Mourner's Kaddish: Honoring the Dead and Comforting Mourners
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Mourner's Kaddish: Honoring the Dead and Comforting Mourners

Lesson Summary:

Jewish tradition is filled with rituals that help us mark moments of joy and sorrow. Through these rituals, we honor family and friends as well as 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, 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" from the Jewish Women's Archive, 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.

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. One can stay true to one's beliefs and traditions, even when these practices conflict with the norms of one's community.

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. How do individuals reconcile the differences between their personal beliefs and the traditions or norms of their community?

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


(accessible via link below, in "procedure" section)

  • Copies of Henrietta Szold's letter
  • paper
  • pens/pencils
  • Schindler's List clip
  • computer or DVD player for clip
  • projecter
  • white board or butcher paper


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

  • Students 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. 
  • Students will be able to identify a time when their values came into conflict with the values of another person or a larger community of which they are a part. 
  • Students will be able to identify strategies for respectfully balancing one's own spiritual/religious needs with the conflicting norms of one's community.


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