Monday, March 19, 2018

More Perspectives from the Other Side of the Mechitza - by Michal Greenspan

Michal Greenspan has bravely and graciously agreed to share her perspective as a regular minyan attendee and a woman who is NOT saying Kaddish.  May she not need to learn about Kaddish until 120 on all sides, and may we benefit from her wisdom to improve the experience of Minyan for all, men and women inclusive.  

It is inspiring that Michal focuses on the varying reasons why people attend minyan and emphasizes the positive: "Understanding what makes other people connect to elements of religion can be inspiring and thought-provoking, and so I encourage you to continue to learn why people do what they do. But be sensitive.... Not everyone shows up to shul for the same reason. That’s what makes us interesting."

Michal also writes: "I wanted to share what it means to be on the other side of the mechitza when you’re not saying Kaddish. To be trying to connect, only to be made to feel like an outcast..." Isn't it a shame that someone so committed to exploring and building her relationship with both God and her community is made to feel this way? No wonder so many women find minyan attendance a challenge when they are not compelled by circumstances!

On a personal note, women like Michal have been my mainstay during these last few months. It has been heartening to have the companionship of other women during the service, especially those whose arrival does not break my heart through the shared grief of a joint Kaddish. Standing lonely on the other side of a barrier is no picnic, and only heightens the experience of loss and disconnection that a mourner can feel - especially when compared to the camaraderie and social capital that builds among men on the other side of the Mechitza. This is one of the reasons I stopped attending daily minyan many years ago, long before I was faced with Kaddish. Wouldn't it be beautiful to see a community of women in attendance every morning - mourners and non-mourners alike - so that those of us reciting Kaddish could have someone to turn toward us and respond? I yearn for the day when women's weekday attendance can grow to a place where I can greet others with "Good Morning" rather than "I'm sorry for your loss."

Perhaps this begins by encouraging women to attend Minyan once a week, on any day of the week - not as an attempt to obligate ourselves in the time-bound commitment but to simply help us find that elusive spiritual connection long before Kaddish enters the picture. Or perhaps it begins with some important steps on the part of the community to ensure that women feel comfortable once they do arrive. Either way, let's brainstorm together how to ease the path for all. Please use the comments as a forum to share ideas and thoughts for supporting the women of our collective community.

By Michal Greenspan

It’s been about 5 months since I’ve been attending morning minyan on a regular basis. What started as a quasi-experiment, has become a ritual routine, so embedded in my daily schedule, that without it I feel un-whole- which is unexpected, considering there have been long stretches of times in my life that I didn’t daven at all.

My mother has always been extremely spiritual. “Jewish music is food for the soul,” she says. JM in the AM would blare on the radio every morning before school, and every month I wake up to a text reminding my brothers and me that it’s Rosh Chodesh.

When I was younger my mother would try to encourage me to daven on Friday nights or Sunday mornings, but I was generally apathetic and somewhat cynical. And as I got older, she stopped asking. Instead, she would simply do. She’d pause our Friday night conversations to recite Kabbalat Shabbat or delay a Sunday morning activity so she could finish saying Tehillim.

I grew up in a house of brothers. I never felt left out of their minyan attendance. Honestly, I felt grateful. Being religious is hard. I wasn’t looking to add another thing to the list of dos and don'ts. I was never the woman who wanted to Lain, or carry the Torah, or put on Tefillin. In so many ways, I just didn’t care.

I used to make fun of my mom for her spirituality. I grew up in a house of faith, but in schools of logic, ritual, & thought. I spent more time learning Gemara than Nach. I was taught to think critically. To find meaning in text rather than song.

And yet, as I’ve gotten older, and gotten further and further from the years of formal Jewish education, I’ve found myself looking for ways to connect. And surprisingly, it has been through elements of religion that I used to laugh off. Zmirot. Jewish Music. Tefillah. I think more than anyone, I am the most surprised by how much the religious experiences I connect to have changed over time.

