Liberal Judaism allows for cremation, whereas Orthodox Judaism prohibits it.
The preponderant practice in Liberal Judaism is to let families and individuals make up their own minds whether they prefer burial or cremation, without any pressure being applied, and people choose both in roughly equal numbers.
A Jewish funeral for cremation is performed just like a Jewish funeral for burial.
Families can choose to have the ashes scattered, or keep them, and it is also possible to have them buried with a stone – and have a stone-setting ceremony, just as you would for a burial.
There are no prohibitions in Liberal Judaism as to where ashes can be scattered.
In Liberal Judaism, it is very much left up to the bereaved family to decide how they wish to hold the funeral and mourn afterwards.
Rabbis and congregational leaders will give guidance where it is required, and explain practices at the time, but no-one is compelled to carry out rituals which they do not want to perform.
For a number of Jews, the traditional rituals associated with mourning are a great comfort and support. There is often a familiarity when it comes to taking up the traditions practised by one’s parents and grandparents and these often bring consolation and reassurance.
For Liberal Jews, tradition has its place and importance, but its observances and rituals are not necessarily obligatory. We assume such rituals because they have meaning and purpose for us, because they are comforting and supportive, and ultimately, because they help us to come to terms with our loss.
Please contact Liberal Judaism, or your rabbi, for more details.
There is a Jewish understanding that mourning cannot truly begin until the, sometimes stressful, affairs around burial or cremation are completed. For example, traditionally mourners do not say Kaddish until the loved one has been buried or cremated. Shiva (the days of mourning) also do not begin until that time.
A Jewish funeral is simple and brief. It contains psalms from the shared Jewish and Christian Hebrew Bible, as well as a few traditional mourning prayers for the deceased from the Jewish tradition. The prayer book will have an English translation and the service leader will let you know what pages to turn to.
A Liberal Jewish funeral is very similar to any Jewish funeral. The noticeable distinctions are that men and women stand or sit together and say the prayers, including Kaddish, together. There will be readings in Hebrew and English.