Jewish funeral in Vienna
In Judaism, the deceased is given the highest respect.
The vigil is an important element of the burial, where members of the community accompany the body of the deceased from the moment of death until it is laid in the earth. It is traditional to wash the body and wrap it in a white linen shroud.
A small pouch of earth from Israel is often placed under the pillow of the deceased.
Burial rituals in Judaism
Burial in the earth is prescribed in Judaism. The funeral should occur as quickly as possible, no later than three days after the death. In Israel, the body of the deceased is wrapped in linen cloths, however in Austria a casket must be used. Carrying the body to the grave counts as a “mitzvah”, a good deed. The eulogy or “hesped” is recited when the casket is lowered into the earth. The men present recite the Kaddish prayer as soon as the casket is completely covered with earth. After this, the mourners tear off a piece of clothing as a sign of their grief. These days, people often wear a small ribbon on their clothing which can be torn off.
Jewish cemeteries in Vienna
The cemetery next to the synagogue is one of the most important sites in Judaism. Jewish cemeteries may not be built upon, relocated or repurposed. The Old Jewish Cemetery has occupied its present location next to the first gate to the Vienna Central Cemetery since 1877. It contains magnificent gravestones and famous graves. Other Jewish cemeteries can be found in Währing and Floridsdorf.