Bereaved families gather on a set date up to a year after the death of a loved one to unveil the tombstone. Because Jewish burials take place as soon as possible after death, it is difficult to obtain a suitable marker before burial. A Jewish unveiling is a smaller event than a burial and provides another opportunity for family and friends to gather and remember their loved one.
Choose and order a gravestone. A simple gravestone with one or more Jewish symbols is traditional. The gravestone also shows basic information about the deceased, including his Hebrew name, birth date and date of death. The same information in the local language is also common on a gravestone. Other inscriptions are usually in Hebrew.
Write a guest list. Guests usually include immediate family members, people with a close personal relationship to the deceased and her family, and a rabbi. Some people choose to have an unveiling attended by only immediate family members.
Schedule the unveiling. The unveiling should be at least 30 days after the burial and before one year after the date of death according the Hebrew calendar. Customs regarding the timing of an unveiling vary by community. In the United States, for example, many unveilings are nearly one year after death. Unveilings in Israel tend to take place much earlier.
Notify guests of the unveiling date. If a rabbi will preside, call the rabbi as soon as possible to discuss wishes or concerns. Provide directions to the cemetery.
Arrive at the cemetery on the day of the unveiling before the event's scheduled time to ensure the gravestone is covered with a cloth.
Greet arriving guests and distribute any reading materials they will need, such as prayer books and copies of the Book of Psalms.
Gather the guests by the graveside. No set liturgy or order of events exists for an unveiling. Common activities for attendees include praying, discussing memories of the deceased and reading from the Book of Psalms. The rabbi may lead the event.
Remove the cloth from the gravestone.
Place one pebble on the gravestone. Placing stones on graves is a Jewish tradition, showing the grave had visitors.
Items you will need
Jewish prayer books
Book of Psalms copies
If guests from different religious traditions will attend, explain to them in advance the purpose of the unveiling and what behavior is considered inappropriate for the event.
- Living a Jewish Life; Anita Diamant and Howard Cooper
- Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish Belief, Tradition and Practice; Rabbi Wayne Dosick
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