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Yahrzeit and Yizkor


Return to Guide to Death and Mourning for Interfaith Families


In many cultures, there are ways of remembering dead people who were important to us. In the United States, for example, families go to visit relatives who died in the military on Memorial Day. In Ashkenazi Jewish culture, there is a custom of lighting a candle on the anniversary, or in Yiddish, the yahrzeit, of the person's death. Some families also light a memorial candle when they do holiday candle-lighting before holidays when there is a memorial service, called Yizkor. Some people continue to light yahrzeit candles for the rest of their lives.

Visits to the graves of family members are an important part of Jewish folk culture. Some have the custom of visiting at the Jewish New Year. Jews of Eastern European origin usually leave a small stone on the headstone of the grave rather than flowers. Even after the year of mourning has ended, mourners continue to feel the loss of the person who has died, and Jewish cultural practices acknowledge this.

The Guide to Death and Mourning for Interfaith Families is also available as a downloadable PDF and Word document.

Having Jewish family origins in Germany or Eastern Europe. Hebrew for "time of [one] year," referring to the anniversary of the day of a relative's death. A language, literally meaning "Jewish," once widely used by Ashkenazi communities. It is influenced by German, Hebrew and Slavic languages, and is written with the Hebrew alphabet. It is comparable to the language of many Sephardi communities, Ladino. Hebrew for "remembrance," a memorial prayer service.

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