Local women reflect on saying Kaddish

June 22, 2014

by Johanna GinsbergKaddish: Womens Voices

For a long time, E.M. Broner’s 1994 work, Mornings and Mourning, was the lone women’s voice in the literature on reciting Kaddish. Over the last two decades, that has slowly begun to change.

With the publication last November of Kaddish: Women’s Voices, an anthology by Michal Smart and Barbara Ashkenas, the void has been filled by a range of women with different backgrounds, each with a unique story surrounding her commitment to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, even in communities where some see the act as obligatory for men, and suspect among women.

Two of the entries in the collection, which won a National Jewish Book Award in March, come from local women.

For Rabbi Esther Reed of Highland Park, saying Kaddish for her father involved the conflict between remaining authentic and true to herself, while maintaining sensitivity and respect for those in her charge as senior associate director at Rutgers University Hillel.

As a person in mourning, she needed a daily minyan to say Kaddish. But she did not want to disrupt the daily minyan at Rutgers or cause offense among the Orthodox students who attend. “I recognized that the morning minyan was an Orthodox service, where students were not used to seeing a woman in tallit andtefillin,” writes Reed, a Conservative rabbi. “I didn’t want to threaten students who felt that the Orthodox community at Hillel was their ‘home.’”

She continued, “I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I just wanted to say Kaddish.” In the end, she devised a compromise: praying with the tallit and tefillin in a staff member’s office, with a view of the minyan, before joining the Orthodox worshippers to say Kaddish for her father.  Read the rest of this entry »