When You Die...

We are often asked by people what happens when they die. here is some information.


Firstly, Exeter does not have a Burial Society. This is a reflection of the fact that many people will not spend their entire lives in the area. This means that you can plan in advance what you want, without the restrictions imposed by membership of something like the United Synagogue Burial Society. You should also remember that there are no free funerals. This community has officiated without charge at the funerals of the homeless, and of the elderly severely learning disabled. Fortunately, this is exceptional. This community, in accordance with Jewish tradition, makes no financial gain from peoples' deaths. At the same time, it cares for their graves in perpetuity - in our case, we care for the graves of those who died as long ago as 1751, and at great expense.

Here are some options:

If you belong already to a Synagogue Burial Society, you can carry on paying, and when you die all will be dealt with by the burial society. The United Synagogue Burial Society will always provide its services for its members, wherever they die. If you are not a member, they usually charge the equivalent of ten years' membership fees. Similar arrangements are made by the Reform and Liberal communities. They will usually make additional charges for taking your body back to London, though.

If you wish us to be involved:

You can choose to be cremated or buried.

If you are cremated, a member of the synagogue is willing to officiate at the crematorium, for which the usual charge for a minister is made. This fee goes to the synagogue, less any out-of-pocket expenses for the officiant. The order of service usually follows the Liberal tradition, unless you request otherwise. The crematoria at Exeter, Torquay, Barnstaple, Plymouth, Taunton and Truro have all been the venues for Jewish services. Some are able to replace their cross with a Magen David. All are willing to remove the cross for a Jewish service.

In case of burial there are also options:

  • You can be buried at the Jewish Burial ground at Exwick, which is owned and managed by Exeter City Council. This is on a beautiful site overlooking the historic city.
  • You can be buried at the Jewish Burial Ground in Paignton, which is managed by the Torquay Hebrew Congregation. This overlooks the Bay, and is beautifully maintained.
  • Exeter can provide the services of a Chevra Kadisha, to wash the body and dress it with the traditional shrouds.
  • We usually follow the order of service in the Singer Siddur unless requested otherwise.
  • We will always do our best to ask people to come to make a minyan for kaddish if this is requested by the family.
  • On occasion, we have officiated at burials at other cemeteries in the South West.

What does it cost?

  • The undertaker's fee for the arrangement of the funeral, provision of the plain, simple coffin, arrangements at the crematorium or burial ground (including the digging of the grave). This will be about £1500. We usually use Mitchell's of Exeter, but other undertakers are also able to provide a similar service, and are very cooperative. They allow the congregation to use their premises for tahara.
  • The fee at the crematorium, which is about £1000, or the fee for the burial site. The cost of a burial plot is about £1000 - less if you live in the Exeter City boundary.
  • If tahara is performed, travel expenses are needed for those who give up their time to perform this, and the cost of the shrouds. This will usually be about £100 in total.
  • The fee for the officiant, which is standardised at £75. If you wish a rabbi to attend, this will be from London, Bristol, or Bournemouth, for example, and be by arrangement with them. We can help make contact.

Other Information

  • Please note that the Synagogue does not in fact make a charge for its services as such.
  • The Old Jewish Burial Ground at Bull Meadow is now closed for burials, though it is still maintained by the congregation, who own it.
  • We provide soil from Israel to place in the coffin before burial.
  • The synagogue is usually able to print and provide Orders of Service for a funeral. These are in English and Hebrew. They are provided free of charge, and can be kept by those attending the funeral.
  • Very often, the majority of those attending a funeral will not be Jewish. This is allowed for, and they are included in the service. This is especially so where the partner and other members of the deceased's family are not Jewish. For the same reason, at a cremation we will allow if requested some appropriate music, and some flowers will be permitted. Flowers are not usual at a Jewish funeral in England, but are usual in some Jewish communities abroad, including Israel. Special arrangements are possible at Exwick and Paignton for the burial of non-Jewish spouses.
  • It is a very good idea to write a clause in your will making clear what you wish to happen when you die. Some sample wording can be provided. It is also a good idea to make financial provision for the arrangements, in your will, or in some form of savings. Organisations such as Age Concern offer savings plans.
  • May you live to 120!

Please contact us via the details below if you would like more information.