How we challenged convention without challenging hallachah
I HAVE valued working with Jacqui Zinkin to develop our booklet which encourages women to say Kaddish. Her work in this area epitomises the approach of US Women, challenging convention without challenging halachah.
Juda- ism is unparalleled in setting up ways to grieve. It prescribes how we should bury our dead and gives us a structure by which we can grieve a close relative’s death. Yet, after women have risen from the week of shivah, during which halachah has embraced them in a comforting ceremony for a full week, their male relatives might spend the rest of the year with the comforting routine of attending services and saying Kaddish. Yet a woman who may also need that routine to find comfort has not always found it so easily.
Jacqui’s rabbi at Golders Green Synagogue, Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, gave her guidelines and assistance for saying Kaddish. From that point forward, she started looking after her needs as a mourner. In the last year, US Women, and the US Living & Learning Department have published guidelines for women to say Kaddish with the guidance of the Chief Rabbi who has been an advocate for encouraging the practice.
It is our responsibility as lay leaders to ensure that all mourners feel confident and secure enough to be able to grieve in an appropriate way. For Jacqui, this is a bittersweet moment, in which her own loss set her on a path which will ultimately provide for other women to mourn in a fulfilling way.
This is powerful evidence of the United Synagogue and the Chief Rabbi looking to find ways to provide for the spiritual well-being of women within the boundaries of halachah. Ilana Epstein is a United Synagogue Living & Learning educator and is the rebbetzin of Cockfosters and N. Southgate