Learn about the significance of death and mourning
Think about what it means to remember someone who has died
By the end of the lesson, the children will have discussed the significance of death and think about how to loved ones can be remembered
Siddur Lev Chadash p522-524
Death and Mourning Fact Sheet
Shivah Service Booklet
- Light the Yahrzeit Candle – You may wish to have the yahrzeit candle burning during the lesson.
- Teaching Death – When discussing death with young children it is essential to be sensitive to each child’s family situation and be aware if any child has recently experienced the loss of a family member. Children have a natural curiosity about death and do not often have an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings and ask questions. Although the lesson will look at how we deal with death, there should be an emphasis on remembering the person who has died and celebrating their lives.
- Brainstorm: Death – Ask children to think of the words associated with death and mourning. Ask children to carefully think about what death means and may mean to them and families that are mourning. Ask the children if any of them would like to share any experiences of losing a family member or a pet. They might like to share with the class how they felt after the death. They may be able to talk about any Jewish rituals they are aware of or have seen during the period of mourning.
- Death and Mourning – It may be useful to read through the Death and Mourning Information Sheet with the children. This may provide a useful insight into how every funeral is different and that all traditions and customs are catered for within Liberal Judaism. The burial or cremation should be at the deceased’s /family’s request and there are few specific rules that must be adhered to.
- Remembering the Dead – Read the prayers that precede the Kaddish on pages 522-523 in Siddur Lev Chadash. These are read at every service. What are the main messages in them? Focus on the idea that people who have died live on in our memories and Judaism has rituals to help us remember. On Shabbat the names of people who have died that week or whose anniversaries (yahrzeit) are being commemorated are spoken aloud, either by the rabbi or the mourner. The closest relatives light a yahrzeit candle which burns for 24 hours. Near Rosh Hashanah many people visit the graves where relatives are buried. On Yom Kippur we have a memorial service to remember them too. Ask if they have relatives who are remembered and how this happens. On Yom HaShoah we light six candles to commemorate each one of the six million who died in the Holocaust.
- Option 1: Design a Memorial for a Loved One – Reiterate that it is a positive thing to have nice memories of a person or perhaps a pet that has passed away and their good attributes and qualities will always be remembered. Children to create a memorial for a loved one (human or animal) in any form they wish. This could include a poem, a poster, a simple list, a picture etc.
- Option 2: Read through Shivah Service – Ask the children to work in pairs or in a small group looking at the Liberal Jewish prayer booklets that are used for services at a mourner’s home (Shivah). What prayers do they recognise? Which prayers are particularly for remembering the loved one who has passed away? Why might it be important for the family to have prayers at their home?
- Option 3: How would you like to be remembered – Ask children to think of their qualities and attributes that they think other people admire about them. In a similar way to activity 1, ask children to create a poster, picture, list or poem that would help other people to remember them and remind others of them. (Note: This should not be considered a morbid activity; we are not asking children to imagine they were dead).
- Read the Kaddish – Using page 524 of Siddur Lev Chadash, children can read or listen to the Kaddish in Hebrew and then read the English translation. Discuss why it does not talk about death, but about how special God is.
- Talk with the Rabbi – If possible invite the Rabbi or someone from the community who leads mourner prayers to answer any questions the children have about death and mourning and to talk about some of the customs and rituals pertaining to death.