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When the Phone Rings… FAQs for Funeral Homes

When someone calls a funeral home for information, families are often already in the midst of a crisis. Below are some of the frequently asked questions when the phone rings at a funeral chapel.


    1. Do my funeral chapel charges include the grave opening?
      The charge for grave openings can range from $800-$3000, with fees varying by cemetery. Grave openings are NOT part of the funeral home charges but are germane when calculating a funeral’s expenses. The grave opening and the payment for this service is arranged by the funeral chapel.


  1. My family member or friend died out of town but I am holding the funeral here. What do I do now?
    If your family member or friend died out of town, it is often the out-of-town funeral chapel that chooses the “receiving” chapel. However, if you are arranging the funeral service and burial, you should be part of that decision as shipping charges can vary from chapel to chapel. IMPORTANT* be sure the “receiving” chapel is in the city where the internment will ultimately take place.


  1. What is the typical response time for the funeral home to remove the body?
    Time for a funeral chapel to remove the body from a home/facility varies based on several factors. Electronic death certificates must be signed, hospital security can cause delays and removals are impacted by both anticipated and unanticipated traffic delays. Generally, however, a reasonable response time is 90 minutes.


  1. What is included in the typical Jewish burial ritual?
    In the broadest strokes, the remains of the deceased are handled as if the person were alive. Shomrim (guards or keepers) may sit beside the deceased’s body and even recite passages from the Book of Psalms to ensure the body is always accompanied until internment. Tahara is the traditional, ritual washing of the body conducted by chevra kaddisha (burial society) or funeral chapel can provide this service. The body of the deceased is wrapped for internment in tachrichim, burial shroud made of natural fiber.


  1. Can I deliver a eulogy at my family member or friends’s funeral?
    At many funeral ceremonies, eulogies or tributes from family members and friends are encouraged. The officiant may deliver a hesped, a funeral tribute offering reflections of the deceased’s life and teaching from Jewish tradition or Scripture. It is important to be aware that there may be time restrictions. Extending beyond the scheduled time could incur overtime charges. There is also a value not to overburden the mourner with an excessively long funeral ceremony. Timing may also be impacted by the lunch hour at the cemetery, which is generally between 12pm and 1pm.


    1. When do I schedule the funeral service?
      Funeral times should not be scheduled, publicized or shared with family members or friends until you have checked with the officiating clergy and funeral


    1. Can the funeral chapel staff help me arrange my family member or friend’s obituary?
      Obituaries are posted in local papers and are often arranged by funeral chapel staff. It is important to note that each publication has its own deadline. Cost is also an important factor when writing your family member or friend’s obituary. Some publications charge by the line and there are usually five (5) words to a line.


  1. What information is required for a death certificate?
    The following information is required in order to complete the death certificate:
  • The correct spelling of the deceased’s name
  • The deceased’s correct Social Security #
  • The deceased’s Date of Birth
  • The names of the deceased’s parents, including his/her mother’s maiden name.


  1. What address do I use for the death certificate?
    It is important that the legal domicile of the deceased is used. There are significant implications – such as tax implications and settling the deceased’s estate – so be sure that the funeral chapel receives the legal address of the deceased.


  1. Anything else I should keep in mind?
    Above all else, remember the funeral director is there for you. The funeral director – the person who answers your call when the phone rings – is the professional who creates calm within this time of chaos. Finding a knowledgeable and supportive ally at this difficult time can be a huge benefit to you and the family.

Plaza Jewish Community Chapel assisted The Center for Jewish End of Life Care in creating these questions. 


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