"Samuel Heilman has walked the mourner's path both as an anthropologist observing the socio-cultural death practices of the Jewish community, and as a bereaved son grieving the loss of a beloved father.
In the wake of his successful navigation through these two worldsacademic and personalhe presents an acute understanding of the detailed intricacies of the cycle of Jewish rituals from deathbed to burial, from mourning to memorialization. Heilman emerges from his journey through grief with a wise and seasoned appreciation of the symbols and practices which are at the foundation of Jewish life and culture. When a Jew Dies provides an insightful roadmap to the subtle and profound vicissitudes of grief in the Jewish tradition. For mourner and scholar alike, this is a book to be savored, a friend to walk with, a companion with which to explore the reality of the walk through the valley of the shadow of death."Simcha Raphael, author of Jewish Views of the Afterlife
"Heilman has an unusually keen sense of perception and ability to put everything into an almost universal, social scientific perspective while, at the same time, retaining his personal ties, thought and feelings. As in his previous work, he here examines something that almost every traditional Jew is familiar with, and gives it new perspectives and new meaning. When a Jew Dies includes significant discussion of prevalent customs and the Jewish bases for them. The author's particularistic-universalistic synthesis as well as his deeply-rooted, personal-scholarly synthesis set this book apart from all others."Chaim I. Waxman, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and author of America's Jews in Transition
"Heilman offers a unique synthesis of historical scholarship and ethnographic description in this rich account of the complex processes by which Judaism brings the dying to the end of life and the mourning to the end of grief and a return to life. This is, as far as I know, the only study combining the legal-historical, social-historical, and ethnographic perspectives in a single volume. It offers a remarkable glimpse of how one sector of contemporary Jewry confronts the reality of death and transfigures it."Martin S. Jaffee, author of Torah in the Mouth
An important book [and] fascinating academic study that will be appreciated by anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one.