Archive for Shiva

Video: Shiva, the 7 Day Jewish Mourning Period

Death is part of our journey. The more we can accept that, the more free we will be to live our lives to the fullest. Here is some helpful information about Shiva, the 7 Day Jewish mourning period. May we all live to be 104, but if not, there are things we need to know…

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How to Write a Sympathy Message

Writing a sympathy message is one of life’s most difficult tasks. Jane Moritz, Challah Connection owner shares with you give messages that customers have used over the last decade.

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Please Don’t Send Flowers for a Jewish Death or Shiva

I was saddened to hear of the passing of a friend’s mother. My friend is Jewish and since my company Challah Connection is a leader in Jewish gift giving, I am highly attuned to the specifics included in obituaries and emails regarding death and shiva. So, I was reminded again, that so many Jewish people are not aware of shiva traditions. Let me please remind you–Jewish and non-Jewish friends of perhaps the most important Jewish shiva tradition.

The leading tradition is that it is not appropriate to send or give flowers for a Jewish death.

I made the mistake myself when I was trying to “do the right thing” in my mid-twenties. Who knows about such things at that age? I still feel embarrassed that I sent flowers to a religious relative who lost his mother.

Why don’t we give flowers for shiva or a Jewish death? In Judaism, we grieve for 7 days with the company of family and friends (shiva means 7 in Hebrew). There are specific traditions regarding appropriate dress, behavior and more during shiva, which you can read here. However, during shiva, we are meant to truly grieve and not to be distracted by pleasure or beauty that is found in objects such as flowers. But don’t despair, if you want to send a gift, a shiva gift is completely appropriate and appreciated. Shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Basket, Challah Connectionkosher gift baskets filled with baked goods such as babka, rugelach, cookies and other treats such as nuts, fruit and candy. The purpose of a shiva gift is to provide food and nourishment for the grievers as well as to provide food for the guests so that the family doesn’t need to worry about providing food.

There is a lot more I can teach you about shiva and am happy to help if you have any questions. Please email me at jane@challahconnection.com. You can also find other helpful information here, on our SHIVA FAQ page. My hope for today is that you won’t send any more flowers for shiva but rather, a shiva basket. Of course, the very best place to order your shiva gift is Challah Connection. Without bias, we have the largest array of shiva gifts available and have a deep knowledge of this important Jewish tradition.

Written by Jane Moritz (jane@challahconnection.com), Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection

Challah Connection is the premiere online kosher gift company specializing in Jewish traditional gifts for Jewish Holiday, Shiva, Jewish Birthday and all Jewish gift giving occasions . “Creating Kvells Since 2002”

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What is Shiva? The Jewish Mourning Period

For those who have not experienced the passing of a loved one and therefore learned this difficult lesson, death is a natural occurrence. We can only hope that death comes easily and at a very ripe old age. Here at Challah Connection, we have become experts at helping friends and family console their friends and family. Through our work, we have heard many stories of tragic deaths as well as those of individuals who led vibrant and meaningful lives right up to the end of a very long life. We should all hope that that is the way we will go. However, while we are still here, let’s all understand the Jewish way of mourning and Shiva.

Sympathy Comfort Basket, Challah Connection

Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket

Sitting Shiva is the tradition of mourning in the Jewish religion. Gathering together as a community is at the core of sitting Shiva, just as it is at the core of many Jewish traditions. The strength and support of friends, family and neighbors plays a key role in helping the bereaved through the process of grieving. “During a time of loss, there are heightened emotions.  An awareness of traditions and customs can be very helpful,” says Michael Shimmel , Shiva.com CEO, an online resource dedicated to helping mourners, friends, family and co-workers seeking information about Shiva.

Shiva, which means “seven” in Hebrew, is the mourning period observed by the family of the deceased. During Shiva, which is a seven day period that begins immediately after the funeral, the family stays home to focus on their grief, remember their loved one and receive visitors. Many families sit Shiva for a shorter period; perhaps 1, 2 or 3 days, depending on family traditions. The Shiva period is often announced at the funeral or in the obituary.

You Can’t Attend the Shiva—What to Send?

