Checklist: What to do when someone dies

Make sure to contact the hospital or mortuary so that you can fill out any paperwork, i.e., death certificate, as soon after the death as possible.

If you have preplanned:

  1. Contact the doctor to fill out any paperwork.
  2. Contact the funeral director (who should have a list of arrangements).
  3. Call your synagogue and speak with the rabbi about possible times for the service.
  4. Register the death with the synagogue.
  5. Re-contact the funeral home/mortuary to arrange for a funeral time.
  6. Contact close friends and family/chavurah so they can help relay funeral time and information.
  7. Decide for how many days you will sit shiva. Your friends/chavurah can arrange for people to sit shiva with you and your family.

If you have not preplanned:

  1. Contact the doctor to fill out any paperwork.
  2. Call a Jewish funeral director to arrange for someone to pick up the body and to discuss available times for the funeral at a Jewish cemetery.
  3. Call your synagogue and speak with the rabbi about possible times for the service.
  4. Register the death with the synagogue.
  5. After speaking with both the director of the cemetery and the rabbi, arrange for a funeral time.
  6. Call a mortuary that may or may not be affiliated with the cemetery (depending upon which cemetery you use). Set up a service time that is convenient both for the rabbi and the mortuary.
  7. Have your friends/family/chavurah make calls to friends/family/loved ones to relay funeral time and information.
  8. Decide for how many days you will sit shiva. Your friends/chavurah can arrange for people to sit shiva with you and your family.


Web sites:

Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning, published by Kavod v’Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington

“My Jewish Learning Death and Funeral Practices

“A Guide to Jewish Burial and Mourning Practices” published by the Funeral Practices Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California

A Guide to Jewish Mourning and Condolence” by Jerry Rabow, Valley Beth Shalom

Funerals: A Consumer Guide (Federal Trade Commission)

Consumer Guide to Funeral & Cemetery Purchases (California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery & Funeral Bureau)

Funeral Consumers Alliance

The Green Funeral Site


“Mourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journey for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing” by Anne Brener (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001)

“The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning” by Maurice Lamm (Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)

“So That Your Values Live on: Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them” by Jack Riemer and Nathan Stampfer (Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994)

“A Time to Mourn, a Time to Comfort: A Guide to Jewish Bereavement” Ron Wolfson (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005)

— Jane Ulman



1022 S. Downey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90023
323 653-8886
800 654-6772

Opened in 1919. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

1068 S. Downey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90023
213 653-8886
800 654-6772

Opened in 1907. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

900 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90038
323 469-2322
877 238-4652

Opened around 1927. Organized as the Jewish section within the larger Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, now called Hollywood Forever.

15270 Woodcrest Dr.
Whittier, CA 90604
310 943-3170

Opened in 1987.

11500 Sepulveda Blvd.
Mission Hills, CA 91345
818 361-7161
800 441-7161

Opened in 1954. Acquired by Service Corporation International (SCI) in 1985.

6001 Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(800) 576-1994

Opened in 1946. Owned by Temple Israel of Hollywood since the 1950s.

4334 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90023
323 261-6135
800 300-0223

Opened in 1902 in current location. Owned and operated by Rose Hills Memorial Park.

6505 E. Gage Ave.
City of Commerce, CA 90040
(323) 653-8886
(800) 654-6772

Opened in 1931. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

7231 E. Slauson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90040
323 721-4729

Opened in 1948. Donated to Chabad of California in the 1980s.

5950 Forest Lawn Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(800) 600-0076
(323) 469-6000

Originally founded by Forest Lawn in 1953 and exclusively Jewish since 1959. Owned by Sinai Temple since 1967.

6150 Mount Sinai Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93063
(800) 600-0076

160-acre site purchased in 1997 and opened in 2002. Owned by Sinai Temple.

1030 S. Downey Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Opened in 1916. Currently owned by Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles and operated by Rose Hills Memorial Park, which owns Home of Peace.

13017 N. Lopez Canyon Road
San Fernando, CA 91342
818 899-5216

Founded in 1951. Privately owned.

13622 Curtis and King Road
Norwalk, CA 90650
(213) 653-8886

Opened in 1938. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.


7832 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
800 654-6772
323 653-8886

Founded in 1976 as a private organization and not a traditional “chevra kadisha.”

7700 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
800 300-0223
323 656-6260

11500 Sepulveda Blvd,
Mission Hills, CA 91345
800 522-4875

830 W. Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213 748-2201

6001 W. Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
800 576-1994
310 641-0707

Founded in 1946 in association with Hillside Memorial Park.

5950 Forest Lawn Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90068
800 600-0076
323 469-6000

6150 Mount Sinai Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93063
800 600-0076
323 469-6000

Associated with Mount Sinai Memorial Parks.

7366 S. Osage Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(800) 710-7100

8629 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
310 659-3055

13017 N. Lopez Canyon Road
San Fernando, CA 91342
818 899-5211

Founded in 1951. Associated with Sholom Memorial Park

# # #

Compiled by Molly Binenfeld and Jane Ulman

The $45 Million Question

As soon as word spread about last month’s $45 million gift to Jewish day schools in Boston, one question arose for parents and educators around the city: What about Los Angeles?

While no one is brazen enough to put a definitive number or date on such a godsend in Los Angeles, officials at the highest levels of Jewish communal structures have been incubating a plan for about a year to make day school funding and fundraising more robust.

With tuition as high as $22,000 a year for high school — and that’s not even covering increasing operational expenses — everyone from parents to community leaders recognize that something has to be done to sustain the city’s 36 schools and 10,000 students.

In all national population surveys, having a day school education has been a key factor in creating higher sustained levels of affiliation.

