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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 available as a PDF and our booklet Mourning the Loss of a Loved One is available for download.


18Doors is here to support interfaith couples and families exploring Jewish life. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship provides offerings for couples in cities nationwide. If you have questions, please contact


Author: 18Doors