While sending flowers to the funeral home is a common and thoughtful gesture in many parts of the county, you should not send flowers to a Jewish funeral. Jewish funerals are quite solemn and often occur within 24 hours of the time of death. The family is in mourning, and this is not a time to celebrate the life of the deceased.

The Jewish Funeral and Bereavement

The Jewish funeral takes place as soon after death as possible, although it may be delayed to allow time for planning or to allow mourners to travel. The body is washed according to ritual tradition and buried in a simple wooden casket, without embalming. The immediate family, including parents, children and siblings observe a seven day period of intense mourning, or shivah, in which the family remains at home, prayers are said, and mourning practices are followed. The bereaved continue certain practices for 30 days and others for a full year after a death in a Jewish family.

Gates of Heaven SynagoguePhoto by James Steakley

Funeral Customs

While Christian and secular funerals in the west include flowers, wreaths and live plants, both for the viewing and funeral service, these are not present at a Jewish funeral. There is no viewing of the body, and the funeral service itself is brief and solemn, consisting of psalms, prayers and a eulogy. The funeral service may be held at the graveside, synagogue or funeral home.

What To Do

If you would like to express sympathy and share the grief of Jewish friends in mourning, you can opt to provide meals, visit during shivah, send a condolence card, or make a gift to charity. In many cases, the family will note a preferred charity in the obituary, but donations to any appropriate cause are acceptable and appreciated. If you wish to take food to the grieving family, check to make sure that you meet any food requirements and opt to order food from a kosher service if the family is Orthodox.

While it is not acceptable to send flowers to the funeral home or family home, if you’d like to send a plant some months later to let the family know they’re in your thoughts, choose a simple and attractive houseplant, like a Peace Lily. Jewish tradition marks the first anniversary of a death with ritual, and this can also be a thoughtful time to make a charitable contribution in the deceased’s name.