Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Different Take on the Kaddish/Yizkor Issue by Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

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[Ed. Note: A further followup on the issue of Kaddish and Yizkor in difficult situations. — JB]

I agree wholeheartedly with Karen’s (Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan, Disenfranchised Grief at Yizkor, 9/27/2017, http://jewishjournal.com/blogs/expiredandinspired/224733/disenfranchised-grief-yizkor-karen-b-kaplan/) take on the prayers that are intended to engender sadness upon recalling the loss of a “loved one” – but, do the opposite. Undeserving praise is untruthful.

I would only like to bring in the possibility of using these prayers with a different slant.

Karen poses the question, and a good one at that… “the meaning of the Fifth Commandment for those who have or did have abusive parents. How can one be good to oneself, which is a mitzvah, yet honor such a parent?”

I think flipping the question is the start to the answer. “How can I honor myself when I had less than honorable parents???” So, now we need to answer that question.

It has been shown in data and surveys that certain negative behaviors of parents – witnessed by children – can often lead to children continuing that behavior. To honor oneself, one would have to make a concerted effort to knowingly and willingly and purposefully separate THEMselves from THEM (the bad influences).

During these moments of prayer we can give thanks that WE are NOT them. We can review the past with sadness, but hopefully also see the present and how far we have come in spite of their actions. That we have overcome, that we are stronger for it, as we ARE standing here, and we are no longer broken. For those of us who are not yet completely healed – Baruch Hashem – there is tomorrow.

In bad times, we need to build ourselves up,.even when others try to knock us down. Remaining strong is the biggest pushback to their attempts to keep us weak.

These prayerful moments afford us the opportunity to give the royal finger, saying, “I  am a survivor of your actions. I am here, I am relatively happy, and I will move forward.  MY horrible memories can be countered by my successes.” There is no law preventing anyone to change the words of the prayer to fit the occasion (minhag – maybe – but not law). Reinvent the prayer to say what is in your heart. HHMMM, truthfulness on Yom Kippur?

So with every Kaddish/Yizkor moment, those of us who might find love and loss difficult concepts recalling their various and sundry relationships, we might take it as our personal time to:

1) SMILE as we free ourselves to say the truth,

2) BE PROUD that we are not them

3) STAND UP TALL, SHOULDERS BACK – for what we have accomplished IN SPITE of them!!!!

4) THANK HASHEM THAT WE ARE HERE and have become the fabulous persons that we are – on our own – with little or no help from them, and likely no support!!

5) PRAY WITH GRATITUDE AND JOY that we have this opportunity to dilute a toxic relationship and call it out for what it really was.

6) MAY WE NOT DWELL on the past negative and rejoice in our current positive? May we have the strength to look back and acknowledge the pain…but also have the strength to move forward in gladness.


[Ed. Note: Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs wrote an earlier entry for this blog that was somewhat related. Here is the link to it:. http://jewishjournal.com/news/los_angeles/seniors/185031/zachor-prayer-unacknowledged-mourners-rabbi-laurie-dinnerstein-kurs/ — JB]

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHA of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs
Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs




The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practice (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting January 2nd, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2).


The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There will be a preview of the course on Monday, December 11th. An orientation session is scheduled for January 1st.

Information on attending the online orientation, and the course will be announced and sent to those registered. Register or contact us for more information. Detailed information on the preview will appear here in the weeks leading up to that event.


You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email [email protected], or phone at 410-733-3700.


Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, usually on the 3rd Wednedsays of thet month (but watch for any changes). Each month, a different person will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th with a discussion of documents and forms that the Chevrah (or other group) in the community can offer the family at the time of a loss to help them navigate some of the issues they are facing.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at [email protected], or [email protected].


Gamliel Graduate Courses

Graduates of the Gamliel Institute, and Gamliel students who have completed three or more Gamliel Institute courses should be on the lookout for information on a series of “Gamliel Graduate’ Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. We plan to begin this Fall, in October and November. The first series will be on Psalms. Registration will be required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Heading this intiative is the dynamic duo of Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. Contact us –  register at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/, or email [email protected].



Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Gracuates courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).



If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at [email protected].

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to [email protected].

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.


Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.



If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email [email protected]. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.


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