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General Preparations for Shiva

  • Notify the mourner’s employer that he or she will be unavailable for the week.
  • If the deceased person and/or their mourners are affiliated with a synagogue, contact the synagogue(s) to request help with practical arrangements, set a schedule of services (the shiva minyan) and ensure that 10 adults will be at services (if applicable).
  • Decide when/where you will sit shiva and will accept visitors, so that the funeral director or rabbi can distribute that info to those who want to visit.
  • Set a schedule for meal preparation by friends and extended family or enlist the service of a caterer. Ensure that the house is stocked with enough food for the mourners and their guests. Identify where to donate leftover food and who will bring it there.
  • Arrange for someone (a friend, synagogue volunteer or a hired person) to clean the house before and during shiva.
  • Notify neighbors of the presence of additional cars and people in the neighborhood.
  • Prepare a handout with the shiva information, to be passed out at the funeral. Make sure it includes the address of (and maybe directions to) the home where shiva will be observed, hours during which visitors will be welcomed, and the times services (shiva minyan) will be held, if applicable.

Preparing the Shiva House

  • Cover the mirrors, if desired. It does not matter what material you use to cover the mirrors (paper, fabric etc.) Since the reason for this tradition is that people shouldn’t be able to see their reflection, mirrors above or a below a height where people will be able to see themselves need not be covered.
  • Consider having a sign-in book and pens/pencils for the guests.
  • Have a good supply of tissues.
  • Put away any highly valuable or delicate items.
  • If desired, borrow from the synagogue or funeral home low chairs or cushions for the mourners’ seating, prayer books for services, and kippot (head coverings) for guests. In addition, most funeral homes or  groups (Jewish burial societies) will provide a large shiva candle that burns for seven days. You can also purchase ones (including electrical ones) online.
  • If desired, create a door sign with visiting hours posted.
  • Set up tables and chairs (low chairs or couches without the cushions for the mourners, regular chairs for everyone else). You may need to borrow extra chairs depending on the number of visitors expected.
  • Consider displaying photos of the deceased. This is a nice way to honor the deceased and encourages visitors to talk about the deceased, rather than discussing only trivial matters.
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