God Bless Funeral Directors
Wed, 06/25/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

A word for a profoundly Jewish but often disrespected profession: God bless funeral directors.

As a rabbi, I have marveled for many years at the skill and care of funeral directors. My father, a rabbi in Philadelphia, would often recount how his friend, Joseph Levine, would care for those who were bereaved and frightened, and gently guide them. I have seen the same care repeatedly in my own years conducting funerals and meeting with families who had suffered a loss. Death is the most sensitive time; when a funeral director is unkind, the results are devastating. But day after day, a mortuary worker must speak with families whom he or she does not know, and be warm without being cloying, caring without presuming too much, discuss financial arrangements at a time when the family can barely add two and two.

Because my own synagogue has two cemeteries, I have seen this work up close. In the Jewish world we do not sufficiently salute and applaud those who stand on the emotional front lines day after day. They help usher us through our most difficult transitions, and most of them do it with heart and skill. God bless funeral directors.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe
 

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As one who was privileged to know the Senior Rabbi Wolpe and was a friend of Joe Levine, I wholeheartedly say Amen to your comments.

As a Jewish funeral director, I am touched by your remarks. The partnership between the funeral director and the Rabbi who officiates can set the tone for the "new normal" that has begun for a family. Your sensitivity to that partnership is a gift to those who are fortunate to work with you and the families served.

I have a good friend who is the most adroit person I have ever seen at handling this sort of thing. He worked for years in a hospice - and yet, he is one of the most fun-loving and mischievous people I know. I think that's why the people absolutely love him. He is never dour and long-faced. He is funny but gentle and compassionate. And now, he is an ordained minister in a church and studying for a doctorate in Theology, but he maintains contact with the hospice. It takes a very special kind of person to balance the needs of the dying and grieving.

Your column appeared at the right time for me. My mother just entered hospice care. Thank you.

My Aunt, in her younger days, was the one who made up and dressed the deceased for the funeral--at a place in Brooklyn--this was about from 1945.People used to come and hug her for the beautiful work she did. And she said it was her greatest joy to give the families this comfort--

Well said!

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