Losing a loved one is always hard; it can also be difficult to know how to support a loved one suffering from their own loss, especially when you’re not familiar with their faith’s practices surrounding mourning.
Here’s how to offer your condolences to a Jewish loved one in mourning.
Etiquette for Offering Condolences in the Jewish Tradition
Jewish mourning tradition centers on the idea of personal reflection and grieving. Community is a major part of the mourning tradition, especially during the intense mourning period known as sitting Shiva.
When a loved one is sitting Shiva, it is often appropriate to offer them a gift. This is usually a kosher gift basket of easy-to-eat kosher foods, which can help them keep their energy up. Otherwise, traditional Jewish comfort foods are a great choice especially ones that remind the mourner of their youth.
Other common gifts are financial donations to local charities or synagogues, memory pages filled with pleasant stories of the deceased from friends and family, and sympathy cards with quotes from the Torah.
It is sometimes a surprise to learn that it is not customary to send flowers while a home is sitting Shiva. Flowers can be sent after the Shiva period ends, but they are generally not part of the mourning process for Jewish families as flowers wilt and die and thus are not a good Shiva gift.
Jewish Condolence Message Ideas
Condolence messages in Jewish tradition can be short or long, and may include quotes and personal anecdotes. They’re offered in person, over the phone during a Shiva call, or through a card.
The point of these messages is to comfort the family and show respect for the deceased; they focus on the impact the deceased had, and how they will be remembered and honored.
Some effective condolence messages may be:
- I’m offering you this token to support you and your family. May [Deceased]’s memory offer comfort in the coming years.
- [Deceased] was a wonderful member of our community and a tribute to our/your faith. The light they offered will be deeply missed.
- “May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” – A common Hebrew mourning phrase.
Mourning doesn’t need to be lonely. Offering your support – through a kosher gift basket or one of our Shiva gift baskets, or even just a few words of encouragement – can be enough to see your loved one heal from the loss and grow stronger in their faith and their community.