There’s so much you can do to bring love into the home of someone who is sitting shiva. When someone dies, the loss impacts not just the family, but friends and community, too. So, ending a shiva gift basket of food for a family sitting shiva is a way to let them know you’re thinking of them.
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There may be an online or community board set up for the family which will take some guesswork out of what foods have already been managed. If not, here are some options for you to consider.
Gourmet Shiva Gift Basket Ideas
Traditional mourning foods are dictated by shape rather than taste. Even so, when sitting shiva, it’s essential to know any dietary concerns that the family in mourning may have. Here are a few ideas for some gourmet, delicious options if you need to know what to bring to shiva.
1. Kosher meats, fruits, and nuts tray
Head to the local kosher deli for the right selection of meats for your tray. While you can pick up a premade tray, when you pick out the items yourself you can ensure that all dietary concerns and allergies are considered.
Plus, compiling the tray yourself shows that little touch of extra care.
2. Baked pasta
Baked pasta sits and reheats well. Consider decadent options like rigatoni vodka, brisket ragout, or a carbonara that can serve multiple meals.
If you’re an excellent pasta maker, spend some time preparing your best recipe for the family. Perhaps opt for a foil baking pan, so the dish can be frozen if there’s too much food on the day you arrive.
3. Bagels and smoked salmon bar
No matter what time of day, this is always a favorite. Choose a couple of kinds of bagels to suit everyone’s taste, like plain or onion. When choosing cream cheese, look for the whipped version so it’s easier to spread.
Fruits and vegetables pair nice with a bagel too—include cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, pickled onions, and beets. Skip avocados because they brown too fast. Also, think about capers, dill, and olives for some extra flavor.
4. Restaurant delivery of soup
If you don’t live nearby the deceased’s family, there may be a restaurant that makes some delicious comfort soups you can phone for delivery.
Consider Matzah ball, lentil, chicken noodle, or any other traditionally comforting soups. An additional benefit to restaurant delivery will be the containers themselves. These are usually easily refrigerated and likely easily reheated—a good soup is good for multiple reheats.
If you are arriving to spend time with the mourning family early in the day, consider a breakfast food like Shakshuka. It’s easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, but it’s delicious, especially on a cold morning.
You may consider leaving the feta on the side just in case there are some milk allergies to consider. Shakshuka can be made in only one pan and served with many kinds of delicious bread.
Practical Shiva Gift Basket Ideas
Flowers aren't customary, but here are some other items to send or bring your bereaved during Shiva. A few hints. Round shapes represent the circle of life, so you may want to tailor baskets with this in mind. Also, if you’re making a dish, consider separating it into different containers— a few for now, and a few for later.
6. Bread and salt
Round-shaped foods like naan are sometimes consumed during the Seudat Havra’ah, which is the Meal of Condolences. This is the first meal after the burial and consists of dried bread and salt dipped in water.
Perhaps you won’t be there during this meal—bringing round bread and kosher salt would be symbolic of this ancient ritual. If you’re able, arrive with the bread still fresh and wrapped in a piece of linen. This will look and feel much more comforting than a plastic bag with a twist tie.
7. Sweet pastry basket
Sweet pastries work for any occasion, especially when sitting Shiva. Babkas are a dense pastry filled with cinnamon or chocolate. They are decadent and delicious, but unless you live near a Jewish bakery, you may have to turn to a local grocery store. Rugelachs are also sweet and tasty, but they will be filled with nuts and fruits.
So, if you are unsure about whether to get chocolate pastries or fruit pastries, pick up a few options to suit everyone’s palate.
8. Local teas and coffee
Salty meats, dried fish, rich pastas, and breads and pastries are the classics. Why not bring a calming beverage that will help parched mouths and digestion, too.
Head to a locally owned store if you can. Usually, locals have the best selection. If you’re able to find one that offers a lot of organic options, even better.
Also, you may want to consider picking up some ground coffee. Time in mourning and mourning itself can be tiring, so a little caffeine might be helpful.
Beans and rice are a comfort food no matter your culture or religion. In this case, mujadara is a traditional Middle Eastern food made of green (not red) lentils, rice, and caramelized onions. Bonus: this dish is vegan!
Mujadara is easy to make and takes just a few ingredients. When sitting on a buffet table for an extended period, it will taste good, no matter if it’s hot or cold. If it seems a little too underwhelming, you can always add some fresh herbs or chopped cucumber as a garnish.
10. Paper goods basket
There are a couple of directions you could go with a paper goods basket. One is with stationary or blank cards and stamps for sending thank you notes to friends and family who visited during shiva.
Another direction is paper plates and napkins so that the family in mourning won’t have to wash dishes. Either way, both are thoughtful gifts that take into consideration the time and energy before and after sitting Shiva.
Kid-Friendly Shiva Basket Ideas
When you consider the kiddos, you give the parents a break so they can attend to mourning, talking, and sharing. This way, they know their kids are being fed some good, rich food.
11. Traditional kosher candies
If you live far away from friends who are mourning, there are a lot of online retailers who can send a tray or basket of candies to their house.
Because it’s candy, you may want to opt for a smaller portion to keep the sugar intake under a little control.
12. Vegetables and fruits with dip
There’s going to be a lot of high-calorie, high-fat foods served at a Shiva. So, to help kids out with their sugar and carbohydrate levels, bring along a vegetable and fruit tray with some dips. Skip the broccoli and apples and give kids options like strawberries, grapes, watermelon, and oranges, or cucumbers, radishes, and cherry tomatoes.
If you can cut the fruits and veggies into interesting shapes (or even stuff them), you’ll appeal to kids of all ages.
13. Finger foods
Kids love to pick up food with their fingers and go. So, consider a selection of kosher finger foods for the kiddos.
Foods like potato knishes, egg rolls, puffed pastries, and the like are perfect options, as are cold cuts with bread, mini hotdogs, pierogies, and falafel. Kids are pretty easy to satisfy, and if you have an assortment of things they like, then your risk of complaints is at a minimum.
14. Hot cocoa basket
Chocolate can win over any crowd, especially kids. And the great thing about cocoa is how comforting it is, so even the kids will get some soothing treatment.
Choose individual packets, a canister, or if you’re a savvy cocoa chef, then you can make your own powdered cocoa. Skip the marshmallows as those are best for other occasions.
Gourmet, Practical, and Kid-Friendly Shiva Basket Ideas
Unfortunately, grief is one of life’s inevitables. But we can help our family, friends, and neighbors through their grief with some thoughtful additions to their mourning period.
Hopefully, one of our ideas has been helpful in your search for the right basket or tray to bring along.
If you're looking for more, read our guide on Jewish condolences.
- Guttman, Vered. “Food and Death: A Look at the Tasty and Tearful Tradition of Jewish Mourning.” Haaretz.com, 20 July 2018, www.haaretz.com/jewish/food/.premium-food-and-death-in-the-jewish-tradition-1.6291740.
- Ungar, Carol. “Foods of Mourning.” Aish.com, www.aish.com/f/r/Foods_of_Mourning.html.