SIMSBURY, Conn. (RNS) After burying her mother, Sharon Rosen found herself dealing with a problem: deli platter deliveries. A deluge of them, all ordered by her friends and neighbors as part of the Jewish tradition of providing food for the bereaved during the seven-day mourning period known as the “shiva.”
"We had to find a place to donate all the unused food," Rosen said. "I said to myself, ‘This is crazy.’ There has to be a way to coordinate all of this, to get information to people."
Two and a half years later, Rosen launched ShivaConnect.com, a website that operates like a wedding registry for funeral, memorial and shiva details. The website is searchable by the deceased’s name, and visitors can find links for online memorial donations or search for the nearest deli. There’s also an email alert to remind mourners to honor the memory of the deceased on the anniversary of their death, a Jewish tradition known as a yahrzeit.
The aim of the website is to avoid duplication and consolidate the many facets of Jewish mourning.
To date, the site has logged more than 100,000 visits. Funeral homes, hospices and temples around the country recommend it or list it on their own websites.
"It's a good way to reach families and friends outside the temple, and it helps those in mourning so they don't have to spend hours on the phone," said Howard Herman, a rabbi at the Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation.
Rosen, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., used her own money to start the website and spent long hours researching and learning the various rituals surrounding the shiva. There are helpful hints on how to plan a Jewish funeral and burial and how many tables and chairs to set out during the weeklong mourning period.
A Reform Jew, Rosen never sat shiva until her mother, Dorothy Kurlander, died at age 81. Looking back, Rosen said, building the website helped her deal with her loss.
As she researched items for the site, she came to a deeper understanding of the rituals surrounding the shiva.
“I’m not a particularly religious person, but at the time of death rituals are comforting,” she said.
Samuel Green of Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home in Fairfield hands out ShivaConnect information cards to his Jewish customers. A member of the bereaved family must register on the website and enter funeral and shiva information.
Green said the website is helpful, especially the section that lists what food has been delivered to the family from the local deli.
Rosen said the website can assist non-Jews looking to support Jewish friends. And because not all Jewish people mourn alike, there are resources for every branch of Judaism.
YS/MG END SOMMA