Update on Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism funerals

Cheshunt Cemetery

3 June 2020

The Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors and the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors continue to work together, speaking and consulting in order to ensure that we have joint guidance over funerals that take place under our auspices.

We felt that it was necessary to follow a policy of being present only online at certain grounds from the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown until June 1. It was a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make, and we want to acknowledge those who have lost loved ones during this time and the additional sorrow that these circumstances have added to their bereavement. We also want to thank our clergy, student rabbis and laypeople for creating meaningful services for so many mourners in these very difficult times.

We are in constant contact with our funeral directors and cemetery staff and we want to acknowledge their hard work and dedication. They remain concerned for their staff safety and worried about the possibilities of a new spike, but first and foremost want to honour the deceased and provide the best support they can for bereaved families.

We will all have witnessed that there is a general trend towards a relaxation of lockdown and an easing of the restrictions at cemeteries and crematoria. This has coincided with the opening of some primary schools and an extension of the number of people able to meet outside at a distance. This has all led us to conclude that now is the time to adapt the policies for Reform and Liberal Judaism. We will now be following the specific guidelines for each cemetery and crematorium.

Cheshunt now allows up to five mourners and Edgwarebury will allow up to twelve mourners, all to be from the same household as the deceased person, or close family members. Golders Green Crematorium allows ten mourners. Social distancing is still strictly enforced in all venues.

We still encourage clergy to consider positive alternatives to physical attendance, it is essential that we support families in feeling able to make the decision to continue using technology. We have experienced that participating virtually can provide much needed support that can be more meaningful than a small number attending and feeling alone or isolated or that families and friends have to make impossible decisions about who can and cannot attend.

It does of course remain important to remind you all that people who are shielding or self isolating will not be allowed at the cemetery and all government guidance regarding this will be strictly adhered to.

As before, both movements will continue to monitor the situation weekly and we remain hopeful that we can progressively relax the policy, but equally may need to hold or reverse some aspects as events unfurl.

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