How to Plan & Host a Virtual Shiva: Step-By-Step

Updated

Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

The Jewish mourning ritual of sitting shiva is all about creating an opportunity for the community to show up and provide support to a grieving family. Sitting among friends and sharing stories about the deceased is moving, comforting, and helps aid in the grieving process. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

When my grandfather recently died due to complications from COVID-19, my family quickly adapted our original plans for his funeral and subsequent shiva call. We recognized that we could all benefit from connections with family and friends, so my family decided to host a virtual shiva. The event was an overall success that brought my family a lot of comfort and also allowed our community the opportunity to show their support.

My grandfather taught me how important it is to be there for the people we care about, especially in times of need. In honor of his legacy, I want to offer guidance on how to host a virtual shiva. I hope these instructions and reflections can help others find solace during a difficult time.

Tip: Some companies like GatheringUs specialize in virtual end-of-life services, and have specialists who can guide and support you through the planning process.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Shiva

Here are the steps you can follow to get ready for a virtual shiva.

Pick a host

It’s a good idea to pick a host who is comfortable with technology, Zoom in particular, and who can participate for the entire shiva call.

The host has a few key responsibilities:

  • Setting up the Zoom event.
  • Setting up the Calendly scheduling tool and monitoring sign-ups.
  • Letting people in from the waiting room during the event.
  • Facilitating the flow of the event.
  • Troubleshooting Zoom issues during the event.

You may wish to pick a few hosts to share the responsibilities. You might also consider asking a friend instead of a family member — the host role takes focus that might draw attention away from the conversations happening during the event.

Pick a format for your shiva

Traditionally, people come and go throughout shiva. Some stop by to briefly express their condolences, others like to stick around longer to share stories and hear attendees reminisce about the deceased.

Striking this balance is a bit more difficult online. You have a few options:

  • Large group: A large group shiva can be an open Zoom call that people can join and leave as they wish. It’s easier to schedule, but too many people on the call at once makes it hard for everyone to get a chance to speak. It can also be hard to see everyone on your screen.
  • One-on-ones: One-on-one Zoom calls let just one person or family visit with you at any given time. This ensures you can see and hear them, but then you really need to stick to the schedule to keep things moving. Also, all attendees lose out on hearing stories from other guests.
  • Small groups: You can encourage family and friends to sign up for shifts so you have a small group of people at any given time. Most people will get a chance to speak, and they get the chance to learn about your loved one from other guests.

My family decided on the small group option. I recommend this format but you’ll need to decide what size group you want. I would suggest allowing between 5 and 10 people to visit at a time (think of people as screens, since a couple or family can join from one screen and will sign up together). 

Here are a few things I noticed during our family’s shiva:

  • I kept Zoom in the “gallery” view so that I could see everyone at once. I found that it got hard to see everyone once more than 16 screens were signed into the call.
  • The number of people in the Zoom meeting at any given time included family members present for the entire shiva. For my family, this meant we always had at least 9 people dialed in, not including guests.

Set the hours for the shiva call

There are four main things to consider when setting the hours for shiva call:

  1. What days are you sitting shiva and during what hours do you want visitors?
  2. If you plan to hold a minyan service, when will that happen?
  3. Do you want to plan breaks for meals?
  4. Do you want to reserve certain hours for special guests?

After you’ve considered those factors, you should be able to write a schedule such as:

  • Monday, April 13 from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with minyan from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. and again from 7 to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 15 from 4 to 5 p.m. (special guests only) and 5 to 7 p.m.

Picking shiva call hours

Shiva traditionally lasts between three and seven days. When this takes place in a home, it’s easier to arrange to be there during certain times and let people know when they can stop by. Making yourself available to sit in front of your computer for a few hours takes a bit more planning. Think carefully about how you want to organize your hours so your community can make shiva calls.

You might also want to consider that friends and family may only be able to join during weekend or after work hours — you might want to make slots available during those times.

One of the special benefits of an online shiva is that loved ones from across the globe can attend. For example, my grandfather’s best friend was able to attend the shiva despite living on the opposite coast. If you know you’ll have important guests calling in from other time zones, make sure you have some times available that will work for them. 

Consider timing for a minyan service

If you want to hold a minyan service, you’ll want to know what time that service, or services, will take place. This way, you can invite family and friends to participate and let guests know not to schedule visits during that time.

Be sure to check with whoever is leading the service that they are available at the time you want and find out how long they expect the service to last.

