To honor her beloved father, Sarah Birnbach committed to reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish twice a day for eleven months — a Jewish mourning ritual that was historically reserved for sons — despite her father’s initial request that she hire someone male to do so. The novice worshipper and single working mother had many obstacles — including objections to her prayer practice because of her gender, her own daughter’s near-fatal car accident, an incident that tore her synagogue apart, and her mother’s dismissiveness.
Sarah incorporated these religious and spiritual practices into her already hectic 21st-century life while struggling with the heavy emotional distress of grief. As she traveled the country for work, Sarah had to find a synagogue where she could pray in each city and town she visited, a challenge that brought many surprises and upsets. Throughout her year of devotion, she took 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.
A Daughter’s Kaddish: My Year of Grief, Devotion, and Healing (Wonderwell; September 2022) recounts Sarah’s year-long odyssey to persevere through an unfamiliar world of Jewish prayer.
Sarah Birnbach embarked on her encore career as a writer in 2015 after successful careers as a human resource management consultant and a licensed clinical social worker. She is a five-time award winner from the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, a program of the National League of American Pen Women, and a two-time award winner in Bethesda Magazine’s essay contest. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and professional journals. An active member of the Women’s National Book Association, she lives in Rockville, Maryland. Learn more at SarahBirnbach.com.