Four years ago while sitting Shiva 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 neighborhoods honoring the Jewish tradition of providing food for the bereaved.
“It got so bad that my son had to call the deli to tell them to stop delivering them. Then 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 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 name of the deceased and visitors can easily find links to make online memorial donations, and a zip code search lists the nearest deli and florist to the bereaved family. There’s also a Yahrzeit email alert reminding mourners to honor the memory of the deceased on the anniversary of their death.
The aim of the website is to avoid duplications, inundating the bereaved family with things they don’t need and phone calls.
The website has gaining a national audience. To date, it has received more than 100,000 visits. Funeral homes, hospices and temples around the country recommend the registry or list it on their 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 Family Valley Jewish Congregation in Simsbury, Conn.
Rosen , who lives in Boca Raton Fla, used her own money to start the website and spent long hours and nights researching and learning the various rituals surrounding sitting Shiva. There are helpful hints ranging from help with planning a Jewish funeral and burial to how many chairs and tables are needed for Shiva.
A reform Jew, Rosen never sat Shiva until her mother, Sharon’s Dorothy Kurlander, passed way at age 81 in Florida. Looking back she sees that the website helped her deal with her mother’s loss.
As she researched items for the website she came to a deep understanding of the rituals surrounding sitting Shiva, the Jewish period of mourning observed for seven days after a funeral and usually held at the home of the closest of kin.
“I’m not a particularly religious person but at the time of death rituals are comforting,” she said. “Before ShivaConnect. I had no idea why we covered mirrors.”
Samuel Green with Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home in Fairfield, Conn hands out ShivaConnect information cards when planning a funeral. 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 service that lists what food has been delivered to the family from the local deli.
“Sometimes, people think a family has enough food and they don’t order any but they really don’t. It’s strange either you are either inundated with food or you don’t have enough,” Green said.
Rosen said the website is also helpful to non Jews looking to support Jewish friends. And because not all Jewish people mourn alike, there are resources for every branch of f Judaism.
“I hope it brings help to people,” Rosen said.