Planning for meals and breaks

There’s lots of food at a traditional shiva and you can eat as you get hungry. You’ll have to plan when you’ll prepare and eat your meals with a virtual shiva.

My family members all had someone in each of our households who was able to step away from the Zoom call to help prepare meals. We’d either eat on the call or wait until after shiva call hours.

This worked fine and no one seemed to mind us eating on the screen (we just muted ourselves while we chewed!) but I might also suggest planning an hour break during meal times to allow yourself a chance to relax and refuel.

Reserving hours for special guests

Something my family didn’t do but which might have been helpful was to reserve certain times for special guests. If you have someone planning to attend who will have a lot to say or someone who is hard of hearing, it might be easier to visit with them if there are fewer guests on the Zoom call.

At times, we had friends joining us who didn’t really get a chance to speak because they happened to join at the same time as someone who had many wonderful stories to share. Though it was great for them to hear what others had to say, I did feel bad that they waited around patiently and never got a word in. 

If you can identify these “special guests” in advance, you can arrange for them to come at a particular time and then exclude that time slot as one during which other guests can visit.

Set up Zoom events

You don’t have to use Zoom. You could use any other video conferencing service, but my family used Zoom, which made it easy for guests to join. Here are instructions on how to set up a virtual shiva using Zoom.

Step 1: Purchase a Zoom Pro account

I purchased a Zoom Pro account ($14.99 per month) because it lets you host longer meetings (the free version caps you at 40 minutes) and you can have up to 100 guests join at once. The 100-guest limit should be more than enough. If anyone in the family has access to Zoom Pro through work or school, you might not need to purchase it.

Step 2: Schedule a new meeting for each day you sit shiva

You’ll want to repeat the following steps for each day you plan to sit shiva. Don’t worry, if you follow the steps below, the Zoom link you use to access the meeting will be the same for each day you sit shiva.

Step 3: Log into Zoom and click “Schedule” to schedule a new meeting

Step 4: Change “Topic” to the name of your event

I typed in “Saul Goldstein — Shiva (Sunday)” and changed the day for each subsequent meeting so that when it was time to start the meeting on a given day, it was easy for me to see which one to start.

Step 5: Change the start date, start time, and duration

Set the date for that particular day’s meeting. Set the start time to whatever time you plan to begin your shiva call that day. (Don’t worry, you can always start the meeting earlier if you want to make sure it’s working or let immediate family gather first.)

I always set the end time to at least an hour or two after the shiva calls were supposed to end. This likely doesn’t matter (the meeting shouldn’t automatically end on you), but it just gave me peace of mind to set it up that way.

Step 6: Configure the rest of the settings

I would set up the rest of the settings as follows:

  • Meeting ID: Make sure this is set to “Personal Meeting.” This is important because it allows you to use the same Zoom call-in details for each day of shiva.
  • Password: Set this to require a password. This adds extra protection in case strangers hack into your Zoom event.
  • Video: Make sure video for the host is on and that it’s on for participants, too.
  • Audio: Check telephone and computer audio. This way, guests can join by phone if needed.
  • Calendar: This one isn’t important unless you want to sync events with your calendar.
  • Advanced Options:
    • Enable waiting room: Turn this on. This is important for managing the flow of guests.
    • Enable join before host: Make sure this is off.
    • Mute participants on entry: This should be on. This way guests don’t accidentally interrupt conversations when they join.
    • Automatically record meeting: I started with this off, but if you wish to record the event, you could start with this on.

Set up Calendly to Schedule Shiva Calls

Along with Zoom, or other video conferencing software, my family found it helpful to use Calendly, an online appointment-setting service, to make things easier.

Step 1: Sign up for a free Calendly account

Calendly is a wonderful tool for scheduling meetings with other people. To arrange a virtual shiva the way I did for my family, you only need to sign up for a free Calendly account.

Step 2: Create a New Event Type

On the “Event Types” page, click “New Event Type.” Then click “Create” next to the “Group” option.

Step 3: Complete the “What event is this?” section

Event name

Set the event name to whatever you want. I typed, “Saul Goldstein’s Shiva.”

Location

Choose “custom” from the location dropdown and type in “Zoom Meeting (we’ll email you the details).” I kept the “Display location while booking” selected.

Don’t be distracted by the Zoom option. That’s for setting up a different type of meeting.

