What Are the Best Jewish Sympathy Gifts for Shiva?
In Judaism, families traditionally hold an event known as "sitting shiva" when a loved one dies. Even though shiva has a history rich with religious influences, the modern version of this event often focuses on social connection with friends and family.
Not only do the closest members of the family attend, but those who’ve lost a dear one often invite friends and members of the community to pay a visit to their home as well. Even if you are not Jewish, if you were close to the person who died, you may be invited to visit during shiva to pay your respects.
Shiva is traditionally a multi-day event where the family receives guests in their home. People come together to pray and mourn and to offer support and friendship. If you are invited to participate, it’s a sign of honor, and you’ll want to understand the etiquette around shiva gatherings—so you’ll know what to do and what to bring or send to the family's home.
What Not to Bring or Send to a Shiva
Every culture has its own traditions around funerals and memorial events. Jewish funeral practices are no exception, and there are a few things that are helpful to know so that your sincere sentiments will be received in the way you intend them.
For example, you might immediately think of sending flowers after a death to express your condolences. In many cultures and faiths, this gesture is a perfect gift for the grieving family. But you shouldn't send flowers to a Jewish family or the shiva home.
Why? Because sending funeral or condolence flowers is not a common practice in most Jewish communities. That being said, even though flowers are not part of the mourning tradition, don’t worry. You can easily choose another way to show your love and support. We’ve collected some wonderful shiva gift ideas here to help you express your condolences in thoughtful alignment with the family's traditions and beliefs.
You should also avoid sending food shiva gifts that may include pork or shellfish, so be sure to check any sympathy baskets or assortments you may find online to be sure those are not included.
Commemorative Shiva Gifts
Look for a personal gift that helps the family hold tight to cherished memories. Below are some great ideas and respectful offerings of condolence in the Jewish tradition.
- Plant a Tree: Planting a tree is a memorable way to celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed on, creating a permanent place to visit and remember them. In this symbolic way, the tree grows, and the memory of the person lives on as a part of nature.
- Jerusalem Stones from Israel: One beautiful tradition is to place stones from Jerusalem by the graveside. Gifting a tangible natural element from Israel is an appropriate, kind way to pay homage to a special person.
- Yahrzeit Candle Holder: In Jewish tradition, family members light the Yahrzeit candle on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. A beautiful candle holder can enhance the practice and make it more special each year.
- Thinking of You Card: When a friend loses someone close to them, words from the heart may be just as good or better than a gift or object. A deeply felt message will let them know you have them in your thoughts, and that can mean so much in a time of loss.
Food Shiva Gifts
Not only is food an important part of Jewish funeral traditions, but a gift of food allows the family to focus on their grieving without a need to cook during shiva. Consider these ideas if you'd like to send food as a shiva sympathy gift:
- Katz Comfort Special: If you can't be there to cook a meal for them in person, you can always order it and have it delivered. This meal kit contains directions on reheating and will bring comfort, warmth, and nourishment to the family.
- Kosher Remembrance Basket (Sweets & Fruit): This basket of kosher fruit and treats can be delivered to the family as a welcome expression of your condolences for their loss.
- Wishing Peace, Kosher Fruit Basket: A basket of kosher fruit is a solid choice, as you generally won't have to worry about dietary preferences or allergies. And fresh fruit will always be welcomed when the family receives guests over the period of shiva.
- Deluxe Sympathy Box: This bountiful assortment of fruits, cheeses and crackers comes in a good-looking keepsake basket adorned with a sympathy message tag. A perfect shiva gift with substance and style.
- Cheryl's Gift Tower: You can get creative and send a basket of cookies to lighten the mood and bring a bit of sweetness to the grieving family and their guests. Include a personal note and an offer of help or a shoulder to lean on when they are ready.
- Ethel M Sugar-Free Chocolates: If there is a diabetic in the household or someone who prefers to stay away from sweets, there are options for a sugar-free cookie basket to send as a delicious shiva gift to the home.
- Mosaic Dried Fruit Tray: Dried fruit is a popular alternative to traditional desserts and can make a great accent on a buffet for receiving guests. Show the grieving family that you are thinking of them by sending dried fruit in a beautiful display as the perfect shiva gift.
- Gluten-Free Apple Spice Cake: Send this delicious crumb-topped cake as a sweet and thoughtful gesture after a loss. You can write a touching note to express your condolences.
- Junior’s Cheesecake: If you’re looking for a unique treat to send to a friend who is mourning a death, what is better than a top-of-the-line New York cheesecake?
- Signature Bakery Assortment: Shower the grieving family with a sympathy gift of comforting flavors including nut cakes, baklava, cookies and a selection of other tasty baked goods.
If you're unsure about the best shiva gift to offer a grieving family, it might be helpful to talk to a friend who knows them well or to someone else in the Jewish community near you. If they're very religious, you'll want to be sure that any food-related gifts follow the Kosher tradition, so take the time to ask. Don't be shy—seeking advice or recommendations is a sign of your respect and thoughtfulness. Consider it an opportunity to learn more about Jewish culture and these unique traditions.
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