Can Non Jews Attend a Jewish Funeral?

Jewish funerals are generally not open-casket.
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If you're wondering whether you're allowed to attend a Jewish funeral as a non-Jew, the short answer is "Yes." People of other faiths may attend the funeral of a Jewish loved one even if they are considered gentile, or outside the Jewish faith. Out of respect, it's a good idea to gain an understanding of basic etiquette so you know how to behave.

1 Timing

Most Jewish funerals take place within just a few days of the death, which is quite different than the week or so that typically passes before a Christian funeral. Non-Jews must be prepared to quickly clear their calendars to attend a Jewish funeral, and on time arrival is expected, as the services traditionally begin as planned with no delay to wait for other mourners.

2 What to Wear

It's not necessary to wear all black to a Jewish funeral, regardless of your faith. Still, since Jewish funerals emphasize simplicity and it is a somber time, clothes should not be brightly colored. Muted and dark tones, such as black, gray or brown, are the best color choices. Choose something that is relatively conservative. For women, this means a dress or skirt that covers your shoulders and falls below the knee. Men should wear a jacket and tie.

3 Head Covering

Men who attend a Jewish funeral, even non-Jews, should cover their heads with a small hat called a yarmulke. If you are not Jewish, a yarmulke will usually be provided by the synagogue or funeral home when you first arrive. The yarmulke is worn throughout the entire service. Some conservative synagogues may require women to cover their heads with a scarf.

4 Behavior

Non-Jews should follow the lead of the rabbi and other Jewish mourners. Since much of the service may be conducted in Hebrew or just seem unfamiliar, non-Jews should sit quietly and participate in responsive readings only as they feel comfortable. It's customary to refrain from greeting the family before the service -- rather, just take a seat and speak quietly until the service begins.

5 Shiva

For the week following the funeral, the family of the departed will receive visitors for a mourning period called Shiva. The address at which visitors will be welcomed is often announced at the funeral, and non-Jews may write down this information and follow up with the family during Shiva.

Lara Webster has been writing professionally since 2009. Her work has been featured on Relationships in the Raw, The Nursery Book, Spark Trust and several travel-related websites. Webster holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in mass communication and media studies, both from San Diego State University.