Description and instructions

Use this space to guide friends and family on how to sign up for a shiva call time slot. Try to explain the essential information:

  • How to sign up for a shiva visit.
  • When the minyan service will be held so guests can specifically sign up for it or avoid visits during that time.
  • How they’ll get details about how to join Zoom (this will be in the confirmation email they receive).
  • Who to contact with questions.

You might want to include a note letting people know they may want to coordinate with others to sign up for the same time slot (a group of old friends or coworkers may find it more comfortable to visit together). As for details for how to join the Zoom call, no need to share those now; we’ll get to that later.

Here’s an example of what I wrote:

Event link

Make this whatever you want. I created one that read, “saul-goldstein-shiva.”

Max invitees in a spot

Remember when you picked the number of people and screens you wanted to allow to visit at any given time? This is where you type in that number. It’s probably somewhere between 5 and 10.

Step 4: Complete the “When can people book this event?” section

Event duration

Set this to however long you want each visitation time slot to be. My family held 15-minute time increments, which worked well. You can always allow people to stay longer once they are in the meeting. You can also invite people to sign up for multiple time slots if they want more time with you.

Date range

Set this to start with the first day you sit shiva and end with the last day you sit shiva.

Event time zone

Make sure this is set to the time zone you used when planning shiva hours. If you planned to hold shiva from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST, then make sure this is set to EST. Don’t worry, Calendly will make it clear to guests signing up what time the shiva call is in their time zone.

Availability

This is where you set the hours during which your community can sign up to make shiva calls. To set the hours, click on each day you’re holding shiva. Then edit the availability to reflect the hours that anyone can sign up to visit with you. 

Click “Apply to [DATE] only” when done. If you decide to schedule breaks or reserve hours for specific guests, make sure not to include these in the available hours. Calendly lets you add multiple intervals so you can say you’re available from 4 to 5 p.m. and then again from 6 to 7 p.m.

Once you’ve set the hours for each day, you should see that reflected in the calendar view in that section.

Secret event

Don’t worry about this section. You can keep this set to “No.”

Step 5: Update the “Invitee Questions”

These are the questions guests will fill out when they sign up for a time to visit. Use this to gather information about who is attending, how to reach them, and anything else you want to know.

I kept the name and email fields as-is. I changed the third question to, “How did you know Saul or how do you know the family?” and set the answer type to “one line” so people didn’t write a novel.

Step 6: Customize the email confirmation

Find Email Confirmations in the “Notifications and Cancellation Policy” section and click to “personalize” the message. This is the email people will receive when they sign up for a shiva call. Make sure your message includes:

  • The event name and date in the subject. Use the Calendly code {{event_name}} and {{event_date}} to dynamically pull in those details.
  • The date and time that individual selected to sit shiva. Use the code {{event_time}} on {{event_date}} in Calendly and it fills in those details for you.
  • Details on how to join the Zoom meeting. To get these details, go to Zoom and click on the event (any one of the Shiva events you set up will do). Click “Show Meeting Invitation.” You can copy the whole thing or just the link and dial-in details, as you’ll see I did below.
  • Instructions for what to expect during the shiva. This includes how the waiting room and flow of guests will work. You might also mention whether you prefer a specific dress code and encourage guests to find a quiet place in their home when joining the shiva.

Here is the template I used:

Subject: How to join {{event_name}} on {{event_date}}

Hi {{invitee_full_name}},

Thanks for selecting a time to visit with us as we sit shiva for Saul Goldstein.

You have selected to join us at: {{event_time}} on {{event_date}}.

Instructions for Joining Us:

A couple of minutes before your selected time slot, please follow the instructions below to join the Zoom meeting. You will be placed in a waiting room.

When we wrap up our visit with the previous group, we will move you from the waiting room into the main meeting room so you can share your condolences and stories with the family.

Don't feel obligated to stay for all 15 minutes if you prefer not to. At the end of the 15 minutes, we may kindly ask you to say goodbye so we can allow the next group in to visit.

How to Join the Zoom Meeting:

By computer:

Click this link...

[Insert link from Zoom invite]

By phone:

[Insert call in the details from Zoom invite]

We look forward to sharing memories of Saul with you.

With love,

Saul's family

Step 7: Set up the email reminder

Find Email Reminders in the “Notifications and Cancellation Policy” section and make sure it is toggled to “on.” Next, click to “personalize” the message. This will trigger a reminder email to guests shortly before their shiva call time slot.

Scroll to the bottom of the Email Reminders section and set the timing to 30 minutes before.

Next, customize the message and be sure to include a reminder of the date and time of the shiva call time slot and how to join the Zoom meeting.

