A Daughter’s Kaddish
Title: A Daughter's Kaddish: My Year of Grief, Devotion, and Healing
Published by: Wonderwell
Release Date: September 27, 2022
A woman breaks with Jewish tradition to honor her late father in this moving memoir of faith, grief, and transformation.
A Daughter’s Kaddish recounts Sarah Birnbach’s year-long odyssey to persevere through an unfamiliar world of Jewish prayer and chart a course without a road map. A novice worshipper and single working mother, Sarah encountered many obstacles—including vehement objections to her recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish because of her gender, her own daughter’s near-fatal car accident, an incident that tore her synagogue apart, and her mother’s hostility and dismissiveness.
To honor her beloved father, Sarah commits to saying Kaddish twice a day in synagogue for eleven months, as is stipulated by her religion. Sarah attempts to incorporate these new religious and spiritual practices into her already hectic twenty-first-century life while struggling with the heavy emotional distress of grief. As she travels the country for work, Sarah must find a synagogue where she can pray in each city and town she visits, a challenge that brings many surprises—and upsets. Throughout her year of devotion, Sarah takes comfort in the loving memories of her childhood while at the same time grappling with some very painful ones—ultimately discovering how the path of faith and grief can lead to true healing.
Awards & Praise
Winner, Nautilus Book Awards, Gold
Winner, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Memoir, Silver
Winner, Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) for Autobiography/Memoir, Bronze
Honorable Mention, Readers' Favorite Book Awards for Nonfiction - Religion/Philosophy
Finalist, Foreword INDIES for Grief/Grieving
“Sarah Birnbach’s lovely memoir is a thoughtful meditation on sacrifice, memory, gender roles, and of course—grief.”
—A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
“A Daughter’s Kaddish is a heartwarming, sometimes heart-wrenching, and always honest story of Sarah Birnbach’s sacred year of mourning after her beloved father’s death. By melding her personal memoir with a thoughtful Jewish ritual narrative, Birnbach highlights her burgeoning identity and commitment as an observant Conservative Jew, a feminist, and a devoted member of her twice-daily minyan at her own shul. This book stands as a beautiful tribute to her father; his memory will survive as a blessing forever upon all who read it.”
—Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy, rabbi emerita, Temple Sinai, Washington, DC, and author of A Tale of Two Seders
“In her debut memoir, Sarah Birnbach tells the story of her transformative, eleven-month journey to redeem her father’s soul. By committing to the twice-daily recitation of the Kaddish, she develops deep relationships with fellow mourners near and far and with God. Birnbach’s love letter to her father is a meditation on grief and the power of a spiritual practice to transcend our most painful losses.”
—Michelle Brafman, author of Washing the Dead
“Sarah Birnbach has made a major contribution to the literature of bereavement. She weaves together her personal story, grief, and spiritual development into a work that will move readers of diverse backgrounds and experiences.”
—Kate Thompson, author of Therapeutic Journal Writing
“A brave and beautifully crafted memoir of love, loss, and enduring faith, rich with emotionally resonant stories. As we follow Birnbach’s spiritual transformation, we come to a deeper understanding of unconditional love in action and the power of devotion. A Daughter’s Kaddish is enlightening, enlivening, and profoundly inspiring.”
—Kathleen Adams, LPC, founder/director, Center for Journal Therapy, and coauthor of Your Brain on Ink
“Her father told her not to do it. She should leave Kaddish to someone else. But Sarah Birnbach fights back and embraces a custom that has been for so long the province of men. As we see on these pages, she—and we, her readers—are the richer for it. And we can only imagine that her father is smiling down on her with joy.”
—Ari L. Goldman, author of Living a Year of Kaddish
“Sarah Birnbach tells an inspiring story of faith and determination in A Daughter’s Kaddish, a modern take on an ancient ritual.”
—Arch Campbell, former news anchor, NBC
“A beautifully written book, A Daughter’s Kaddish takes us on a woman’s journey to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, an untraditional path of grieving that tests her in many ways. At the heart of this book is a daughter’s love and devotion and a path to healing the past.”
—Linda Joy Myers, president, National Association of Memoir Writers, and author of Song of the Plains
“Heartwarming and heartbreaking.... Reading Birnbach’s words deepened my thought process about my own beliefs and helped me better understand my own familial relationships.... Our stories matter and can matter to others. An all-around, enjoyably insightful read.”
—Jeanne Baker Guy, award-winning author of You’ll Never Find Us: A Memoir
Audiobook narrated by the author now available! Listen to a sample below.