Recently someone asked me why I go to minyan. “Are you saying Kaddish?” he asked. And on multiple levels, the question stung. Because no, thank God, I am not, although I am surrounded on a daily basis by men and women who have committed their time to doing so. Would you ask a man that question, I wondered? Would I be more or less offended if I actually were saying Kaddish? I understood on some level why he asked. Most of the women who come to minyan say Kaddish. I would be lying if I said that when a new woman appears at minyan, I don’t look up during Kaddish to see if she too is part of the mourners club. Because we have been raised in a world where the norm is for women to show up once a week, often hours late, without any explanations or demands to do better. I’m not here to reform these expectations. As a community could we do more to encourage women to participate more? Of course! There are a million things we could be doing better, hundreds of ways we could up our standards. But I think a simple place to start is creating spaces where women feel just as comfortable as men to show up every morning to daven, without having to be the only ones to answer the question of “why are you here?” I’m happy to explain why; I know why you’re asking. But how many men have been asked the same question?

To say I started going to minyan because I was seeking religious guidance and connection only would be a lie. Sure a part of it was what many seek from religion. To feel part of something larger than themselves. To feel inspired. But I’ve realized, as I’ve been getting older and needing to learn to manage my own time, that structure is something I require. And so, honestly, a big part of Minyan for me has been adding another element of structure to my day, both religiously and logistically. It’s also really been about trying to focus. To try to stretch out the time I devote to thinking about what I want, or need, or am grateful for to more than the five minutes I used to carve out in between getting dressed and eating breakfast (which I’ll admit is not always successful).

There have been both men and women who have been encouraging of my daily routine. Whether it be a simple smile or wave of recognition when they see me on the street outside of shul, or a simple remark that they’re impressed that I go, which I don’t find offensive because honestly, I’m impressed by anyone who goes. It’s hard. And maybe it shouldn’t be. We don’t congratulate people for keeping kosher or Shabbat. But in the world we live in, minyan has become a challenge, and finding ways to connect to God is really really difficult, and it would be unfair of me to say that it’s easy for anyone.

At the same time, I think people overhype it sometimes. I was reluctant to write about my experience. Even to talk about it. Mostly because although minyan is somewhat public, for me it is personal. I do it for myself. I don’t expect others to congratulate me or pat me on the back for committing to something. Everyone makes commitments- religious or personal- public or private that can be challenging or easy.

But I’m sharing for a few reasons.

Because I found something that works for me. That works on religious and logistical levels for me at this time in my life and in some ways has become a little easier for me than I expected. And so I’m trying to lean into it. I’m not saying this to minimize my commitment, rather to say that it doesn’t have to be this. It doesn’t have to be every day. It doesn’t have to be religious, or public, and it doesn’t need to require waking up early. And so if you find something similar or wholly different, but something that brings you some sense of fulfillment I hope you try to embrace it, because your ability to commit to it may surprise yourself most out of everyone.

Because I found my mother’s actions inspiring, but maybe you connect to written words, and so here they are. I’m not a Rabbi or teacher by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m aware that there are many elements of my religious and personal life that require more effort and could use more growth. I’ve found reading other people’s experiences to be helpful at varying moments in my life, whether it be as a point of connection, inspiration or even contradiction so if this helps encourage you or make you think differently in any way, then I’ll be glad I shared.

And I wanted to share what it means to be on the other side of the mechitza when you’re not saying Kaddish. To be trying to connect, only to be made to feel like an outcast in the hopes that maybe we can try to be a little better. It’s ok to ask why I go to minyan. Understanding what makes other people connect to elements of religion can be inspiring and thought-provoking, and so I encourage you to continue to learn why people do what they do. But be sensitive. Ask everyone. Men too. Understand that your questions may be laced with bias whether intended or not, or simply try to ask without a sense of judgment or assumption. I’ve found, it’s much easier to learn this way. Not everyone is saying Kaddish for the same reason. Not everyone shows up to shul for the same reason. That’s what makes us interesting. That’s what makes this religion thoughtful and bigger than just a group of people going through the same motions like robots.

And I think on a more personal level, I also wanted a way to express something that maybe everyone else already knew, but I’m just starting to learn; my relationship to Judaism and God is in constant flux, and the things that once made me scoff, make me feel inspired. And the cynicism I thought had been embedded in my religious observance, was simply just an emotional reaction like any other, that has the ability to change with time and with experience. And that’s what makes religion dynamic and exciting. And I think maybe it’s what makes our connection with God an actual relationship. And maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up cynical again. Who knows? But for now, this works. So I’m trying to embrace it.