My email looked like this:

Subject: Reminder: {{event_name}} with {{my_name}} at {{event_time}} on {{event_date}}

Message:

Hi {{invitee_full_name}},

This is a reminder that you selected to join Saul's family to sit shiva at: {{event_time}} on {{event_date}}.

Instructions for Joining Us:

A couple of minutes before your selected time slot, please follow the instructions below to join the Zoom meeting. You will be placed in a waiting room.

When we wrap up our visit with the previous group, we will move you from the waiting room into the main meeting room so you can share your condolences and stories with the family.

How to Join the Zoom Meeting:

By computer:

Click this link…

[Link from Zoom, same as in confirmation message]

By phone:

[Dial in details from Zoom, same as confirmation message]

We look forward to sharing memories of Saul with you.

With love,

Saul's family

Step 8: Review your Calendly event

I didn’t customize anything else, but feel free to explore the options Calendly provides and adjust them to your needs.

Once you set up everything the way you want, click the “View Live Page” link in the top right corner. This will take you to a preview of what guests will see when they sign up for a time to visit with your family.

Check that the following things are set up the way you want:

  • The instructions make sense.
  • All of the days you are sitting shiva appear in blue in the calendar.
  • Click each day to make sure it displays the correct visiting hours for that day.
  • Sign up for a time slot and walk through the whole process to check the form and confirmation email.
  • Make sure that you, as the person who set up the Calendly, also get a notification when someone signs up.
ยป MORE: Instead of ashes, create a beautiful stone. Parting Stone helps you keep your loved ones close.

 

How to Invite People to the Shiva

You’ll want to make sure various people have access to the details for how to join the Zoom event — but it might be in different ways.

Send your family the Zoom details

Make sure that your family members know they’re invited to shiva the whole time and have the full shiva schedule. Your family members should not sign up for spots on Calendly.

Invite special guests

Remember the “special guests” I mentioned previously? These people will also not sign up via Calendly. Instead, make sure you email them separately to share the shiva details along with what time they are scheduled to visit with you.

I would suggest copying the confirmation email you set up in Calendly and modifying it to send to them.

Send an email to family and friends

Create a list of the people you want to invite to the shiva. You may already have a guest list for a virtual funeral. If so, you can use this as a starting point. You can create this list as a family or each person can do it separately and send their own invite. Just make sure you don’t overlap and annoy guests with duplicate emails!

Once you have your list, send them an email invitation to sign up for a time slot on Calendly. 

I’d recommend including the following in your email:

  • An overview of what shiva is (some people may not be familiar)
  • That you will be hosting shiva virtually
  • The days and times you will host virtual shiva calls
  • How to sign up to visit during shiva (don’t forget the Calendly link!)

A few other tips:

  • You might want to include a reminder in this email that they can coordinate with others to sign up for the same time slot.
  • Some people may not be comfortable joining a virtual shiva. Let them know that if they’d prefer, they can send a text or reach out to find time to connect one-on-one.
  • You might want to emphasize the times a minyan service will take place.
  • You may want to BCC guests so it’s easier for them to reply to your email without accidentally replying to the entire guest list.
  • If you are worried about anyone having technology challenges, consider reaching out directly to make sure they know how to call into the Zoom meeting by phone.

Here is the template my family used. We modified it a bit for different groups of guests.

Dear family and friends,

It is a Jewish custom to sit shiva as part of the mourning process. This tradition is meant to create an environment of comfort and community for mourners and to give us space to reflect on Saul's legacy.

Though we cannot observe this practice in person, we hope you will join us for a virtual shiva Sunday, April 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. and/or Monday, April 13 from 4 to 7 p.m.

If you would like to visit with our family to share condolences and stories of Saul, please sign up for a time here: [INSERT CALENDLY LINK]

We thank you all for your support during this time.

With love,

Saul's family

Post on Facebook and social media

Depending on whom your family is comfortable inviting, you may want to post information about your virtual shiva on Facebook or another social media platform. This can be a nice way for members of your community who you may not have directly invited to learn about your loss and show up to support you.

Members of my family who posted on Facebook posted the same message as the email template above. Do not post the Zoom details publicly, as this puts you at risk for “Zoom bombers,” or people who will disrupt your call.

Other ways to announce your virtual shiva

If you’re open to the public attending your shiva, you can share details in the obituary or through an online memorial page. This includes an online memorial page that the funeral home may help create for you. Consider adding the Calendly link, but don’t post Zoom details publicly. 

