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Five practical ways to feed people who are sitting shiva

Jewish holidays and food are synonymous, from sufganiyot on Chanukah to hamantaschen on Purim. But food can also be used as comfort during less jubilant times: When it comes to the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva after a family member’s death, food is an important aspect to consider.

In Genesis 50:10, Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father, setting a precedent for the modern day shiva, where family and community members visit mourners and hold prayer services at home. It’s become tradition for people to provide food for the mourners. While a homemade dish is hard to beat, ultimately, the most important aspect of the tradition is to show support for mourners, no matter what capacity time allows for. Here are five practical shiva options for those looking to provide comfort in a time crunch:

1.Premade shiva baskets and platters

An option for those looking to provide comfort from afar are premade shiva baskets, which can be ordered and sent across the country.

An option for those looking to provide comfort from afar are premade shiva baskets, which can be ordered and sent across the country. Image by iStock/leezsnow

An option for those looking to provide comfort from afar are premade shiva baskets, which can be ordered and sent across the country. A variety of options are out there, from gourmet rugelach assortments to fish-based salmon, tuna, egg and whitefish salad platters. Some delis, like Katz’s in New York, offer nationwide delivery of their platters. Those with dried fruit, nuts, baked goods and chocolates provide an additional bonus: they won’t spoil quickly, ensuring that they’ll be able to bring nourishment even after the leftover casserole is already in the trash.

2. Fruit platters

For those looking to give food to mourners that’s both nourishing and aesthetically pleasing, edible arrangements are the way to go.

For those looking to give food to mourners that’s both nourishing and aesthetically pleasing, edible arrangements are the way to go. Image by iStock

For those looking to give food to mourners that’s both nourishing and aesthetically pleasing, edible arrangements are the way to go. Among a table that’s sure to be full of oily and starchy dishes, fresh fruit will be a welcome palate refresher and pop of color. Options include everything from simple fruit bouquets to those with pear-shaped doves.

3. Jewish apple cake

Unlike a traditional pound cake or cheesecake, Jewish apple cakes are made with vegetable oil in lieu of butter, meaning it’s kosher to be eaten directly after a meat meal.

Unlike a traditional pound cake or cheesecake, Jewish apple cakes are made with vegetable oil in lieu of butter, meaning it’s kosher to be eaten directly after a meat meal. Image by iStock/MarcoMarchi

There’s no comfort quite like sugar, and no shiva would be complete without a healthy helping of chocolate, cookies and baked goods. Unlike a traditional pound cake or cheesecake, Jewish apple cakes are made with vegetable oil in lieu of butter, meaning it’s kosher to be eaten directly after a meat meal. While many Jewish bakeries carry the dense dessert, it can also easily be ordered online for delivery.

4. Paper goods

Skip the hassle and consider bringing paper goods for the family, who will likely be in need of plates, utensils, bowls, cups and napkins.

Skip the hassle and consider bringing paper goods for the family, who will likely be in need of plates, utensils, bowls, cups and napkins. Image by iStock/DonNichols

Not one for cooking? Skip the hassle and consider bringing paper goods for the family, who will likely be in need of plates, utensils, bowls, cups and napkins. Though perhaps less impressive in grandeur, the paper goods will be greatly appreciated by mourners and guests alike.

5. A meal organizer

Not everyone may be available to bring food the day of the meal of condolence, but a meal organizer makes it possible to coordinate a week or more of comfort for mourners, giving everyone a chance to contribute.

Not everyone may be available to bring food the day of the meal of condolence, but a meal organizer makes it possible to coordinate a week or more of comfort for mourners, giving everyone a chance to contribute. Image by iStock/Feodora Chiosea

It’s common for the community to provide meals for all seven days of mourning. Not everyone may be available to bring food the day of the meal of condolence, but a meal organizer makes it possible to coordinate a week or more of comfort for mourners, giving everyone a chance to contribute. Services like shiva organizer send out reminder emails for participants, checklists for staying organized and visiting etiquette tips.

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