Turning to Zoom, people adapt funerals to social gathering restrictions

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put much of life on hold. But what’s continuing are family traditions, both joyful and somber.

Lori Shapiro, Rabbi at The Open Temple in Venice, says one of her board members called in great distress because her father died in hospital, and her mother was not allowed to be by her husband’s bedside. In fact, according to Shapiro, the mother was “shamed” by hospital staff for wanting to be in the room with her husband.

Also, Shaykh Mustafa Umar, an Imam with the Islamic Institute of Orange County, says his community is very distressed about how to conduct funerals right now.

 The Muslim burial typically brings together family, friends, and the wider community to mourn. There’s also the Catholic wake, and the Jewish practice of sitting shiva. 

Rabbi Lori explains that since people aren’t allowed to gather in groups of more than 10, the traditional shiva is not possible. They can’t gather a minyan – that’s at least 10 Jewish adults, traditionally males – who recite prayers. 

So, enter Zoom, the online video and audio chat platform.

Rabbi Lori says that on the second night of her boardmember’s father’s shiva, she’ll officiate a Zoom conference shiva. That means family members of this man, who are on the East Coast, will gather in a virtual space with Rabbi Lori, who is in Los Angeles.