The Jewish tradition of “sitting shiva,” where a family retreats to their home after a funeral to receive the support of their community for up to seven days, can be a source of confusion. There are so many traditional observances and rituals – covering mirrors, sitting low to the ground, prayers, food, what to do and not do, and on and on.
Sharon Rosen, founder of the registry website ShivaConnect.com, received a call from an elderly woman who said, “I’m 84 years old and I don’t know anything about shiva. How are my kids going to know?”
As with so many sources of information, the details of shiva are now available at your fingertips on the Internet. Rosen’s ShivaConnect website provides background on the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva and online tools to manage the whole megillah.
The key part of the site is a registry where families can record all the details that a supportive community would want to know: dates and addresses for visiting the family, prayer service times, minyan requests (to get a minimum of 10 people praying together), mailing addresses to send condolence cards to the mourners, memorial donations, and most importantly, managing food.
As Rosen puts it, “Jews and food – need I say more?” One of the more overwhelming aspects of being a mourner is managing the offers of platters of food to feed the people who come to the house to visit and participate in prayer services.
ShivaConnect helps sort out food requests – for how many, what kind, what days and times, and lets those who want to send food know what they can provide. The site has a database of delis around the country that will deliver platters.
Technology and Tradition
“We use today’s technology to assist people when immediacy is important. It lessens the overwhelm of calls and it increases memorial donations,” explains Rosen.
The tool goes out quickly via email, Facebook, or any way that families do their social networking. It helps let people know how to best express their condolences. It can also be an outreach tool for non-Jews and the non-observant, as well as an educational tool for hospice staff.
The use of the site is growing. Rosen has noticed some registry listings received hundreds of views as people check for information. “It is growing,” says Rosen. “People just need to know about it and find it at a time of stress.”
The site includes articles on what to expect, customs and prayers, etc. Rosen notes, “Knowing why something is done makes it more meaningful and they’ll participate when they understand. For example, there’s the tradition of having a shomer watch the body before the funeral. It’s comforting to know a loved one is being watched and prayed over.”
Resources include places to donate leftover food, poems, prayers, YouTube video of a rabbi reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish, a funeral home finder, and veteran and Social Security benefits.
Rosen never expected to wind up doing this. When she faced the daunting challenge of coordinating a shiva after her mother died in July 2009, the idea for ShivaConnect was born.
“This has been an unexpected journey that’s been incredibly rewarding,” says Rosen. “It’s such a blessing to find my purpose in life, offering this service that touches so many people and helps when they really need it.”