Funeral, Memorials and Life Celebrations

Rites and ceremonies for death are universal. Traditional Judaism has many practices and behaviors associated with the passing of a loved one. Humanistic Judaism recognizes that although death may be painful and tragic for those who survive and may be profoundly regretted, there is nothing in death to fear. Memorial services are designed to respect the intelligence and feelings of mourners and do not pretend that an incomprehensible but wonderful benefit has befallen the deceased. Humanistic memorial ceremonies assist the living in accepting their loss by strengthening them with the presence, encouragement, and love of friends and family. The ceremony honors the life of the deceased rather than alleging that mystical forces have taken a loved one away. A Celebration of Life, Chai Mitzvah, or a Life of Good Deeds is a befitting tribute to the person who has made their final journey.

Humanistic Judaism does not promise immortality or eternal salvation. Instead, it emphasizes the need to find one’s purpose and meaning in the life that one leads. Humanistic Judaism does not object to an autopsy when it will provide information that may save lives and improve health. In a similar vein, it recommends the donation of organs and other body parts for transplantation purposes. People with various body art are not excluded from burial in a Jewish cemetery. Further, Humanistic Judaism is not opposed to cremation. Internment is an option that may be done privately or in a public ceremony. In an effort to reflect the wishes of the deceased, either a memorial ceremony at whatever time chosen by the family or a cemetery ceremony in a timely manner, without particular adherence to a traditional interval mandated by custom is a family decision.