Death and Burial

Once death occurs, a Rabbi should be contacted as soon as possible. If the patient has no personal Rabbi or Minister, the Jewish Chaplain designated for your hospital should be contacted. The switchboard or the Chaplain’s Office should have this number. If the services of a Jewish Chaplain are urgently required and you are unable to contact the Jewish Chaplain, please telephone the Jewish Hospital Visiting office during normal office hours or the mobile of the Senior Hospital Chaplain, outside of office hours and every effort will be made to secure the services of another Chaplain. The Jewish Hospital Visiting Service and the Senior Rabbi will not be available on the Sabbath or on Jewish Holidays.

If it is not possible to get hold of a chaplain (especially if it on a Sabbath or a Major Festival), staff are permitted to carry out the following procedures immediately without a minister being present.

  • The eyes should be closed, as should the mouth, with strapping if necessary.
  • Remove jewellery in the presence of witnesses, make a list of items and then give the jewellery to the family.
  • Remove all external catheters and medical equipment attached to the body. Ensure that all incisions etcetera are dressed. There is no need to remove any identification bracelets.
  • It is essential that the body is laid flat with hands open, arms parallel and close to the body and legs stretched out straight. ( The greatest respect that can be shown towards the deceased, is to do nothing further, apart from cleansing orifices only to the extent required to preserve human dignity)
  • The body should then be wrapped in an ordinary plain sheet and removed to the appropriate place according to hospital procedure. Where possible, the body should not be unattended after death. There is a Jewish tradition for relatives or friends to keep vigil by the body with the reciting of prayers. If such a request is made, then arrangements, where possible, should be made to facilitate this. Some families will request that the body be placed on the floor for a short time.


Jewish burial should take place as soon as possible after death, and therefore arrangements for the release of the body should be made without any undue delay.

The nurse in charge usually obtains the Medical of Cause of Death which is handed to the family to be taken to the Registrar when applying for the burial certificate.

Cremation is not permitted in Orthodox Judaism, while Reform and Progressive communities do allow it. Arrangements should also be made as soon as possible to contact a Jewish burial society. The numbers of some of the burial boards and societies for London and the surrounding area are included at the end of this section.

If there is no relative or other suitable person to make the funeral arrangements, the Burial Society of the United Synagogue should be contacted without delay and the option for funeral arrangements selected. If the Burial Offices are closed and you would like to speak to someone, please call the mobile no. that is given (this service is not available on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays). The mobile number is for advice only. Arrangements for a funeral can only be made using the number given for the Burial Offices. Where the patient is not a member of the United Synagogue, the Burial Offices will assist in providing contact details of other Jewish Communities. (Information on cemeteries and burial societies is included at the end of this section.)

Post-mortem examinations are not permitted in Jewish law except where it would lead to the saving of another life, or where civil law absolutely requires an autopsy. In cases of queries a Rabbi should be consulted. Many coroners will agree to the use of less invasive procedures, such as CT or MRI scans.

The Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service (contact details in the List of Useful Contacts) can offer trained assistance to bereaved persons.

Child Miscarriages, Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths

There is a clear distinction in Jewish Law between a foetus under 21 weeks of gestation and more developed foetuses. In orthodox Jewish Law, any foetus which miscarries at 21 weeks or more should be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The United Synagogue has produced a leaflet entitled “A Guide for the Jewish parent on Miscarriages, Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths which gives more detailed guidance on making arrangements in these very sad situations.

The Stillbirth Support Group offers a telephone support service to anyone who has been affected by a stillbirth, either recently or in the past.

Cemeteries and their burial societies

United Synagogue Cemeteries

Burial Society Office 020 8950 7767
For out of office hours advice on burials 07957 119 119
Bushey: Little Bushey, Bushey, Herts WD23 3TP. Tel 20 8950 7767
Willesden: Beaconsfield Road, London, NW10 2JE. Tel 20 8950 7767
Waltham Abbey: Skillet Hill, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 3QT. Tel 020 8950 7767

Adath Yisroel Burial Society

Enfield: 246 Carterhatch Lane, Enfield, Middlesex, EN1 4BG. Tel: 020 8802 6262
Silver Street: Goffs Oak, Cheshunt, Herts. Tel: +44 1707 874 220

Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue

Edgwarebury: Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 8QP. Tel: 020 8958 3388
Hoop Lane: 1 Hoop Lane, Golders Green, London, NW11 7NL. Tel: 020 8455 2569

Western Charitable Foundation Burial society

Western: Montagu Road, Edmonton, London N18 2NF. Tel: 20 8807 2268
Streatham; Rowan Road, Streatham, London, SW16 5JG . Tel: 020 8679 4164
Bullscross Ride: Bulls Cross Ride, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire EN7 5HT. Tel: +44 1992 717820

JJBS Reform and Masorti

Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue, Wanstead: 1 Victory Road, Hermon Hill, Wanstead, E11 1UL Tel: 020 8530 3345
Bullscross Ride: Bulls Cross Ride, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire EN7 5HT. Tel: +44 1992 717820
Hoop Lane: 1 Hoop Lane, Golders Green, London, NW11 7NL. Tel: 020 8455 2569

Liberal and Progressive

Liberal Jewish: Pound Lane, Willesden, London, NW10 2HG. Tel: 020 7432 1298. Funeral Directors: M. M. Broad & Son. Tel: 020 8445 2797
Edgwarebury: Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 8QP. Tel: 020 8958 3388
Bullscross Ride: Bulls Cross Ride, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire EN7 5HT. Tel: +44 1992 717820


Burial Society Tel: (0)20 8202 3903
Out of hours answerphone: (0)20 8202 3903


Edmonton: Montagu Road, Edmonton, London N18 2NF
Tel: +44 (0)20 8807 2268
Rainham  416 Upminster Road North, Rainham, Essex RM13 9SB Tel: +44 (0) 1708 552825 Mobile: 07960 349 382


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