What Can I Do To Help?

"Kids, when your best friend loses someone, you drop everything and rush to his side, only to find yourself standing there with no idea what to do or say."  
                  - Episode: "Last Words," How I Met Your Mother 

It's hard to know how to help, even if you have experienced loss before.  Every loss is different and every person grieves differently, but there are some concrete steps you can offer in an attempt to ease the difficult time.  Just remember that not all gestures will be accepted and appreciated by everyone, so tread forward with care and sensitivity. 

During Shiva:
  • Pay a shiva call.  
    • You don't have to say anything at all.  Your presence alone will show the mourner you care and they will talk to you (or not talk) as the spirit moves them.
    • Your simple presence brings much comfort in this time, whether you are a close friend or a more distant connection.    
  •  Send in a meal.
    • Be advised - some Shiva homes are overwhelmed with offers of food and meals, while others have fewer connections reaching out to help.  Try to find out the lay of the land - who is coordinating, what meals are needed for the week.  
    • Aim for variety and/or try to find out what foods the mourners prefer - healthy, dessert, snacks, drinks, cut vegetables, etc.  Try to help mourner retain normal eating routine, though eating may be a challenge at this time.  Don't be offended if your offer is not accepted or enjoyed in the way that you hoped.
  •  Offer to coordinate offers of assistance or help direct offers to the Point Person.
    • For meal planning, there are websites that can help with this: or  
    • There should be a point person coordinating orders of this nature as well as the mourners' needs throughout the week, re: minyan, shopping, food, medical concerns, etc.   
    • Once you know who the point person is, help direct other friends to that person so the offers of help can be coordinated in a way that is constructive without adding unnecessary extra work. 

After Shiva
Note: the mourner will need support for a long time to come.  Here are some actions that can be taken throughout the year and years to follow.
  • Put a note in your calendar several months out to reach out.  
    • There is often a beautiful outpouring of help offered to mourners during Shiva and even during the weeks of the Shloshim.  However, as life gets back to normal, people fall back into usual routines and the outreach grows much more scarce.
    • Phone calls throughout the year are welcome and appreciated because they help the mourner feel the support of the community, while they are still grieving for their lost relative. 
    • Don't be hurt if the phone call is not returned immediately.  I received many emails/calls/texts/facebook messages/etc. during Shiva and after.  I have not forgotten the feelings they engendered, nor the people who sent them.  Each one helped me to feel the love of my friends and community, even if I was unable to respond in what most would call a "reasonable timeframe."  
  • Assist or keep them company during routine household tasks.
    • I found challenges in accomplishing things that once came easily, which lasted for months after shiva.  
    • Organizing paperwork, paying bills, cleaning my apartment, planning meals, shopping, laundry, and even returning phone calls might have been easier with someone nearby, encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other.  
    • Go ahead and offer to assist with a specific task, but don't be offended if this offer is not accepted.  It may be embarrassing for the mourner to ask for this kind of assistance, or it may not even cross the mourner's mind (it didn't for me except once or twice for big projects), but when I did have the company, it was very helpful.  
  •  Perform or help with a specific task: 
    • example: "I'm going to the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. this afternoon.  What can I pick up for you?"
    • or even suggest specific items: "Can I bring you Orange Juice, toilet paper, Advil, etc."  
  •  Company for a minyan.  
    • For both men and women saying Kaddish, this is not an easy step, especially in the first days, and company can be helpful for moral support.
    • Note - for myself, I always appreciated the company, even when I was simultaneously concerned that my saying Kaddish - so painful for me - might also be painful to my friends who had not yet experienced loss.  I was afraid to make others hurt on my behalf (it is still difficult for my mother to hear me recite the Kaddish). 
    • Attending minyan with a friend in mourning is a kind, generous gift, just prepare in advance for the emotional impact both on you and on them. 
  •  Go out for a walk, a museum, a drink.
    • Find out what restrictions the mourner is observing during the period of Aveilut and find an activity that falls within accepted parameters.  
    • Distractions are good (at least they were for me).
  • Allow the conversation to flow.
    • Note - grief is different than depression.  The mourner need not (should not) be focused exclusively on their loss all the time.   Moments will come that trigger strong emotions of sadness, but mourners will experience a full range of emotion throughout the year.  
    • It is not necessary to continually redirect the conversation to focus on the loss or ask how the mourner is feeling.  Asking what the mourner is doing at the moment will allow the mourner to guide the conversation in the direction that best suits their mood.
    • Allow them to enjoy moments when they do not focus on their absent loved one - the moments when they do remember will be plentiful enough. 
  • Invitations to Shabbat meals or to spend a Shabbat/holiday at your home.
    • The mourner may feel lonely at times, especially around Shabbat and holidays.  Even if the offer is not accepted (for whatever reason - prior obligation, etc.), the invitation will help the mourner feel loved, wanted and appreciated.  
  • Exercise.
    • Offer to go out for a run, attend an aerobics, yoga, spin class, or something you know is in the mourner's ballpark.  
    • Setting aside time and motivation to work out can be challenging, as time seems to take on new meaning and move slower/differently than before the loss.  Helping to encourage healthy routines (in a pleasant, friendly way) and offering your company & moral support may be appreciated.  

