“May their memory be for a blessing.”

This is a common phrase used in the Jewish community when comforting those who have recently lost loved ones. However, those mourning, and their friends and family, often want to put those words into action, and find tangible ways to commemorate their loved one’s memory.

Whether mourners are familiar with Jewish customs or they are attending a Jewish funeral for the first time, it can still be tricky to figure out what to give, donate, or do in order to memorialize the dead. They may turn to funeral directors or clergy for advice and guidance on what is appropriate in accordance with Jewish customs.

Here is a look at some common ways mourners can honor and commemorate the deceased, while keeping in line with Jewish traditions.

Donating Books

One way to honor someone who has passed is to donate something in their memory. In Jewish culture, the act of donating or providing charity work is called Tzedakah, so this word may be used when mourners are referencing ways to commemorate a loved one.

A donation of books to a place that was meaningful to the deceased is a great way to commemorate them. This is especially true if the deceased was a lover of literature. Places that can always use books include Jewish schools, synagogues, or retirement homes. Organizations you can point mourners to for more information include the Jewish Coalition for Literacy – which offers insight on donating books or organizing a book drive, or PJ Library – which provides free books to children.

Donating Money

Making a financial donation is also a common practice within the Jewish tradition. If mourners are not sure where monetary donations should go, funeral directors and clergy can encourage them to think about places that were important to the deceased, or perhaps an organization that supports or funds research into the illness or ailment that caused their death. Often, loved ones will also list donation information within the deceased’s obituary or the funeral service pamphlet.

Providing Meals

Food can be a form of comfort to those grieving, and it is customary for friends and family to bring meals to the mourning household. Most often, people will organize the delivery of food trays for the Shiva – the seven day period of formal mourning for the dead. For those unsure of what to order or where to procure the right amount of food, funeral directors can point them to sites such as shiva.com, which provide information on what to select and allow users to order and deliver meals directly to the mourning family.

Gifting Plaques and Yahrzeit Walls

Yahrzeit is the Jewish tradition of honoring loved ones who have passed away on the anniversary of their death. Oftentimes, synagogues have Yahrzeit Walls, which display the names of those who have passed. Gifting a plaque for a Yahrzeit Wall is a beautiful way for family and friends to honor the deceased. Encourage those seeking to give a plaque to do so on the anniversary of the loved one’s death.

Planting Trees

The planting of trees is a common Jewish tradition for a variety of occasions – from happy to somber. Planting a tree to commemorate a loved one who has died is a way for their memory to live on after the funeral and Shiva period is complete. It also speaks to the circle of life; when one being leaves the earth, another starts its life. Oftentimes a fruit tree is planted, because of the symbolism in the tree providing nourishment to future generations.

Planting a tree in Israel is especially meaningful, because Israel is considered both a spiritual and religious homeland for Judaism. Shiva.com has partnered with the leading tree planting organization dedicated to reforestation of the land of Israel, Jewish National Fund, to continue the tradition and legacy of planting trees in the holy land.

For those looking to make an extra impact, Shiva.com offers Yizkor Memorial subscriptions. This service allows mourners to honor the memory of their loved ones quarterly, by planting three, five or 10 trees and receiving a certificate during each of the four Yizkor holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

There is No Wrong Way to Commemorate a Loved One

Funeral directors and clergy serve wide-ranging roles, and that includes guiding families on ways to commemorate the lives of their loved ones. Whether donating, planting a tree, sending food, or just lending a hand, mourners will feel the love of their friends and family, no matter how they choose to memorialize them.

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