Some synagogues will send an email notice to the congregation about your loved one’s death. They will often include shiva details, so you can share a similar message to the one you might post in the obituary.

Finally, if you are hosting a virtual funeral, you may wish to remind attendees that you will be hosting a virtual shiva and that if they haven’t already, they can sign up for a time to make a shiva call using the Calendly link you emailed them.

How to Host a Virtual Shiva

Finally, it’s time to actually go through with the shiva. I was honored to be the host for my grandfather’s virtual shiva, though it was an emotional experience.

Monitor the schedule of guests

The task of scheduling and monitoring guests fell to me — and it actually went off without a hitch. Here’s how I did it.

Viewing the schedule on Calendly

Calendly provides an easy way to see who is signed up for each time slot. Starting from the “Home” page, click on “Scheduled Events” under the “My Calendly” header.

The “Upcoming” pageview will show you how many guests have signed up to visit your family during each time slot. Click the “Details” button to see who those guests are. You can click “Invitee Details” to see how that person answered your invitee question — how they knew your loved one.

I would often keep this view open during the event to get a sense of who I was expecting to show up at any given time.

Exporting the schedule to Excel

I’d keep my mom and uncle updated so they knew who was coming to sit shiva with us for each shift by periodically exporting the schedule of guests into Excel. You can view the schedule on Calendly as described above and then click the “Export” button.

A file will automatically download to your computer. Open this file and save it as a new Excel file with whatever name makes sense to you. 

To make it easier to review the schedule in the order of when people are attending, I would make the following adjustments to the Excel file:

  • Delete all of the columns except the following: Invitee Name, Invitee Email, Start Date and Time, Question 1, Response 1 (and any other Question and Response columns).
  • Highlight the first row of your Excel file (which contains the column names) and click Sort & Filter > Filter.
  • Filter your spreadsheet by Start Date and Time, sorting Oldest to Newest.

It should look something like this:

Dynamic ways to view the schedule

My family needed to arrange the virtual shiva quickly so I didn’t have time to figure out a way to sync Calendly with a tool that would give others in my family a real-time view of who was attending when.

However, if I had more time, I would have explored the following options, which you might want to look into:

  • Zapier lets you integrate a lot of online platforms. I’m sure there’s a way to set up Calendly to automatically update a shared Google Sheet with the list of who is attending during specific time slots.
  • Calendly lets you sync with a calendar (such as Outlook or Google Calendar). There might be a way to sync this event to the digital calendar tool you use and then share that calendar with family.

What to Do on the Day of the Shiva

The key to handling everything on the day of the shiva was to think two steps ahead. Here’s how I did that.

Start the Zoom meeting early

I recommend starting the Zoom meeting at least 15 minutes early to make sure settings are configured the way you want. You may also want the family to join a bit early, too.

You’ll generally be fine with the defaults, but there are a few specific settings I recommend setting up once you’ve started the meeting.

Participant settings

To see the participant settings options, you’ll need to click “Manage Participants” in the menu that appears when you hover over your Zoom screen. 

This will display the “Participants” panel. If you’re the only one on the call so far, it might only list your name. At the bottom of the panel, there should be a few buttons. Click on the “...” option.

Make sure the following items are checked:

  • Mute participants on entry (so people don’t accidentally interrupt as they join).
  • Allow participants to unmute themselves.
  • Allow participants to rename themselves.
  • Enable waiting room — this is important.
Share screen settings

To manage the screen sharing settings, click on the caret next to the “Share Screen” button on the menu that appears when you hover over the Zoom screen. Then click “Advanced Sharing Options.”

Set “Who can share?” to “Only Host.” This will prevent people from accidentally sharing their screens and taking over the meeting. Unfortunately, that happened a few times during our virtual funeral, so we wanted to avoid that for the shiva.

Manage the waiting room 

When someone joins the Zoom event, they’ll be placed in the waiting room (assuming you turned this on when configuring the recommended settings). This allows you to control how many people are participating on the call at any given time.

The host is responsible for letting people into the meeting from the waiting room when it is their time to visit. Depending on the flow of your event, you can make people wait until their time slot or let people in as they show up (if it seems like a good time given the conversations taking place at that time). 

To see the waiting room, you’ll need to click “Manage Participants” in the menu that appears when you hover over your Zoom screen.

This will show you a panel with a list of everyone in the waiting room and everyone currently participating on the call.

