what to expect at an 'azkara'?
April 29, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

What happens at an 'azkara' (Jewish memorial service)?

I'm going to a one year memorial service ('azkara') being held at the cemetery. It's probably not going to be a very religious one. What should I expect to happen? Should I bring anything (food? flowers?)? Should I prepare anything to say?
posted by mirileh to Human Relations (10 answers total)
 
I think I went to the same thing a couple of years ago - the family called it the unveiling (of the tombstone). Dress appropriately (I forget what I wore; I don't think it was a suit but I think I wore a jacket and not jeans, obviously). I just stood around while members of the family talked about the deceased. I didn't need to bring anything, and certainly I didn't need to say anything.
posted by Dasein at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2010


Interesting - I'd never heard that term. I googled it, and it seems it is equivalent to yarzheit. In your case, it seems like it is unveiling of the gravestone, which is consecrated by the family.

You'll be going with the family? If they place a stone on the gravesite, you may too, if you are moved to.
posted by pinky at 11:14 AM on April 29, 2010


Assuming it's the unveiling (which is what it sounds like), you go to the tombstone, a few people say some stuff, you put a stone on the grave. You do not need to bring anything, dressing business casual is probably fine, and the only thing you have to do is put the stone on the tombstone.
posted by jeather at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2010


Do you know what type of Judaism this is? Are they Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or something else? Generally, Jewish mourning practices are very calm, modest, sometimes poetic affairs. Knowing what style of Judaism this service would be in can help us tell you what is likely to happen. Generally, if you should bring something or have anything prepared, for any type of Jewish service, you will be informed by someone helping to organize it ahead of time.
posted by Mizu at 11:16 AM on April 29, 2010


Assuming it's the unveiling (which is what it sounds like), you go to the tombstone, a few people say some stuff, you put a stone on the grave. You do not need to bring anything, dressing business casual is probably fine, and the only thing you have to do is put the stone on the tombstone.

This is precisely correct. Someone will say prayers over the gravesite, and they are asking you to attend for your presence, nothing more. Unless you are family, it is unlikely you will be asked to speak, and it's highly doubtful that anyone would ask you to do so without advanced warning. Do not bring flowers, food or anything else with you. Jews do not leave flowers at graves. If you are a man, you may be asked to cover your head with a yarmulka, but if so, you should not be expected to bring one.

The stone should be relatively small (large enough that it won't blow away quickly, but small enough to not be ostentatious -- don't over think this, truthfully any stone you find will do) and should be taken from the ground, not another gravestone. What I have always done is look for one on my way up to the grave I'm visiting, I usually find them in the road as I get out of the car.

One other thing: If you happen to be a woman and pregnant, you may want to alert the person who has invited you. Some Jews are superstitious about pregnant women and cemeteries. They may suggest you not attend, out of concern for you and your child.
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


and they are asking you to attend for your

Sorry, that should have read "...and they are likely asking..."
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on April 29, 2010


If it's a consecration, it's going to be pretty casual, as per jeather's description. There's no particular obligation to wear black. It's traditional to wish the mourners "a long life" (and you might find people say it to you, almost as a greeting).
posted by prettypretty at 1:33 PM on April 29, 2010


It may come as a surprise to some, but these gravestone dedications are not a religous requirement. Dedications have been around in the US for only some fifty years. Consequently, there is no tradition or rules to fall back on for what should be done. You'll see a large variation in the cemetary service. Typically, people dress casually and are sometimes invited to share in a meal after the service. The service itself seldom lasts more than ten minutes. Those who attend who are not the bereaved are not expected to bring offerings or participate in the ceremony. Common sense would say, if you are invited to behave respectfully. That's all.
posted by Hilbert at 6:58 PM on April 29, 2010


Nthing what everyone else has said: it's not an old enough custom to have hard-and-fast rules. Dress and act as you would for any other memorial service.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:43 PM on April 29, 2010


thanks everyone!
posted by mirileh at 6:18 AM on April 30, 2010


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