How to Act
Entering the House
In the traditional sense, visitors making a shiva call customarily enter the house in a quiet and non-intrusive manner. Find guidance on what you may encounter when first arriving at the shiva home, along with appropriate ways to enter the apartment or house.
Refrain from Initiating Conversation
Uncharacteristic to usual interactions, visitors are typically to avoid initiating conversations with others making a shiva call and should generally listen and offer support when engaged. This is a time for mourners to express their thoughts and feelings, and only when invited for conversation should the visitor engage. This seems counter to what and generally feels appropriate, but it is based on the principles of Jewish mourning.
Attention to Atmosphere
Visitors should pay close attention to the atmosphere of the shiva house, because this will help guide them on what is and is not appropriate behavior. In many instances, visitors will find that there are casual conversations, small talk and side discussions. It is important to be careful not to offend and adhere to the customs and rituals that are being followed by the mourners.
It is customary and a long-standing tradition for friends, extended family and the Jewish community to provide food for the mourners. The meals are traditionally only intended for the mourners and not for individuals making a shiva call; however, it is quite common today for all to partake in the food. Depending on the time you visit a shiva house, it is very common to see tables with traditional foods along with trays of baked goods, as well as areas set up with beverages. Visitors should be mindful of the surroundings and recognize if it is proper to consume anything. It is extremely uncommon to remove food from a shiva house unless it is being disposed of or donated to a charity. This is common both in the traditional and less traditional shiva households.