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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.

Experience in the area

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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Recent Answers from Rabbi Sue Levy

2014-01-05 Funeral:

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

2013-09-02 Jewish Burial:

Dear Mickey,    We use the most simple wood casket available. The dowels used to hold the box together should also be wood. We do this so that we will become a part of the earth from which we came, as

2013-02-26 Remembrance stones at Jewish gravesite:

Dear Dawn,    It is perfectly acceptable to ask your aunt or anyone else who will be an the unveiling to leave a stone for you. I would not suggest that you personalize anything because of the likelihood

2013-02-12 My wife is Catholic (non practicing) I am a Reform Jew:

Dear Bob,    Individual cemeteries and rabbis have their own requirements. Therefore, the questions you are asking are entirely at their discretion. Very few rabbis will officiate at a memorial for someone

2012-07-30 Shiva practices:

Dear Ron,    It is often the case that mourners leave tasks like notifications up to others, and many a glitch occurs. I hope you won't take it personally. I'm sure your friends will still appreciate a


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