If you are ready to admit someone from the waiting room, hover over their name and click the “Admit” button that appears.

If you ever need to message a group that is in the waiting room, click the “Message” button. They won’t be able to respond, but you can use this to say something like, “Thank you for joining us! We’ll let you into the meeting soon once some other guests leave. We appreciate your patience.”

Also, be sure to compare the names of the people in the waiting room against those who signed up on Calendly. Be cautious about admitting anyone you don’t know.

Help participants with technical difficulties

Virtual meetings are new for many people, so some guests might not be familiar with how Zoom works. Common situations you might need to help guests with are:

  • Sending them details to dial in by phone if their computer audio doesn’t work.
  • Unmuting participants who can’t figure out how to do that themselves.
  • Muting participants who have a lot of background noise and don’t realize they should mute themselves.
  • Renaming participants so other guests know who they are.

To do any of these things, hover over the name of the participant in the participant list and you’ll see a “More” button. You’ll see a list of actions you can take related to that participant.

Facilitate the flow of the event

You may find that guests come and go at a cadence that means you don’t have to ask people to leave. However, if you have a large group visiting with you and a lot of people waiting in the waiting room, you may need to kindly ask the current group of guests to share any final thoughts and stories and say goodbye so others can join. Most guests understand!

Facilitating the event also means letting folks know when the minyan is about to start and when the family wants to wrap things up for the day. 

Use Zoom’s chat feature

Zoom offers a chat feature that lets you chat with other participants on the call. You can chat with everyone or with specific individuals. You’ll likely want to make use of this feature for two main purposes:

Communicate with family

If you need to touch base with other family members about something but don’t want to interrupt the conversation, the chat tool is a great way to ask them your questions. For example, I used it to request that my dad take over hosting for a bit. I also used it to ask my mom to remind me how a participant was related to the family.

Communicate with specific guests

Sometimes guests would attend at a busy time. If there was someone super chatty in the room, they might be sitting quietly for a while, unable to find a break in the conversation to express their condolences.

I’ll be honest with you, I felt really bad when this happened to people. But it’s part of the awkwardness of an online shiva! 

To address these situations, my family and I would use the chat feature to privately message these attendees to acknowledge we saw them and thank them for coming. I would often apologize that they hadn’t yet had a chance to speak and let them know that just seeing them there meant a lot to me. The chat feature gave us a chance to connect with guests along with the main conversation.

Record the shiva

My family did not choose to record the shiva. However, if you want to capture the kind words and stories people share, you can click the “Record” button in the Zoom menu. Just be sure to let participants know they were being recorded.

Hosting the Virtual Minyan Service

We held a virtual minyan service for my grandfather. Here’s how it worked.

Preparing for the online minyan service

To host an online minyan service, you’ll need someone to lead the prayers and a digital prayer book. Someone from our temple volunteered to lead the service and also had a PDF version of the prayers to use. 

Encourage everyone who wants to participate in the minyan to join the Zoom call a few minutes before you plan to begin. You may find that more people want to join than the number of sign-ups you’ve permitted on Calendly. If you know that folks want to join the minyan, you can send them instructions for how to join the Zoom call.

Right before the minyan service

About five minutes before minyan begins, announce to everyone in the meeting that the prayer service will start soon. That way, folks have a chance to say their goodbyes if they don’t wish to participate. At this time, you’ll also want to turn on screen sharing for participants.

Do this by clicking the caret next to the “Share Screen” and then setting “Who can share?” to “All participants.”

During the minyan service

Let the minyan leader share his screen so that everyone can see the prayer book. Give attendees a couple of minutes to adjust how the PDF appears on their screen (they can control how zoomed in it is). 

Once your minyan is ready, have the leader begin the prayer service. Note that people will often sing and read aloud out of sync, but it’s okay. I found that overall it worked well. (You may just need the minyan leader to give everyone a few extra seconds to finish each prayer before moving onto the next part of the service.)

Final Thoughts on Virtual Shivas

A virtual shiva takes a bit of work to organize, but I found it brought my family a lot of comfort to see our family, friends, and community show up to support us during a difficult time. Many guests also commented that they appreciated the opportunity to show their support in this way. 

The virtual shiva allowed us to include friends and family who otherwise would not have made it to the funeral and shiva, so I can see how families might want to incorporate a virtual shiva into more traditional Jewish mourning practices, even after the pandemic.

If you have additional ideas and recommendations for how to host a virtual shiva, please share them with us in our forum discussion.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.