Henrietta Szold on Saying Kaddish
Jewish tradition is filled with rituals that help us mark moments of joy and pain, and through which we can honor family members and the values they have passed on to us. Among these are powerful practices around death—such as saying Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for mourners) and sitting shiva. Traditionally, women did not recite the Kaddish or participate in the minyan (prayer quorum) at shiva. In 1916, in an early example of what would be many challenges by women to the restrictions on their participation in Jewish ritual, Henrietta Szold (the founder of Hadassah) defied Jewish tradition and asserted her right to say Kaddish. In the letter featured in this edition of "Go & Learn," Szold politely declines the offer of a male family friend to say Kaddish for her mother and sets out her reasons for reciting it herself.
- Henrietta Szold challenged the traditional restrictions placed on women in Jewish communal and spiritual life.
- Henrietta Szold's life and career proved both a model and a catalyst for transforming and redefining possibilities for women in Jewish communal life.
- What are the reasons that Henrietta Szold cites in her letter to explain why she can’t allow a male family friend to say Kaddish for her mother?
- Through her letter, what statement(s) does Henrietta Szold make about the role of women in Jewish religious life?
- For youth:
Mourner's Kaddish: Honoring the Dead and Comforting Mourners
- For family/congregational education:
From Generation to Generation: Honoring Family Memory
- For adults:
Confronting Tradition & Honoring Memories: Three Jewish Women in Mourning
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Henrietta Szold on Saying Kaddish." (Viewed on January 17, 2021) <https://jwa.org/teach/golearn/feb06>.