Sympathy Dried Fruit and Nut Tray--Challah Connection

Sympathy Dried Fruit and Nut Tray–Challah Connection

Jewish custom discourages sending flowers since Shiva is a time to allow complete mourning, not for being uplifted. Attempts to distract oneself from the task at hand—mourning—is shunned. During Shiva, friends and family visit the mourners to support them and show their care. Food is served to the visitors and this is where the need for Shiva baskets comes in. Food is brought or sent to alleviate the need for the mourners to do any work regarding food preparation. It is best to send a Shiva basket or Shiva foods that are easy to serve and require little heating or other prepping. At Challah Connection, we make sure that all of our Shiva gifts include foods that are both soothing and easy to serve. We have also found that sending a kosher Shiva basket is optimal so that everyone who attends can enjoy the food. Additionally, we have found that even non-religious people tend toward religious practices during this time.  Our most popular Shiva baskets are those that feature baked goods that are both comforting and nostalgic including Sympathy Comfort Basket and Sympathy Essentials. Danna Black, owner of Shiva Sisters in Los Angeles says “Deli still remains the most popular food for Memorial or Shiva meals however we see more requests for leaner meats, less roast beef and more turkey. Healthy salads have been added as well as vegetarian options. It does appear that the comfort of Deli, which is the most familiar, is still preferred.”

Gift Message-What to Say

Writing a gift message for a Shiva gift is perhaps one of life’s most difficult tasks. The truth is that there are no words that can appropriately console a mourner but we can try. We find that people often struggle with the words but the best advice is to keep it simple. Mourners are not going analyze each word and including a simple note that expresses your own heartfelt words is going to resonate most powerfully. Here are some messages we recommend, please feel free to use any.

“We are so sorry for your loss and send our deepest condolences.”

“With our heartfelt sympathy”

“May XNAME’s memory be a blessing to all who knew him/her.”

Or the most traditional, “May G-d comfort you among all mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Please be sure to sign your note and consider a closing that includes “love.” This is the time for generosity of spirit. Please don’t be shy with your loving kindness at a time like this.
Shiva-An Act of Kindness
Shiva calls should be thought of as an act of kindness, not as a burden. Sharon Rosen, owner of Shiva Connect, a free Jewish registry service where Shiva details and more can be posted, states that “Judaism teaches us that when a member of our community feels the heart-wrenching pain of grief and loss, we should be there to comfort, console and sustain them.” The visit can be an hour or less to avoid tiring the family. Different families will observe Shiva in different manners. It is traditional for mourners to have a tear in their clothing to symbolize their loss. They may sit on low stools or even on the floor to show the depth of their sadness.

Usually a 24-hour candle burns in memory of the deceased. In some homes, mourners will recite Kaddish up to three times a day with a minyan, which is a group of 10 Jewish adults. At times it is difficult to gather a minyan, so visitors who can participate are especially appreciated.

Written by Jane Moritz, owner, Challah Connection, the premiere online kosher gift company specializing in Jewish traditional gifts. “Creating Kvells Since 2002”

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Shiva Gift Giving Frequently Asked Questions from Challah Connection


Sending a sympathy or shiva gift is certainly one of life’s most difficult tasks. What makes it difficult is our own unease with death combined with a feeling of helplessness—“how can I truly help?” This is particularly so when the death is a tragedy. But as we all know death and even tragedy is part of life.

Here at Challah Connection, we have been helping gift givers send shiva and sympathy gifts for over 10 years. This experience combined with our own mourning for loved ones we have personally lost, makes us particularly well versed in this sorrowful area.

Following are some of the most commonly asked questions by both Jews and non Jews alike, who are attempting to console those in mourning with a special gift.

What Is Shiva?
Shiva is the 7 day Jewish mourning period. During shiva, friends and family visit those who are mourning as an act of support and friendship. Visitors, along with the mourners sit, nosh (eat) and through conversation, celebrate the life that has ended.

When Is Shiva?
A shiva schedule is typically announced at the funeral or obituary. Although shiva is 7 days, many mourners shorten the period. Shiva is never on Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The first Shiva typically begins after the funeral, which is often followed by the burial. Funerals often start between 11am – 2pm and are around an hour. The burial is on average, another 2-3 hours depending on the distance of the cemetery from the funeral (often in Synagogue or Funeral Home). First shiva can begin anywhere from 4:30pm to 7pm and doesn’t usually last past 9 or so.

I am going to the shiva, to make a shiva call, what should I expect?
Shiva is a sad occasion but you should not feel nervous or uncomfortable. Just being there is enough; you need not worry about saying the “right” thing. If not sure what to say or how to act, it’s best to say little. However, you can never go wrong by being supportive and helpful: “Anyone need a drink?” “Can I help clean up?” “How are you feeling?”

What should I bring to shiva?
Bring food that can easily be served and shared. Avoid food that requires work on the part of the mourners. Kosher cookies, cakes, candies, nuts are all welcome at shiva as long as they are crowd pleasers and easy to serve.

I am far away and can’t go to shiva, what should I do?
Send a card or food-a shiva gift basket. Never send flowers! Shiva gifts should be foods that are well liked by many (don’t forget young kids, if they are part of the mourning family) and easy to serve. Our 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket.

