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Planning Funeral Services that Combine Multiple Religious Traditions

 

What type of funeral planning should the children of a parent who was raised Jewish but married out of the faith and didn't guide the children toward any faith. Two are now Catholic, one Methodist and one not associated with any organized religion. The parent is unwilling to discuss pre-planning. While we believe that there would be no embalming and we would choose a Jewish casket, burial would be in a non denominational cemetery. However, can we have a minister and flowers, along with a rabbi to say a prayer and reaffirm her earlier faith? I guess the question is can you combine faiths and have a dignified funeral and how do you go about this?

Combining faiths and faith traditions is not all that unusual in a wedding or a funeral. The role that your parents birth faith plays in the service would depend a bit on the adherence that they have practiced to that faith.

You indicated that your parent was Jewish by birth. If this parent still maintained contact with a synagogue, you might consult the rabbi on just what role the children's faiths might play in the service. If, on the other hand, your parent has not practiced their religion since marriage, the role of the rabbi might be a smaller one, such as sharing a prayer, scriptural message or some other element of the service or perhaps just sharing words at the graveside service. Your clergy person in your faith might be able to recommend a rabbi to assist in the service, if you do not know one personally.

If your parent married out of the faith (and especially if they did not maintain many of the faith traditions) it is quite likely that they would not classify themselves as an Orthodox Jew. It is Orthodox tradition that usually dictates using a specific style of casket and forbids embalming. (I have handled services for non-Orthodox Jews who have chosen to have embalming, visitation and selected metal caskets.) If viewing and/or embalming to delay the services so that everyone can gather works best for your family, this may be a factor to consider.

Keep in mind that in many ways, the funeral is for the living. While both the Jewish and Catholic faiths have beliefs in the value of the services and prayers for the deceased, those that survive are the ones for whom most of the services are designed. It is important that you plan the services so that you and your siblings receive the most emotional support possible. Please do not become so involved with the logistics of the service that you lose sight of this.-Steve Moeller

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