A Woman Breaks with Jewish Tradition to Honor Her Late Father in This Moving Memoir of Faith, Grief, and Transformation

by May 13, 2022News and Events, Sarah Birnbach

“Walking slowly from my father’s grave, I began an eleven-month journey that meant structuring my life around reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish in synagogue every day, twice a day, no matter what. I became an avelah (female mourner), undertaking the traditional male role of praying to elevate my father’s soul to Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden; paradise in the afterlife), with no idea of the challenges awaiting me…”

Releasing just in time for the Jewish holiday season, A Daughter’s Kaddish recounts Sarah Birnbach’s year-long odyssey to persevere through an unfamiliar world of Jewish prayer and chart a course without a roadmap. A novice worshipper and single working mother, Sarah’s obstacles were many—including vehement objections to her recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish because of her gender, her own daughter’s near-fatal car accident, an incident that tore her synagogue apart, and her own mother’s hostility and dismissiveness.

To honor her beloved father, Sarah commits to saying Kaddish twice a day in synagogue for eleven months, as is stipulated by her religion. Sarah attempts to incorporate these new 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.

About Sarah Birnbach:
Sarah Birnbach embarked on her encore career as a writer in 2015 after successful careers as a human resource management consultant and a licensed clinical social worker. She is a five-time award winner from the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, a program of the National League of American Pen Women, and a two-time award winner in Bethesda Magazine’s essay contest. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and professional journals. An active member of the Women’s National Book Association, she lives in Rockville, Maryland. Learn more at: sarahbirnbach.com

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