Please note that if the death occurs on Shabbat or a festival holiday, the rabbi may not see the message until after Shabbat or the holiday. In such cases, please call the funeral home to make arrangements to pick up the body of the deceased and the rabbi will call you as soon as possible. (Also note that if a death occurs at home or outside a hospital or nursing center, you are legally required to notify the police.) 

Arrange for funeral. Please review the information contained in appendix 6 (p. 21): Information About the Deceased, Which Family Members May Need from TI Guide to Jewish Mourning Practices Tikvat Israel has a contract through the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington with Hine-Rinaldi Funeral Home (301-622-2290) for those who want a traditional burial in a plain pine casket. Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care (301-217-9400) and Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home (201-541-1001) also provide a full range of services for a Jewish funeral.

If you do not have a cemetery site, please contact Aaron Chusid, Executive Director, at Tikvat Israel (301-762-7338 ext 111). Note that Judean Memorial Gardens in Olney (301-384-1000) and Garden of Remembrance (Gan Zikaron) in Clarksburg (301-428-3000) have sections reserved for Tikvat Israel members and their families at reduced costs if purchased through the synagogue. The Tikvat Israel Bereavement Committee will help with arrange for Tahara* and Shomrim – either with members of the committee or through the funeral home.


Shiva is the seven-day period following the funeral, during which the mourning is most intense. The community takes responsibility to care for the needs of the mourner during this time so that the mourner isn’t required to leave the house. Our Bereavement Committee will help prepare the home for shiva, if needed, ensure that there are enough people for a minyan in the home, and order a meal or fruit basket during shiva. For families who prefer to attend minyan at the synagogue instead, Tikvat Israel can usually make a room available for you to have visitors before and after the service. For Shabbat, shiva is disrupted and resumes Saturday night; on festival holidays, shiva is usually truncated by the beginning of the festival. The rabbi is available to help you make decisions regarding shiva in a manner consistent with your needs.

Making a Shiva Call

It is a great but very difficult mitzvah to comfort someone who has lost a loved one. We often feel uneasy and at a loss for words. Some of us are reminded of our own losses. Most of us are uncertain about what truly comforts, what words or deeds will ease the way for the mourner. The following is a brief guide to making a shiva call (Drawing heavily on A Time to Mourn, a Time to Comfort by Dr. Ron Wolfson).

Shloshim and the Year of Mourning

Following the period of shiva, it is traditional to observe some of the rites of mourning until the 30th day following burial and to recite Kaddish with a minyan as often as possible. When mourning a parent, one recites kaddish and avoids activities that may be considered entertainment for 11 months. (If you have a family wedding or bar mitzvah during the time of mourning, speak to the rabbi regarding your participation.)

The Unveiling Ceremony

The unveiling of a grave stone or marker customarily takes place sometime after the 30th day following the funeral and prior the the first yahrzeit (anniversary of the death). The clergy of Tikvat Israel are honored to assist families and preside at at this time-honored tradition. If the clergy is not available, family members are welcomed to lead the ceremony. The following links will lead you to sample ceremonies that can be self-lead.

  • Ritualwell is website featuring innovative ritual ceremonies from a variety of religious traditions
  • Shiva.com is website offering basic information about Jewish mourning customs and practices

Additional Resources

The following additional resources can be downloaded:

For more information contact Aaron Chusid at (301) 762-7338 ext. 111 or .