Choosing the Right Gift to Send to a Jewish Person Whose Family Member Has Died

When the loved one of a friend, co-worker or associate has died, there’s a common desire to send the grieving family members some type of gift, to let them know you are thinking of them and that you share in their loss. When the mourners are of the Jewish faith, though, there are some differences in the types of gifts that may be appropriate. Let’s look at some the things you want to avoid sending, as well as some of the more appropriate items.

Don’t Send Flowers

Flowers are generally not a part of the Jewish funeral, burial or grieving process. Jewish families don’t put flowers on or around the casket or at the gravesite, and don’t welcome a gift of flowers to their home in remembrance of a deceased loved one. In fact, some Jewish mourners believe that the preparation or receipt of any type of floral arrangement can interfere with the mourning process. There’s also a perception of the temporal nature of flowers. That’s why members of the Jewish community typically choose to place stones at a gravesite, rather than flowers. The stones have a sense of permanency and can serve as a continual reminder of the life of the deceased, whereas the flowers will wither and die.

Send a Care Package Instead

Within the Jewish faith, it is much more customary to send some type of care package, often while mourners are sitting Shiva.  Shiva, the Hebrew word for “seven,” begins immediately after the burial. During Shiva, certain family members will remain in the Shiva house, following strict guidelines governing their conduct.

Among the restrictions in place during Shiva are prohibitions on participation in most daily activities, including the preparation of meals. As a consequence, the tradition of sending shiva baskets has evolved, where visitors bring food baskets when making a Shiva visit, or others send food baskets to the mourners. The first meal at the Shiva house after the burial is known as the seudat havara’ah and is strictly limited to immediate family members. However, for the balance of the Shiva, the decedent’s community is expected to provide proper food and nourishment to the mourners.

While a Shiva basket may contain virtually any food item, it’s common for them to include pastries, baked goods, fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate and other candies, coffee and tea. You can also send a Shiva platter, with selections of fish and meat, salads, and side dishes. Some people will even arrange to cater in a meal to persons sitting Shiva, but you should always arrange that in advance.

Other Gifts that Can Express Your Condolences

In lieu of sending a Shiva basket or platter, you can show grieving Jewish mourners your care and compassion by:

  • Running daily errands for them while they are sitting Shiva
  • Simply making a call to the Shiva house
  • Sending a sympathy card with a handwritten message of love and condolence
  • Making a gift to a charity
  • Planting a tree in Israel in the name of the deceased
  • Performing acts of kindness, such as taking care of pets for someone sitting Shiva, setting up or overseeing the Shiva home, or housekeeping for people sitting Shiva

Gutterman’s—Serving the Jewish Community for Four Generations

At Gutterman’s, with funeral chapels in New York and Florida, we have handled the needs of grieving individuals and families in the Jewish community for more than 125 years, offering comprehensive funeral and burial services. We work with people throughout the different Jewish traditions and can help you honor your customs and pay your respects to a loved. We offer guidance with all matters related to the death of a loved one, from the arrangement of a funeral or burial to preparation for sitting Shiva, choosing a monument or memorial, preparing an obituary or creating a Yahrzeit calendar.

For knowledgeable and concerned guidance when you have lost a loved one, or to ask any questions regarding the Jewish funeral and burial services we offer, contact us online or call us at one of the numbers listed below to schedule a meeting. We will take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.