Thursday, November 30, 2017

Food Serving and Storage During Shiva

Part of the shiva experience is the community mobilizing to send in meals for the mourners and their families.  Friends and non-immediate relatives take care of serving the meals and managing the kitchen, while the mourners receive comfort from callers.  The amount of food gifts can be overwhelming, and if not treated strategically, can spoil and crowd the refrigerator.  

~Some tips:

  • All scheduling and planning of meals should go through one point person.  There are online tools such as that can assist with this process.  For all gifts, be sure to record both
    • the type of food expected/received (to plan some variety) and
    • the names of those who sent it (for acknowledgement purposes)
  • Don’t leave the freezing and food storage for the end of the week - things will spoil - once the next meal arrives at the home, left overs from previous meal should be frozen right away in portions appropriate to the family size
  • Make sure to remind the mourners to drink throughout the day - shiva is exhausting and the mourners are not focused on their bodily needs. Have available cold bottles of water, glasses with ice, coffee, gatorade, etc. and distribute regularly.
  • Plan designated meal times spaced reasonably around services so that mourners have time to chew and swallow some food without being inundated by visitors.  Note that eating may be onerous for the mourner during this time… try not to rush the meal if possible.   You may want to post specific times for visitors and specific times for family privacy.  If these are listed outside a locked front door, visitors will know when to return.

For those involved with organizing the shiva house, you can find a shopping list here for some items you will want to have on hand.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

*Sharing the News - Some Perspectives on When & How

As someone who values my privacy and prefers not to be the center of attention, I was initially reluctant to share the news of my father’s death beyond a small circle of close friends.  I struggled with whom to tell, when, how, and in what way.  Shocked by the suddenness of it all, at first I shared with only a few close friends.  As the day went on, and reality started to slowly seep in, I decided to share the news with my synagogue community and eventually a post on Facebook.  

In retrospect, these were the best decisions.  My choice to publicly share my sad news allowed friends from elementary school, teachers from high school and even recent beaux to come to shiva to pay their respects.  The outpouring of love from both close and distant acquaintances helped to add a cushion to the most difficult period of my life.  I am grateful to all who reached out to offer comfort, and all the more grateful that I gave them that chance by spreading the word.  

How Friends and Clergy Can Help
~ Ask before sharing news to make sure mourner is prepared to respond to outpouring of sympathy.
~ Suggest communities where the information can be posted (synagogue groups, schools, clubs and social organizations)

~ Offer to take on the role of notifying others on behalf of the bereaved
~ Take a moment to read through and edit any information sent to you by the mourner... they may not have the headspace to check spelling and punctuation, but a quick review on your part will be a great help.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Shopping List for a Shiva House

When my grandfather passed away, my relatives looked at each other and said “make sure we have lots of toilet paper.”  I didn’t understand what they meant until I saw the sheer numbers of people who visited for condolence calls, not to mention relatives and friends who arrived to help out and sleep over…

Here’s a short list of supplies you will likely need right away:
  • Tissues
  • Toilet Paper
  • Press and Seal -- this ziplock product is great for covering mirrors (as well as useful for food storage)
  • Paper goods: cups, plates, bowls, napkins, plastic silverware
  • Garbage Bags
  • Post-Its or Sharpie Marker to label food items (with contents and date)

Additional items to consider:

  • Bottled water, Gatorade, Coffee
  • Sleeping Aids (Melatonin, Tylenol PM or prescription)
  • Ziplock Bags/ Containers for food storage

Ritual items can often be obtained through a synagogue or funeral home. These include a 7 day candle, low chairs for mourners, extra chairs for visitors, siddurim (prayer books), a Torah, etc. You may want to have a Tzedakah Box on hand to receive charitable donations during the minyan. In addition, a notepad to keep track of meals sent in and any money received for messages left for the mourners.

Remembering Uncle Paul Kalish, z''l (Melech Yona ben Yidel Dov)

It's so hard to write these words today.  My uncle, Paul Kalish, passed away this morning at home after a valiant 10 months battling  gl...