Shiva is observed by Jewish mourners for seven days after the burial of an immediate family member- a father, mother, brother, sister, spouse or child. Some families sit shiva for a shorter period of time. Shiva usually takes place in the home of the departed or family of the deceased.
This list can be used as a guide to prepare a home for sitting shiva.
Begin by estimating the number of people you expect to have visit. When in doubt, it is a good idea to overestimate when determining how much of each item will be needed. Additionally, there will probably be left over food that has to be stored and refrigerated. So, part of your plan should be to have a refrigerator that is as empty as possible to anticipate this. Also, you can try to locate a local food pantry nearby the shiva house so that food donations can be made.
On the first day of shiva only, and upon returning from the cemetery, the following items should be outside the front door:
A pitcher of water
This will be for the use of mourners to ‘cleanse’ themselves by washing their hands.
You should also have the following items at the shiva house:
Yiskor Memorial Candle – this is usually supplied by the funeral home
Boxes upon which to sit- also usually supplied by the funeral home
Covers for Mirrors – sheets, pillowcases, towels or shiva shades will suffice
For more on these traditions, please see the Jewish Customs and Traditions page on this website.
The following items will also be needed:
Yarmulkes (estimate 1 per person)
Cocktail Napkins (estimate 2 per person)
Hot Cups (estimate 1 per person)
Plastic 12oz cups (estimate 2 per person)
Plastic or Paper Meal Plates (estimate 1 per person)
Plastic or paper dessert plates (estimate 1 per person)
Forks (estimate 2 per person)
Spoons (estimate 1 per person)
Knives (estimate 1 per person)
2 Large (30 cup) electric coffee pots (for regular/decaf)
1 small (15 cup) electric coffee pot for hot water (to make tea)
Artificial Sweetner (Sweet n Low, Splenda, etc.)
Assortment of Sodas (estimate 10 oz. per person)
Large Trash Bags
Large Plastic Food Storage Bags
Ice (estimate one bag for cooler and one bag per 15 people)
Leave doors unlocked so that friends and family paying a shiva call can freely enter without having to knock or ring the doorbell.