Funerals and Mourning

There is perhaps no time when the support of a rabbi and a religious community is more important in a person’s life than at a time of mourning. For this reason, the death of a loved one is an occasion when a member of the shul is available to help members at any time of the day or night.

Should you need immediate assistance when a loved one dies, you may immediately telephone the synagogue on our switchboard number 011 646 6170. Your call will be answered by our Receptionist during office hours, and after-hours will be routed to a senior staff member. The Shul will assist in making arrangements on your behalf with the Chevrah Kadisha, the Johannesburg Jewish burial and welfare organisation, which represents  all Jewish communities, including the Progressive.  Progressive Jews have the same rights of access to the Westpark Jewish Cemetery facilities as other Jews, including use of the ohel by our rabbis and our own section of the grounds. A typical fee charged by the Chevrah Kadisha for a funeral is R22 000. Beit Emanuel itself provides the rabbi’s service free of charge to members. Beit Emanuel will also perform funeral services for non-members (see schedule of rates for these services). Progressive funerals differ from Orthodox in that women are permitted to be pall-bearers, to read the Kaddish and to place soil inside the grave.

For a more extensive guide to funerals, mourning procedures, legalities and the Chevrah Kadisha, see also When Someone Dies


Progressive Judaism permits cremations, which some people prefer because the process is thought to be friendlier to the environment. Cremations do not go through the Chevrah Kadisha, and are less expensive. Beit Emanuel will perform memorial services for those who opt for cremations, and also for those who donate their bodies to science as a service to society. Memorial services may be held in either the Slome Auditorium or the main synagogue, depending on the attendance expected. The Shul can also assist with the erection of memorial plaques on the Wall of Remembrance at Westpark.

Other services provided by the synagogue include:

  • Memorial services at the home of the mourners. An evening service is traditionally held at the home of the mourners, usually in the evening after the funeral service. This often includes tributes from members of the family or friends. Either the Rabbi or an experienced lay reader from the Beit Emanuel community usually officiates.
  • Unveiling of the tombstone. This ceremony is usually held at eleven months after the death, but can be held earlier should circumstances (e.g. relatives living abroad) require.
  • Yahrzeits. Those commemorating a yarzheit (the anniversary of a death, according to the Jewish calendar) may choose to hold a memorial service at the shul on the Wednesday afternoon when they may say Kaddish in the presence of friends and family.


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