Question: Must Conservative Jews wear a shroud and be buried in the ground?
A friend has been ill and would like to make arrangements for her burial. She is a Conservative Jew, but does not want to wear a shroud and would prefer to be buried in a mausoleum instead of in the ground. What are the rules about these things? Where can I go to get more information?
Answer: If she is a Conservative Jew, she should consult with a Conservative Rabbi. It would appear by your question that she may hesitate to do so lest she be told - and by tradition she would then be bound by - the laws and customs concerning shroud and burial.
Conservative tradition is the Jewish tradition in these regards, and I've always counseled survivors to have the body cared for according to tradition - prepared by the Hevrah Kadishah (Holy Society) if the community can provide this service, the use of a simple shroud, a service with closed casket and no viewing, burial in an unostentatious, basic wooden coffin and in the ground. Some mausoleums have been constructed such that they technically provide for the coffin to be within and still touch the earth.
My own experience has been over the years that those who prepare for death are often anxious about how they will be seen, how their funeral will be perceived and apprehension about burial in the earth itself. You may wish to urge her to speak with her Rabbi to deal with her feelings - or her Rabbi may suggest a more skilled and experienced counselor. She should be encouraged to be comfortable with her feelings even as she should be comfortable physically, free from pain of body and spirit.
Best wishes and she should be grateful for such a thoughtful friend.