Outside handwashing station
Open weekdays & Sundays
Closed Shabbat & Holydays
Jewish Customs at Cemeteries
Basic respect should be shown. Refrain from eating, shouting, singing. Try to avoid walking on the graves if possible.
A visit may evoke words of Psalms or the El Maleh Rahamim memorial prayer. Sephardic liturgy’s Hashkaba prayer is said in hope of a peaceful rest for the departed. Syrian Jews read the lines of long acrostic Psalm 119 that spell out the Hebrew name of the deceased. This psalm expresses loyalty to the word of God and hope for salvation. The words that come to mind are also prayers if only written in the prayer book of the heart.
With minor exception you can visit a cemetery or grave on virtually all weekdays. Visitation are customarily not made on chol ha’moed--the middle days of Passover and Succot--nor on Purim, as these are holy days of joy. While visitation of the grave is permitted at almost any time, excessive visits are discouraged. "The rabbis were apprehensive that frequent visiting to the cemetery might become a pattern of living thus preventing the bereaved from placing their dead in proper perspective" (The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, Maurice Lamm, p. 192).
Because contact with a dead body is considered a defilement, Kohens are not allowed into a cemetery except in the case of a very close relative, because they would then be unclean and unable to perform their priestly function. For the rest of us, the mitzvah (blessing) of performing these services for a departed person outweigh the defilement of being made unclean.
Transitions in Jewish life are often accompanied by water. A body is bathed in a poignant, dignified ceremony before burial. Jews-by-choice mark their entry into the Jewish people by immersing themselves in mikveh waters. Similarly, hands are washed after a cemetery visit to mark the departure from the surroundings of death to an attachment with life. Many of the cemeteries in the Toronto area have hand washing stations, many of which have been built by Steeles Memorial Chapel
When visiting Jewish graves the custom is to place a small stone on the grave using the left hand. This shows that someone visited the gravesite, and is also a way of participating in the mitzvah of burial.
Leaving flowers is not a traditional Jewish practice.
Send a donation in your loved one’s name and benefit a great cause in their honour.