Question: Is it appropriate to send flowers or a card to an unveiling?
A good friend of mine, who was Jewish, died about a year ago. His unveiling is at the end of Dec. this year. Not being familiar with Jewish tradition, I need a little help: Would it be appropriate for me to send flowers or a card to the family? I won't be able to go to the cemetery for the ceremony and am wondering, if I send something, should it go to the family's address or the cemetery. Thank you for any help you may provide.
Answer: Dear Marc
Thanks for your question.
You ask about Jewish traditions concerning an unveiling.
Unveilings are actually a relatively recent addition to the Jewish rituals around death and mourning. The practice of a ceremonial presentation of the gravestone about a year after death is an invention of the American Jewish community, no more than a century old. For this reason, there is little in the way of "official" Jewish law concerning the practice.
In general, Jews do not send or receive flowers as a sign of mourning or condolence. This is particularly true at funerals, where flowers are regarded as wasteful and inappropriate.
You indicate that you will not be able to join the family of your friend for the unveiling and would like to know an appropriate way of expressing your sympathy. I recommend a letter or note mailed to the family in time to be received before the unveiling.
Also, it is considered very appropriate in Jewish tradition to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause in honor of the deceased, particularly to a cause that was dear to your friend. Most organizations will provide a notice to the family to let them know that the gift has been received in honor of their loved one.
I hope this is helpful.
Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser