I am Jewish and a Jewish acquaintance of mine passed away yesterday. We have many friends in common. The funeral will be huge because the deceased was only 65. I don't know whether I should attend the service. I do not know any members of the family, not even her husband. Yet I want to do the right thing. Can you give me an opinion?

Dear Caryn,

It is common for people to show up at a funeral who aren't acquainted with the family. The family may not be able to sort out who the people attending are or how they are a part of the "big picture," but you may be able to attend the shiva or explain to them later on. I would suggest that you do go to fill your own need to pay respects to her and to grieve for a friend.

Thank you so much for asking. Please feel free to be back in touch if I can be helpful.


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Rabbi Sue Levy


I will be happy to answer questions about Jewish customs and beliefs relating to death and mourning and how these are observed by the different movements in the Jewish community. I can discuss the content of the Jewish funeral service as well as options from which you may choose. I can also suggest some important questions which one may want to ask a rabbi or funeral director when planning a funeral service.


I have been a rabbi for twenty-seven years and have served congregations in the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. I taught an undergraduate course in Death and Dying at Temple University in Philadelphia and have taught classes in Jewish mourning customs in numerous locations. I am also a widow. My experience as a mourner enabled me to see, in a very practical way, which of the traditions, "worked" for me and which did not. One of the most important things I learned is that, even for Jews who do not accept the authority of Jewish law, many of the traditional practices have enormous psychological wisdom. I can offer both an educated an sympathetic ear.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Houston Rabbinical Association, Rabbis for Human Rights, Southern Poverty Leadership Council

BA., Political Science, Temple University, 1965 MA, Religion, Temple University, 1983 MAHL (Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters), 1986, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA Rabbinic Ordination, 1986, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Awards and Honors
D.D. Doctor of Divinity, (honorus causa), 2011, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

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