A Daughter’s Kaddish by Sarah Birnbach
My Year of Grief, Devotion, and Healing
A woman breaks with Jewish tradition to honor her late father in this moving memoir of faith, grief, and transformation.
A Daughter’s Kaddish recounts Sarah Birnbach’s year-long odyssey to persevere through an unfamiliar world of Jewish prayer. To honor her beloved father, Sarah commits to reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish twice a day in synagogue for eleven months—a Jewish mourning ritual that was historically reserved for sons—despite her father’s initial request that she hire someone male to do so. A novice worshipper and single working mother, Sarah encountered many obstacles—including gender-based objections to her prayer practice, her own daughter’s near-fatal car accident, an incident that tore her synagogue apart, and her mother’s dismissiveness.
Sarah incorporates these religious and spiritual practices into her already hectic 21st-century life while struggling with the heavy emotional distress of grief. As she travels the country for work, Sarah must find a synagogue where she can pray in each city and town she visits, a challenge that brings many surprises—and upsets. Throughout her year of devotion, Sarah takes comfort in the loving memories of her childhood while at the same time grappling with some very painful ones—ultimately discovering how the path of faith and grief can lead to true healing.
Year first published: 2022