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Sympathy Etiquette

Expressing your condolences at a time of loss is a very personal matter. While Jewish tradition does not encourage the sending of flowers, it is perfectly acceptable to express your sympathy in other ways. The most important thing is to be sincere, be thoughtful, and to keep the needs of the bereaved in your mind.

A charitable contribution is a meaningful way to express your condolences, and the family will often suggest a cause that was close to the heart of the deceased. If no suggestion is made, use what you know about the deceased to choose a worthy cause. You may make a contribution to Hospice, if the family received Hospice care, or send a gift to the American Cancer Society in memory of someone who died of cancer, for example. You may make a donation to a local children’s organization in honor of someone who was devoted to children, or to the deceased’s place of worship.

A lasting memorial is another way you can honor the deceased. Many park departments, civic, art and historical organizations can offer you ideas. You might plant a tree, donate a park bench, buy library books, or purchase a nameplate or brick as sponsorship of a community project.

The gift of your time is one that family will always remember. Offer specific ways in which you can help. Ask the family if you may pick up visitors at the airport, and/or provide transportation for out-of-town guests to and from the funeral services; offer to bring in food; volunteer to answer the phone and the door, and keep a record of calls and visits; offer to help with household chores; provide childcare assistance if needed; run errands…even getting stamps for thank you cards becomes overwhelming at a time like this.

Any act of kindness that can ease this difficult time will be greatly appreciated.

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