From Generation to Generation: Honoring Family Memory
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From Generation to Generation: Honoring Family Memory

grades:  High School (9-12) 

Lesson Summary:

It used to be that only men could say Kaddish for their family members, and because women were not counted in a minyan (the ten people who need to come together to say public prayers like the Kaddish), they also were not allowed to say the Kaddish for their loved ones. Explore this letter from Henrietta Szold to learn more about why some people choose to make new traditions or break the traditional roles in their communities. Discover the motivations and ideas behind the Mourner s Kaddish prayer and other Jewish rituals around death and dying.

Enduring Understandings:

1. Judaism has various rituals that comfort those who are mourning the death of a loved one.
2. As with many Jewish traditions, mourning is both an individual and community-based experience.
3. Carrying on traditions from those who have passed away, or acting on ideals that they held as important, comfort us and help us feel closer to family members we have lost.
4. Community helps build a support for those weakened by loss, allowing mourners to ease into a new way of living with the loss.

Essential Questions:

1. How do the Jewish rituals around mourning and death comfort those who have lost a loved one?
2. What is the role of community in Jewish mourning rituals?
3. What traditions do we carry on from family members who have passed away? Why?

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


(available via link in procedures section, below)

  • White/chalkboard or butcher paper and chalk/markers
  • costume for actor/volunteer playing Henrietta Szold
  • printed copies of Henrietta Szold s letter to Haym Peretz
  • paper
  • pens/pencils


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

• Participants will know how and when Mourner s Kaddish is used in Judaism.
• Students will be able to articulate their own ideas about the purposes that mourning rituals serve.
• Participants will be able to explain how Szold s actions were related to her mother s values.
• Participants will share traditions that are important to them, and the meaning behind carrying on those traditions.


Lesson Contributors

The Jewish Women’s Archive is a national public history organization dedicated to telling the stories of Jewish women and inspiring change and inclusivity in communities everywhere. The collections and encyclopedia on invite learners of all ages to connect with role models from history and today. Nearly 100 lesson plans for kids, families, and adults help Jewish educators weave stories about identity and activism into programs about Jewish values, holidays, and ritual. And, JWA’s professional development programs and trainings encourage educators to connect with one another to create new ways of engaging the communities they serve. As we say at JWA, “You cannot be what you cannot see,” so check us out anytime, anywhere, at



Prayers and Blessingsmore