Mount Herzl Miltary Cemetary.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The ITIM religious services advisory organization is set to launch a pilot program this week to provide free advice and assistance for everything related to burial and mourning procedures.
The organization says there are numerous issues to be arranged and decided for a funeral that few people are aware of, and such matters need to be taken care of when people are already distressed from the loss of a loved one.
The purpose of ITIM’s burial service is to help people deal with logistical concerns, advise them of the rights, burial costs and any other relevant details, as well as provide information about Jewish customs and laws surrounding burial and mourning if requested.
The program is to be initiated in Ra’anana first and comprise a team of 18 volunteers who are to be on call 24 hours a day to assist families and individuals in the city.
ITIM worked with the city’s burial society to help create the project, and the society is from Sunday onwards to inform people who call up requiring their services about the option of getting advice and assistance from the burial service volunteers.
In the next three months ITIM hopes to bring its service to another two municipalities and if it proves successful to develop it as a nationwide program.
“Throughout the years, ITIM has received thousands of calls from individuals who felt at a loss at their most vulnerable moment,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber. “Some people need to know their rights, others the costs involved and still others seek to understand what happens at a funeral. These volunteers provide a new opportunity for the Jewish funeral to not be alienating and distant from the family.”
Farber said that one common problem is the lack of knowledge regarding burial costs. Although burial for Israeli citizens is largely free, there are some circumstances that incur extra costs, such as securing a plot alongside their spouse, or burial outside ones city of residence.
Another common question is whether or not burial can be delayed for any amount of time, to allow relatives to arrive from abroad or from distant locales within Israel, something that can often be problematic due to requirements of Jewish law to bury the deceased as soon as possible.
Other people request information about what Jewish laws are relevant, what customs they should adopt and even where they can find a local synagogue to say kaddish during the period of mourning.
The ITIM volunteers went through a training program including meetings with halachic authorities, psychologists, social workers and member of the Ra’anana burial society. In addition, they spent time understanding the dynamics of the cemetery, the role of national insurance in covering burial costs and the various bureaucratic dimensions of Jewish burial in Israel.
They are to operate in a shift system with a central coordinator to ensure that the service is available 24 hours a day and to coordinate with each other by means of the WhatsApp messaging application.
The Ra’anana burial society worked with ITIM to develop the project and welcomed the pilot program in the city, with Meir Katzin, the director of the Ra’anana burial society, saying the partnership with ITIM would enhance its own services.