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Practical Information

From Appendix I – The Laws of Life: A Guide to Traditional Jewish Practice in Times of Bereavement
by Jonathan Wittenberg


Making the arrangements for burial

When a death occurs in the family, one is likely to feel shocked and numb. It is in this state that one has to make all the arrangements for the funeral and to contact wider family and friends. It should be borne in mind that these practical and sometimes vexing tasks, even coping with the channels of bureaucracy, are part of showing respect to and caring for the person one has lost.
A death must be registered according to the requirements of English law and the synagogue(s) and relevant burial society must be contacted.

General information about procedures is provided below.

Registration of deaths: civil procedures

Full registration must be carried out at the register office within five days of the death. Burial societies are not allowed to proceed with the organisation of a funeral until the death has been registered. 

You have to register a death at the local register office for the place where the death occurred (not the place where the person lived, unless they died at home). If you are in any doubt about the right registration district, telephone any of the districts and they will check their map and tell you the correct office. If the person died in hospital, the secretary’s office will inform you of the correct register office. (If the correct office is a very long way from where you live, it may be possible to make a declaration at your local register office, who will then post it to the relevant branch, which will then issue the green form.)

In many local authorities it is necessary to make an appointment in order to register a death. It will be worthwhile to check the procedures of the relevant office before going there. 

Some councils, such as Barnet, ( have special arrangements for contacting a registrar on Sundays. (Call Barnet Emergency Services on 020 8 359 2000 between 9.00 – 10.00am and they will arrange for a registrar to call you back.)

To register a death you need to have a medical certificate indicating the cause of death, which is issued by the hospital doctor, or the doctor who was attending the deceased if the person died at home. (For Coroner’s cases see below).

You should be prepared to give the Registrar the following particulars:

1. The full name of the deceased (and the maiden surname if the deceased was a woman who had married and changed her name).
2. His/her date and place of birth.
3. His/her date and place of death.
4 His/her occupation (if the deceased was a married woman, her own occupation and the name or occupation of her husband).
5. His/her usual address.
6. Whether he/she was in receipt of a pension or allowance from public funds.
7. If he/she was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower.
8. If possible the deceased’s medical card should also be delivered to the Registrar.

The people qualified to register a death are:

1. A relative present at the death.
2. A relative in attendance during the last illness.
3. A relative residing or being in the sub-district where the death occurred.
4. A person present at the death.
5. The occupier of the house if he / she knew of the happening of the death.
6. Any resident in the house if he / she knew of the happening of the death.
7. The person causing the disposal of the body.

The Registrar will then issue:

1. A ‘green certificate’. This is the disposal certificate authorising the funeral and is free of charge. The burial society will require this.
2. An ordinary death certificate. You may need to order a few extra copies for legal purposes, including obtaining a grant of probate, payment from building societies and banks and the transfer of shares to the beneficiaries. There is a charge for each death certificate including the original.

Coroner’s Cases

If the death is to be referred to the coroner, for example for a post-mortem, he or she may either issue his or her certificate direct to the registrar (instead of the usual medical certificate) and telephone the relatives to go to the register office to register the death or he or she may ask the relatives to collect the certificate themselves and take it to the register office. The procedure is then the same as under Procedures above.

Jewish burial societies: their requirements and procedures

How the arrangements are made for burial will differ according to the synagogue to which the deceased belonged and the burial society with which it is connected. However, all burial societies have certain common requirements:

1. They cannot proceed with the funeral unless all the requirements of English law are satisfied.
2. Once the arrangements are in their hands, they will organise the collection of the body, the Taharah and, together with the officiating rabbi, the arrangements for the funeral service and the burial. 

For details of the principal burial societies see the page in the back pocket of this booklet.


The Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, The Liberal and Progressive Synagogues and the Jewish Joint Burial Society will all arrange cremations as well as funerals. Although cremation is not the traditional Jewish practice (see above) it is something many people do in fact choose and it is better to make arrangements through a Jewish organisation which will ensure that, although burial is not taking place, all other Jewish rites are observed, rather than through a general undertaker.

Sat, 2 March 2024 22 Adar I 5784