Jewish customs are steeped in tradition and this is even more pronounced at the time of death. Custom dictates that the body be washed and laid out in pure white linen cloth symbolizing that in death there is no difference between rich and poor. This garment also contains no pockets to signify that when we came to this earth we had nothing and when we depart we do not take anything. Likewise plain wood coffins without any metal adornments are used for the similar reason. As most Jewish families tend not to keep the body for long periods, usually no embalmment consisting of chemicals are applied on the body.
It is considered disrespectful to gaze upon a person who cannot gaze back and as such coffins are closed, although respecting tradition there is always a group of people in attendance around the body at all times until the burial.
Jewish funerals also do not have flowers as these are considered frivolous and unnecessary. Those wishing to contribute by buying flowers, especially those who are non- Jewish are encouraged to instead donate that money to a charity the deceased would have donated to.
The tearing of garments symbolizing the tear in the hearts of those left behind is done before the burial. As burial is the traditional choice, the casket is lowered and a prayer said after which the mourners themselves cover the coffin with earth as this act, it is believed, helps to bring closure for the mourners.
In London there are a few Jewish Cemeteries of which Edgwarebury is of special importance considering its picturesque location and recently acquired permission for expansion onto a previously undeveloped agriculture site.
It was established in 1972 and is managed by representatives of four communities to which it caters to, namely the Liberal Judaism, West London Synagogue, Belsize Square Synagogue and Spanish and Portuguese Jew’s Congregation. All arrangements with regard to burials and other services are made via the rabbi’s at the respective synagogues.
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