Checklists: Preparing for a Shiva

Keeping the customs of a Jewish burial and sitting shiva can be a meticulous task. Here is a checklist to help assist in the decisions made at a difficult time.

This Checklist on “Preparing for a Shiva” has a corresponding Essential under the same title. The Essential will give you assistance on how to fill out the Checklist. Together, they will guide you through situations that often occur during a time of loss.

For a comprehensive resource related to planning a shiva and Jewish mourning, please visit

Early Preparations

  • What is the choice of cemetery?
  • What is the choice of casket?
  • Will flowers be encouraged?
  • Will donations to a charity be encouraged?
  • Who should be chosen to speak?
  • What Scriptures and/or songs should be used?
  • Has contact been made with Hevra Kadisha?

Before and Immediately Following the Death

  • If individual passes away at work, contact 911 and report death.
  • If individual was under medical care, contact primary care physician.
  • Follow instructions if individual was an organ donor.
  • To plan the funeral, you will need individual’s Social Security number, date and place of birth, family member names.

Telling the News to Others

  • Inform, in person if possible, closest family members
  • Make list of intermediate family and friends to contact
  • Delegate family members to make phone calls. Avoid texts and emails.
  • Make list of work place, organizations, charities and synagogues that need to be contacted. Pass list on to delegated family members for phone calls.

Planning the Funeral

  • Decide who will conduct the service. Communicate with Herva Kadish to coordinate efforts.
  • Consult with officiant regarding the eulogy and participation of family.
  • Estimate the number of attendees.
  • Consult with funeral home regarding service locations for both eulogy and burial. Decide if chapel and/or gravesite service will be best.


  • If the individual had a pre-arranged burial and funeral plan, follow the instructions.
  • Appoint pall-bearers.
  • If the individual owned a tallit (prayer shawl), decide if it should be buried or given to the family.
  • Consider clothing, cosmetics, hair style for preparing the body for burial.

Sudat Hav’Ra’ah

  • If family is observing this custom, make arrangements for light meal for mourners who will not participate.
  • Make small map or directions to the family home.
  • Place pitcher of water, basin and towel outside the front door of home.

Preparing for Shiva

  • Decide where, when and at what times you will sit shiva. Post times on door.
  • Note times that will be reserved for family and times that will be open to visitors.
  • Coordinate meals for the family through shiva.
  • Set up and prepare the shiva house. For a detailed checklist, consult the Shiva Preparation Checklist available at Click here to view a detailed Shiva Preparation Checklist.
  • To create a custom Shiva Planning Checklist on eCondolence click here.

Other Items

  • If individual was a veteran, contact local post. Have individual’s discharge papers.
  • Place an obituary in the local or Jewish newspapers.
  • Designate a charitable organization(s) for donations in honor of the loved one.
  • Arrange for transportation and housing of family members, if necessary