WINNER of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award
in the category of
Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice
Edited by Michal Smart
Conceived by Barbara Ashkenas
Published by Urim Publications
Hardcover, 271 pages
For centuries, Jews have turned to the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer
upon experiencing a loss. This groundbreaking book explores
what the recitation of Kaddish has meant specifically to women. Did
they find the consolation, closure, and community they were seeking?
How did saying Kaddish affect their relationships with God, with prayer,
with the deceased, and with the living?
With courage and generosity, 52 authors from around the world reflect
upon their experiences of mourning. They share their relationships with
the family members they lost and what it meant to move on, how they
struggled to balance the competing demands of childrearing, work,
and grief, what they learned about tradition and themselves, and the
disappointments and particular challenges they confronted as
The collection shares viewpoints from diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and explores what it means to heal from loss and to honor
memory in family relationships, both loving and fraught with pain. It is a precious record of women searching for their place within
Jewish tradition, and exploring the connections that make human life worthwhile.
Michal Smart teaches widely on Jewish texts and philosophy, with a focus on Jewish women. A
Fulbright scholar in Jewish Thought, Michal received her A.B. from Princeton University
in Religion and an M.S. from Cornell. She is also an alumna of the Wexner Graduate
Fellowship, the Melton Senior Educators Program at Hebrew University, and Machon
Pardes. Earlier, Michal pioneered Jewish outdoor and environmental education
in the U.S. She is a founder of the TEVA Learning Center and co-author of Spirit in
Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail (Behrman House, 2000). Michal lives
in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband, James, and their five children.
Barbara Ashkenas received her B.A. in early childhood education from Ohio State University,
and a Master’s in Art Education from Manhattanville College. She has been
professionally involved in the arts for over thirty years. Earlier in her career, as a
freelance calligrapher, she crafted Ketubot, logos and invitations. More recently, as an
arts educator, she conducts seminars for staff development on the integration of the arts
into Jewish educational settings. Barbara has served as the Educational Outreach
Coordinator at the Stamford Center for the Arts, and as an Adjunct Professor of
Art Education at Housatonic Community College. Barbara also participated in the
Drisha Arts Fellowship program in New York City. Barbara is an active member of
Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut where she is a founding
member of the Women’s Tefillah Group. She and her husband, Ron, are blessed with three
adult children Eli, Shira and Ari, daughterin-law Rebecca and son-in-law Elie, as well
as three adorable grandchildren, Noam, Mori and Eitan.
Praise for Kaddish, Women's Voices:
"Kaddish, Women's Voices is a deeply moving anthology of women who have loved
and lost and prayed. The essays it contains are short in length but long in wisdom,
consolation, and comfort. I have never had to say Kaddish, thank God, but when my
turn comes, I will open this book again."
– Erica Brown, author of Happier Endings
"The 52 essays in this book give women a voice and a place. Each one is a prize. We are
all enriched by this volume."
– Ari L. Goldman, author of Living a Year of Kaddish and The Search for God at Harvard
"This is a groundbreaking work! Women are newly coming to Kaddish, with a selfconsciousness
and introspection that demonstrate the power of ritual to connect us
to our innermost self. I got teary-eyed in so many places, but I also laughed out loud
in others. This book will surely help make a practice that is just coming into its own
become a fixed ritual for all time."
– Blu Greenberg
"Kaddish, Women's Voices is a warm, personal invitation into the sisterhood of mourners.
Reciting Kaddish has altered the lives of these women, and now the lives of the readers
of this collection. Deeply moving and inspiring."
– Aliza Kline, Founding Director of Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh
"A tribute to the ability of contemporary women to find meaning in an age-old custom
and strengthen it further in our time."
– Hadassah Lieberman
"This is a most important book. Great halakhic decisors like my revered teacher, Rabbi
Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt"l, have ruled that women may recite the Mourner’s Kaddish
from the women’s section of the synagogue – even if a woman is the only one reciting
it. This is fundamentally because the obligation to honor one’s parents applies to
women just as it does to men. Hopefully, this book will raise the consciousness of many
Orthodox congregations to welcome with warmth women who enter their portals for
– Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
"Saying Kaddish is not only a personal act to honor the dead; it is also a communal
experience that uplifts the mourner. This moving anthology should inspire other women to
take advantage of this enriching halakhic opportunity."
– Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky, Yeshivah of Flatbush, author of Women, Jewish Law and Modernity
"A new book by Michal Smart and Barbara Ashkenas, “Kaddish, Women’s Voices” (Urim) belongs on the table."
-Sandee Brawarsky, The NY Jewish Week