Liberal Judaism holds dear the traditional principle of kavod ha’met (honour/dignity in death). It therefore works to ensure through its own burial scheme and individual communities, that provision at the end of a person’s life is as appropriate and meaningful as it is during life itself.
The Rabbis of Liberal Judaism provide pastoral care for those in the last stages of life and their families. A number of our communities also offer the support of trained bereavement counsellors.
Once a death has taken place, people vary considerably in what they require, and in how traditional they want the rituals and service to be. For that reason, 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 within Liberal Judaism is compelled to carry out rituals which they do not want to perform. The prevailing 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.
Liberal Jewish communities attempt to support families through all the traditional stages of mourning if needed or wanted.
Although there is some variance in progressive Jewish practice from the traditional mourning process, this progress and those which follow reflect the psychological journey a bereaved person during mourning.
Liberal Judaism certainly encourages the practice of shivah, but leaves this decision and the number of days to the mourner.
Many Liberal Jews choose to observe between one and three nights of prayers.
The purpose of shivah is to allow the mourner time to receive support, comfort and consolation, to help them with practical tasks such as shopping and cooking and to give the time to grieve and mourn.