Yizkor, the Memorial Service

Yizkor is the memorial service recited four times a year by the congregation during Jewish holiday services.

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What about donations?

In keeping with the origins of Yizkor, it is very appropriate to make a tzedakah contribution to honor those you are remembering. Many congregations appeal for funds at Yizkor services for the synagogue or for Israel. If you don't belong to a synagogue, consider making a donation to a worthy cause.

Do I light a memorial candle when Yizkor is recited?

Yes. The 24-hour memorial candle should be lit in your home before the fast begins on Yom Kippur. On the other festivals, if your custom is to light a yahrzeit candle, use a flame from a pre-existing candle or other source to light the candle. These memorial candles are widely available in synagogue gift shops, kosher stores, and often in supermarkets. There is no blessing recited when you light the memorial candle, although it is certainly appropriate to reflect upon the memory of loved ones. The candle may be placed anywhere in the home.

Do I observe Yizkor during the first year of mourning?

Contrary to popular belief, yes. Clearly, Yizkor is observed for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year.

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Dr. Ron Wolfson

Dr. Ron Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and the president of Synagogue 3000.