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The Unveiling of the Monument

Since the book of Genesis in which Jacob erected a tombstone over the grave of his wife Rachel, placing a monument over the grave of the deceased has become a long-standing Jewish tradition. Since Biblical times, this ancient practice has been used and continues to be used to honor those who have died and have been buried.
The purpose of the tombstone is twofold. It not only allows family members and friends to visit the specific burial site, but to honor the deceased as well.

The History of the Unveiling
The formal consecration of a tombstone is known as an “unveiling” and though this tradition does not date back to pre-modern Jewish life, it is widely accepted today.

While there is no strict timing for an unveiling, it takes place sometime during the first year after death. Typically, families schedule the ceremony between the end of Shloshim, the period of intensive mourning during the thirty days after someone has died, and the first Yahrzeit, the anniversary of the death.

The unveiling can provide family members emotional and psychological healing, and can bring together family members from far distances to acknowledge the death of a family member or friend.

By honoring and recalling memories of the deceased, family members and friends can remember the significance, while the name etched in stone forever engrains the life and memory of the individual into the Jewish community.

The Unveiling Service
An unveiling service can begin with a moment of silence, song or melody (niggun), gathering in a circle, reading, or other practices designed to concentrate attention on the deceased.

Many ceremonial introductions follow the same general script:

  • [Name] died on [Date of Passing].
  • S(He) was buried here at [Name of Cemetery] on [Date of Burial]
  • S(He) was the beloved husband/wife of [Husband’s/Wife’s Name].
  • S(He) was the father/mother of [Childrens’ Names].
  • S(He) was the brother/sister of [Siblings’ Names].
  • S(He) was the mother/father-in-law of [Childrens’ Names].
  • S[He) was the grandfather/grandmother of [Grandchildrens’ Names].
  • Today we gather to remember him/her and to dedicate a monument in his/her memory.

Once the ceremony has begun, the leader may choose to invite those present to share memories that honor the individual who has died. However, this is not required and if a group chooses, only the leader may want to share their thoughts. If you do want to share, you may ask family members and friends questions like:

  • What is your favorite memory of spending time with [Name]?
  • What are some qualities you valued about [Name]?
  • If you could speak to [Name] right now, what would you say?

Sharing in this manner is effective to not only allow those present to verbalize their feelings of loss, but to also honor the one who has died. Following this sharing, the leader should recite the Memorial Prayer (“El Malei Rachamim”) in Hebrew and/or English. At this point, the leader will remove the monument’s covering and recite the inscriptions.

Perhaps the most important part of the ceremony is the reciting of the Mourner’s Kaddish. While the Mourner’s Kaddish is only obligatory for the closest relatives – such as parents, partner, siblings, and children – anyone present may choose to join in. After this prayer, others may follow to finish commemorating the deceased.

Following the ceremony, family members and friends may give Tzedakah to honor the deceased and can visit the grave at any time, particularly prior to Yahrzeit, Yom Kippur, and any other occasion in which Yizkor is recited.

At Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, We are here for you and your family during all times of difficulty.

At Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, we seek to commemorate the profound loss of each member of our community.

Take comfort in knowing that Plaza Jewish is always here to help you, your family, and other loved ones during your time of need with thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and support.

We also offer a Yahrzeit calendar on our newly re-designed website, and a Yahrzeit App that you can download.

Categories: Etiquette & Customs

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