Thursday, November 4, 2010

Funeral "Factory"

My expertise, experience with funerals is mostly here in Israel.  I've been to American Jewish funerals of family members, a few as a child and one as a young mother when my father's cousin and the wife were killed in a horrible car accident when we were visiting the states.  American Jews have adopted the goyish dress code of black, which is my main memory.  But this post is about Israeli funerals.

I love how funerals are conducted here in the Shiloh Cemetery.  Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm happy that people have died or been murdered or killed in accidents.  Please don't get me wrong.  If someone has died, he, she and the mourners deserve to have a dignified unrushed special time for "leave-taking," burial and eulogies.  That is possible here in Shiloh where, thank G-d, bli eyin haraa, funerals aren't daily events, nor weekly or even monthly, Baruch Hashem.

If any of you have listened to the eulogies from RivkA's funeral, you'd have heard a disturbance during Moshe's words (part 2.)  Yes, davka, Moshe, RivkA's husband and now widower.  I had hoped that the microphone wouldn't pick it up.

The Givat Shaul, Jerusalem cemetery's "Beit Hespedim," funeral hall for eulogies, had the night's schedule up.  RivkA's funeral was 10pm and another was scheduled for 10:30.  When I saw that I didn't think it would be a problem.  In Shiloh the hespedim eulogies are usually, weather permitting, at the grave.  Most funerals are totally outdoors.  We gather in front of the niftar's (dead person's) shul and then walk them to the cemetery; sometimes, because of time restraints or weather, we all ride.

The hespedim eulogies for RivkA were inside the hall, and it's easy to add the numbers from the youtubes and see that they lasted well beyond the thirty minutes the chevra kadisha burial society had allocated.  Besides the hespedim eulogies, the family was given private time in a closed room off of the hall for their leave-taking.  The shouting during Moshe's words were from the very upset family of the 10:30 funeral.

Both families were right, justified in their actions.  It's ridiculous to think that just thirty minutes would have sufficed for RivkA or most people.  And the other family began their disturbance after waiting over half an hour.  We didn't empty the hall until 11:30, a full hour after the scheduled time of the second funeral.

Death is upsetting enough without these added insensitive and preventable annoyances.  The Givat Shaul Cemetery is enormous.  I've gone there other times and not even found the location for the funeral or Azkara memorial ceremony I had planned on attending.  The tight unrealistic scheduling really gives it a factory feel, definitely halachikly (according to Jewish Law) problematic.

HaMakom yenachem... 
May G-d comfort all the mourners.


Bernie said...

Thank you for this explanation, I could tell by the tone someone was upset. I feel very honoured to have known RivkA through the computer screen and I think she was blessed with a wonderful family. Thank you very much....Hugs

Eliyahu S. said...

Thanks, Batya, for the sensitive explanation.

I was there, and I felt bad because, as you said, both sides were "right." The guilty party was the Hevra Kadisha for unrealistic scheduling.

I estimate that there were about 600 people at the funeral, others have said over a thousand. The crowd was HUGE. When Moshe finished at 11:20, it took fifteen minutes (!) for most of the people to clear out - at 11:35 there were still people leaving the hesped building to go to the gravesite.

It is a tribute to how much RivkA (z"l) was loved by so many to see that kind of turnout on a cold, dreary Saturday night.

Batya said...

Bernie, Eliyahu, I was standing right near the shouting people. It was very upsetting to have such a disturbance especially when Moshe was trying to speak. I don't know if those people understand English, because maybe they would have been more patient if they had known that he is the widower. And maybe they would have had been more patient if the funeral was in their Hebrew accent.

A representative of the Chevra Kadisha should have done something to calm them down and apologize to everybody.

Forcing people to rush a funeral for any reason other than Shabbat or chag is inexcusable.

Gila said...

Batya--perhaps the people yelling included a widow? Forced to drag out the burial of a beloved spouse a full extra hour? Why is their grief assumed to be any less profound?

I was also there and also understand both sides. Assuming that there are good reasons for the scheduling being done the way it is, a few words by the Hevre Kadisha in advance to the family "you have 1/2 hour" AND, once it was clear that we were way over the allotted time, "sorry--but you will have to do the rest at the graveside" would have alleviated the situation.

I am surprised that the time limit was not communicated.

Rahel Jaskow said...

A man I know who attended the funeral was approached in a threatening manner by a member of the second family. With all respect for the other family's grief, I don't understand why they chose to behave as they did rather than approach the Hevra Kadisha.

Batya said...

Gila, lovely idea that the "widow" was fighting and screaming when Moshe, the "widower" was trying to talk. The immediate family of the second "niftar" (dead person) was in a private room with him. Both bodies were transported together/at the same time.

Rahel, I was right near where the screaming was, and they were not pleasant, nor were they mourning in the same quiet deflated, "no energy" way that we were. My gut feeling then was that if RivkA's funeral was in the same Hebrew accent and dress code as the second one's family and friends, they would have showed more sympathy, understanding and patience.

Robin said...

I too was right near the yelling, literally right next to one of the young men, who barged in among the women mourning RivkA and starting yelling and throwing his arms around. The woman who first broke in yelling was talking about burying the family's grandfather. While I'm sure their pain was great and I don't take that lightly, they WERE told, in Hebrew, that the man they interrupted was the bereaved husband and despite this they continued to interrupt the hesped and behave in a very disrespectful manner. Pain or no pain, there are ways to get your message across, and the one they chose was disgraceful.

mother in israel said...

It seems to me that there was a miscalculation about how long the hespedim would take. Perhaps people spoke longer than they were allotted. Often, the hespedim are said at the graveside, or at an azkarah at the shloshim (memorial service 30 days after death), when there are fewer time limits.

Batya said...

It's obvious in the video that Moshe was disturbed, because he stopped talking. I don't know how the chevra kadisha could have given only 30 minutes. That's so unrealistic. I understand that going over time for the Israeli mentality is the norm. In Shiloh things always start late. Even in schools, every one where I ever taught classes started late, even though I complained that it was "gezzel."