Paying for food at Memorial Service
So, I'm not sure if this is normal, as I am not Jewish, but here it is.
My boss's best friend's grandmother died. Best friend told boss that Harris Teeter (in VA, I am in CO) is providing food for the memorial service, at the best friend's aunt's home. Boss was told that instead of sending flowers, they are requesting people help contribute to the food cost. When I called Harris Teeter nobody knew what I was even talking about, and they told me to call back tomorrow.
I'm just wondering, is this a normal thing for Jewish services, to have people contribute to the food cost? I know in the past we had my grandmother's post-memorial service get together at our house, but it was sort of a pot luck kind of thing where everyone from church (Protestant non-denominational) brought dishes that they made.
Not in my experience, no. Gifts of food for the family sitting shiva are definitely welcome - similar to your pot luck tradition - but asking people to help bankroll the memorial service? Never heard of such a thing.
That's pretty much how it's done. People either bring food or have something sent to the home, the idea being that the immediate family is grieving and too distraught to prepare meals for themselves and certainly not able to prepare food for visitors paying their condolences. In more modern times the family might have an initial spread catered for just after the funeral but after that they usually subsist for about a week on food brought by those who bring or send something to the home.
"In more modern times the family might have an initial spread catered for just after the funeral but after that they usually subsist for about a week on food brought by those who bring or send something to the home."
I suspect when the situation is made clear, a rather typical comment ("Harris Teeter is going to be taking care of the food immediately after the funeral service") morphed into a perceived request for people to contribute to the cost of that meal. Harris Teeter is in no position to handle the administrative details of taking contributions from lots of individuals and applying that to someone's bill.
More likely, the request for food was to deal with the need to feed many people if the mouring family will be receiving visitors for the one week period following the funeral.
Since the Harris Teeter situation probably isn't real, here's my suggestion: Check to see if there's a Balducci's grocery store in the vicinity of the aunt's house. (The DC/Baltimore board can help with your search if the "VA" is in the Northern VA area.) This grocery chain has a nice catering department and will deliver.
Show your boss the online catering menu and order something to be delivered a day or so after the funeral itself. Here's the link to the online menu:
Maybe among members of a family it's acceptable to take up a collection, but it's unusual. People usually bring something to eat, or order something to have delivered. You could end up with a lot more food than you want this way, as I imagine people will already be planning to bring stuff.
Oh, and bring food only. No flowers.
EDIT: It occurs to me that maybe the family in VA is expecting the Harris-Teeter catering order. Are you able to call the family?
My guess is that the family of the deceased doesn't have the means to pay for the catering costs, because this is not the normal thing for Jewish families (or those of any other religion) that I know. Perhaps there will be a basket for contributing at the house where they are sitting shiva?