Question: Would it be appropriate to get a gift for my Jewish friend in mourning?
A friend's mother died recently. Is there an appropriate mourning / memorial gift in the Jewish tradition? My first thought was to get him a tree or plant--something that would be a living tribute to his mother.
Thank you, Karen
Answer: Dear Karen,
Thank you for writing, and your friend is very fortunate to have a friend such as you.
The tradition teaches that after the funeral we "sit shivah" and mourn for a week in the home, receiving friends and relatives in addition to conducting services.
There is a custom of bringing food for the mourners to eat on the assumption that they are not taking care of themselves. Today, very often the synagogue or friends via a local kosher caterer will provide for various meals. I should note that very often so much food is sent that it either goes bad or be given to a food pantry - although it speaks of a great deal of love and caring from others for the family.
Your idea of a tree or trees is very traditional, and you can contact the Jewish National Fund and plant as many trees in Israel as you wish in her memory, and certificates will be sent to your friend.
In addition, often the family will designate a preferred charity, such as a scholarship fund in the synagogue for young people.
You might check with your friend and although she may protest, you can nonetheless persist in finding out from her or one of her other friends her preferences. What will clearly emerge is your affection and respect for her and her loss, and in that caring and relationship she will no doubt find her greatest healing.
God bless you for your thoughtfulness.