The top executives of the The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) and the Jewish Community Foundation have joined forces to buck the perennial Los Angeles challenges of size and sprawl to lay the foundation for a system where money raised on a communal level will go both toward funding scholarships and toward creating incentives for the schools to develop endowments of their own.

“We have had an ongoing discussion about building a very large community endowment,” L.A. Federation President John Fishel said. “Using monies that we have available through our annual campaign and money available from the Jewish Community Foundation, we want to try to challenge large donors to come on board to help us build a significant endowment that would allow us to generate income for the operational support of schools and to keep tuition costs down.”

Fishel said that he has met with several major givers to begin discussions on what may become lead gifts for a communal pot, but no donor has come forward yet to open the floodgates.

“I think there are some things in place that if they would align themselves properly — and we are trying to push those things to align themselves properly — I think the community in the course of the next decade could develop a $25 [million] to $30 million fund,” said Marvin Schotland, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation.

While the details of how such a fund would function are not yet established — and might very well be driven by a particular donor’s vision — the need for schools to increase income is undeniable.

Currently, only a handful of schools have endowments. In non-Orthodox schools, tuition covers about 85 to 90 percent of costs, with the rest raised through annual dinners, campaigns or major benefactors. Orthodox schools, which give more scholarships, operate with roughly 60 to 65 percent of costs covered by tuition.

The BJE, a Federation agency, distributes $2.25 million to schools annually — about $225 per day school child — a number many critics feel is too low.

In Chicago, a city whose community has deeper roots and whose annual campaign is proportionately much more successful than Los Angeles’, the Federation doles out $500 per child in kindergarten through eighth grade and $1,000 per high school student, in addition to funds from an endowment.

In the last 10 years, annual tuition has nearly doubled at most schools, with kindergarten through eighth-grade tuition reaching about $12,000.

Gil Graff, executive director of the BJE, worries that even comfortable professional families cannot sustain that level of sacrifice. He points to a drop in day school enrollment over the last several years, due mostly to nationwide demographic dips in school-age children, but also, Graff fears, due to the rising costs.

Graff looks toward the model of Chicago as one example of what Los Angeles can do to create new realities. Over the last few years, Chicago has developed two day school endowment programs. One is a communal fund where the income is paid out on a per capita basis to the 14 schools. The other is one where schools themselves raise the money, and the Federation kicks in an additional 10 percent, up to $100,000 per gift.

But raising communal dollars is notoriously difficult in Los Angeles, with its geographic and philosophical sprawl.

“Los Angeles does not have donors who are stepping up to endow the communal pot,” Schotland said. “What kind of individual do you need to find that has the vision, the openness and the understanding so that they are willing to put dollars into a communal pot and understand that on every level, across the board, the community is enhanced by students being educated in a Jewish environment?”

Schotland pointed to other challenges. Education in general has not been a big draw for major donors, he said, and even donors interested in Jewish education might not agree that day schools are the best way to educate future generations.

In addition, Los Angeles schools are still in a state of relative immaturity. The oldest day schools in Los Angeles are around 50 years old, and a good number of them were founded only in the last two decades. Enrollment has gone from 5,500 students in 22 schools in 1985 to nearly 10,000 students in 36 schools today, with much of the growth occurring in non-Orthodox institutions. Those newer schools, and some of the old ones, are still building their infrastructure, so many of the major gifts go to specific schools for specific projects.

Graff hopes the Boston gift will change how people view giving to day schools.

“[The Boston gift] establishes that this cause in fact elicits gifts of high magnitude, and a donor is not being some sort of idiosyncratic pioneer, but is joining others who have undertaken such initiatives,” Graff said.

The $45 million was split four ways, with $15 million going into a community fund for the 2,600 students in 16 day schools, and three schools receiving $10 million each.

Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (the L.A. Federation’s equivalent), said the gift materialized over several years after two donors, both of whom have long-standing connections to Schrage, took the lead in crafting both the vision and the donor pool.

“The day school project is enormously important, but it is imbedded in a broader vision for the creation of a new kind of Jewish community,” Shrage said. “I think it works best in an environment where the Federation is not just about raising money. The Federation is about creating a very broad, shared vision for the entire community. The donors feel comfortable as part of that shared vision.”

Does that atmosphere exist in Los Angeles, which is both bigger and younger than the Boston community?

Fishel still sees enormous challenges to achieving that level of rapport.

“I think we are at a very different level of community development,” he said. “We are grappling here with trying to forge a vision that has broad-based consensus so we can move from our historical patterns of support to something that would address contemporary realities. If I can be brutally honest, I would like to think that we would have moved further along that continuum.”

Still, Fishel vows to keep up the fight for day schools.

“It’s taken a long time for Boston to get to this point, and the challenge in Los Angeles is longer term. But that doesn’t mean you don’t undertake it and don’t try to achieve it.”

Day School Help on the Way

Beginning Dec. 1, Miriam Prum-Hess, the L.A. Federation’s vice president of planning and allocations, will move within the organization to become a consultant for operational issues for day schools through the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Her job will include helping schools identify and implement best practices, streamline their operations and improve marketing and development. She will also look for cost-saving opportunities, such as using the day schools’ collective purchasing powers for everything from supplies to insurance.

Day school principals have already set up meetings with long agendas with her, she said.

“It’s an incredible statement on the part of our Federation to take someone who is senior staff and lend me out for two years to see if there are ways to strengthen these important institutions in our community,” said Prum-Hess, herself a parent of two day school students and a self-described “passionate advocate” for schools.

To contact Miriam Prum-Hess, call (323) 761-8000.