Veterans Beware

For months now there has been a national t.v. campaign by the world’s largest funeral conglomerate targeting our veterans. Their message is that two thirds of veterans don’t know what their V.A. burial benefits are. I don’t know if that figure is accurate, but what I do know is that it is their attempt to have veterans contact them to learn more. This company attempts to set an appointment to “explain” the benefits and then tries to sell them a pre-need funeral policy. It seems to me that they, like so many of our politicians, are playing on the fears of our brave veterans. The truth is that understanding the benefits that are available to honorably discharged veterans are neither complicated nor difficult to determine. I have on my website downloaded for you to see, the current benefits and qualifications for burial benefits. Please feel free to check these benefits out for yourself. Basically, an honorably discharged veteran is entitled to a flag for the casket, burial in a National cemetery, an honor guard at the service, and a grave marker or headstone. Additional cash benefits are available, but only when certain conditions apply. If, after reviewing your benefits on my website you have specific questions, please feel free to call me at: 847.577.0856 and I will try to answer them, without cost or obligation. For further information, you can go to my website: or: Don’t allow a national advertising campaign make you think your benefits are too complicated for you to understand on your own.

The Power of the Kaddish

I would like to share with you a piece I wrote in 1998, shortly after my brother's death. Mike was 51 years old and suffered terribly for a number of years. I hope you find some comfort in the following.

Many of us who have recited the Kaddish for a loved one knows the comfort and support it offers. In our liturgy we are told that for generations, the Kaddish has been a source of support to the mourner. When it is recited at a funeral or at Shabbat services, most mourners become emotional at its recitation, especially when it’s for the first time. But, for many, and myself included, the Kaddish is nothing more than a prayer said in a foreign language which offers no solace, no support, and in fact, causes more sadness, a sense of aloneness, and leaves us feeling empty.

As a funeral director for more than 25 years, I have been involved with more than 20,000 Jewish funerals and have recited the Kaddish innumerable times for relatives as well as for others, and am now in the sixth month of saying Kaddish for my brother, Michael, Z”L. Recently, my rabbi began offering mourners the opportunity to rise during services at the time of Kaddish recitation when their loved one’s name is read so that those present can offer their condolences to them and to families who are either in their early stages of mourning or who are observing a Yahrzeit. For me, this has been one of the nicest things about attending weekly Shabbat services. More than giving fellow congregants an opportunity to engage me in conversation about my recent loss, it gives me an opportunity to reach out, from my grief, to those who are also newly bereaved, and it is that action which brings me comfort, rather than comfort from reciting Kaddish simply because I’m supposed to.

The familiar expression, sorrow shared is sorrow diminished, is true. At a recent Shabbat service, almost fifty percent of the congregation was standing before everyone else rose to say Kaddish. To me that was an incredible number of people who came to services and were probably in need of a kind word or an expression of sympathy. (And who knows how many others attended services who weren’t saying Kaddish but were struggling with something that could have been made easier because they shared it with a caring individual?)  I know that when I have the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of comforting the mourner, whether in the course of my profession or personally at Temple, I feel good. I feel like I make a difference to someone; that because I showed up, I was able to make someone, if only for a moment, feel they are understood, accepted, and given a chance to talk about their pain.

I am not about to abandon our ancient tradition of reciting Kaddish and I hope that those who are faced with a similar need don’t abandon it either. With the passage of the weeks and months since my brother’s funeral, it has gotten easier for me to deal with his death. Maybe it’s because I joined the House of Israel and recited Kaddish for him. Maybe it’s because so many wonderful congregants have shared with me their love and friendship. Maybe it’s because it’s normal for the intense pain to ease with time. Maybe it’s because my family have been so supportive of me in my bereavement that has allowed me to put into perspective my brother’s short life and death. More than likely it’s a combination of all the above and more, which I may not even be aware of. What I do know is that the comfort I feel is not solely from reciting a centuries old Aramaic prayer, but because I recite it in the presence of the congregation. In doing so, I am made aware of those people around me who need a kind word and a gesture of understanding. I realize I am not alone and I am not the only one who is struggling, and who needs a little TLC. It forces me to come out of my darkness and reach out to someone, a stranger maybe, and lend them a much needed shoulder on which to cry. I think that is the wisdom the ancient Rabbis had when they say that the Kaddish is to be said in the presence of the congregation.

I look forward to being at services and to be present for those whose burden is sorrow and who need the fellowship of the Jewish community to help them through a difficult time. You have been there for me in my time of need, (as well as in my times of joy) and I pray that I am blessed with the opportunity of giving to others that which was given to me: Acceptance, Understanding, Love, and sense of belonging.


Welcome to the Chesed v'Emet website. Chesed v'Emet is Hebrew for "kindness and truth," which is what I believe each family deserves when they are tasked with arranging a funeral for a loved one. It's my hope that you will find this site helpful to you and your loved ones, even if I wasn't privileged to have served you. Please take some time to look at the features we've provided to help make you a more educated funeral consumer. I welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions, and I am always ready to listen. As time goes by, I will be posting things which I think will be interesting and helpful to you. Perfection isn't always possible to achieve, but my goal is come as close to perfection as possible when I am called upon to serve a family. Whether it's arranging a funeral or providing psychotherapy services, it's your needs, not mine, that are of primary concern.