When should the gift arrive?
Ideally, the earliest your gift should arrive is the first day of shiva, which is usually the day of the funeral and burial. Shiva gifts are welcome anytime during the shiva period and even beyond (see next question).

What if I have missed the official shiva period, should I still send a gift?
Although the official shiva period is over, the family will still be receiving visitors and food will be needed to feed them. Sending a gift at this time is completely acceptable and shows your care.

What is your best selling shiva gift basket?
In order of popularity, our top 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket. Also very popular is our Sympathy Dried Fruit and Nut Tray, Thoughtful Condolence Basket, Baklava Assortment and more which you can see here.

How Do I Choose A Gift?
All of our shiva gifts are time tested and we know that shiva families truly appreciate them. Your choice should be based on your allowable budget (don’t forget shipping), any personal preferences you may have and/or any dietary restrictions of the shiva family that you are aware of. We are always happy to help you make your selection.

Does My Shiva Gift Need to be Kosher?
Sending a kosher gift is a recommended. Even if the mourners are not kosher observant, it is quite possible that some of the attendees are. Shiva is not a time for inconvenience or difficult moments. At Challah Connection, all of our shiva gifts are certified kosher. Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K.

Do You Carry Glatt Kosher Shiva Gifts?
Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K, which are suitable for those who require the highest level (Glatt) kashrut. If you require such a basket, please let us know and we will be sure that only foods of the highest certification are included.

What Should the Gift Message Say?
For most of us, this is perhaps the hardest part of sending a sympathy or shiva gift. Often, we try to convey too much into the message. Keeping your message simple is key. Following are some of our most frequently used gift messages. Feel free to use as is or with your own personal touch. Don’t forget to sign your name!

-With heartfelt sympathy
-Our thoughts are prayers are with you during this difficult time
-We are so sorry for your loss and send our warmest condolences to you and your family
-May [name of deceased] be a blessing to all who knew him/her
-May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem

Where should the shiva gift be sent?
Shiva very rarely takes place at a funeral home (actually we have never heard of this happening). Shiva usually takes place at the home of a family member. This is where the shiva gift should be sent.

How should I address the gift—to my friend? To the entire family?
While you may have a specific friend or colleague in mourning, it is a nice gesture to address the gift to the entire family. For example, instead of Ms. Suzie Miller, The Miller Family.

If you are sending a gift to someone who is staying with friends or family, you can address it as follows: The Miller Family, c/o The XYZ Family.

Any questions? Need help placing your order? Please call us at 866-242-5524 or email: service@challahconnection.com.

©2013, Challah Connection, Westport, CT. All rights reserved.

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Ask Jane: Sitting Shiva

Q. Dear Jane: The mother of a very dear Jewish friend has passed away. What is the best way that I can offer comfort to my friend during this time? Is there a specific way I should honor the memory of her mother? I am not Jewish and am not familiar with the traditions.

A. Visiting your friend and bringing food is an ideal way to pay your condolences and show her your support. When a Jewish family experiences the loss of a loved one, the tradition is for the family to sit Shiva [pronounced SHI-vah. ]

Sitting Shiva is the tradition of mourning in the Jewish religion. During the shiva period, typically a 7-day period (the Hebrew word shiva means 7) friends, family and neighbors pay a home visit (“shiva call”) to the mourners. The company of others during Shiva plays a key role in helping the bereaved in this time of mourning.

Jewish custom discourages sending flowers when people are sitting Shiva. However, food is almost always welcome. Some people make donations to a favorite charity in the name of the deceased. For those who are unable to make a personal visit, sending a kosher gift basket such as a Shiva Gift Basket or Jewish Sympathy Basket, with a thoughtful card is an appropriate and thoughtful gesture. Kosher baskets are recommended so that no one is excluded from sharing in the basket contents.

Your gift should have a gift card signed by you (many people often forget to sign their gifts cards). And when you are thinking of what to write, a simple message is best. Consider a message such as “With our heartfelt sympathy,” or “We are so sorry for your loss. May (insert name of deceased)’s memory be a blessing to all who knew him/her.” Another popular option is the more traditional message: “May G-D Comfort You Among All The Mourners Of Zion And Jerusalem.” Click for more help with writing gift cards.

If there is a chance to be helpful, make an offer, or just complete the task, when appropriate. Run errands, pick-up at the airport, host someone coming in from out of town, cook or clean-up, or take care of children. Whatever can be done to remove daily chores from those sitting Shiva becomes an immense help.

If you have a question for Jane about Jewish Traditions, holiday menus, Jewish recipes, gift giving or more, please fill in the comment box below and we will answer it in an upcoming post of Ask Jane.

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