A Word of Caution:  
While we know you mean well, sometimes open-ended offers are hard to accept.  Here are two phrases I heard very often...  and how they often landed, especially early on.  If you have used these words in the past, don't waste time feeling bad.  Just please keep these nuances in mind for the future.
[Reposting from "What to Say (and Not to Say)"
  • Let me know how I can help.”  
    • I know you mean well, but now I have to a) remember that you offered, b) think about your want/need to help me, c) find a job for you, d) look up your phone # or contact info, and e) reach out and ask you to do it.  You really want to help?  Call me with a specific offer.  I’ll know you’re there and willing to help and will be more likely to either give you a job right then or think of you later when I need the same job done.  Remember, I don’t know yet what I’ll need to get me through the next days and weeks and months, and the needs may change and evolve with time.  Please don’t be offended if I don’t take you up on this well-intentioned offer.
  • “Call me if you need anything or want to talk.”
    • Ditto above. The sentiment is sweet it's hard for me to keep track of all these generous offers. For now, checking in every so often and asking what I'm up to (rather than how I'm doing) will be much appreciated.]

These are just a few ways to help... throughout the year and beyond.  Use this list as a jumping off point for brainstorming additional ideas.  Please feel free to share them in the comments.  The more we gather, the more equipped we will all be to support those in our community when the need arises.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Insensitive Speech for $1000 - Please Keep Your Judgements and Backhanded Compliments to Yourself

I know that it can be hard to find the right words of comfort in the face of someone else's grief.  There are times when I struggle to know what to say or how to help.  Choosing words is not always easy, however, I've come to discover that there are some comments that cause more harm than help.  

I'm sure that there are good intentions behind these comments.  However, on reaching the recipient, they can be less than complimentary or even exclusive.  You may note that some of these comments are gender-specific or may affect a woman very differently than a man hearing the same words. 
If you find yourself leaning toward any of the statements on this list, please consider the nuances and alternate meanings described below.  As a general rule of thumb, be mindful of the questions you ask any mourner, but certainly, don't ask a woman any questions you would never think of asking a man. If you can think of additional comments that would be preferable, please share so we can enhance this list with constructive advice for those who seek it.

Charged Comment: Is anyONE in the Shloshim?
  • This one really caught me at the beginning of my foray into Kaddish.  Fresh out of the shiva house, I would be waiting for the service to begin, perhaps chatting with someone else in the synagogue, and all of a sudden, the word shloshim caught my attention as surely as a "squirrel!" running through the room.  Yes, I'm in the shloshim, I responded immediately in my head.  Then realizing that the men were looking for a MAN to lead the service, I realized on the second beat that those asking were not computing the fact of my presence or my pain in being both summoned and excluded at the same time.  
Try this instead: "Does anyONE have a chiyuv (obligation)?"
  • In an Orthodox setting, the halachic obligation to lead a service, pray with a minyan, falls squarely on the men.  While I am choosing to recite Kaddish regularly this year to honor my father's memory, I do not have the same obligation as a man to lead the service and I accept this differential by choosing to attend an Orthodox synagogue to recite Kaddish.  Thus, this is the best way to make this announcement in this setting (in my opinion) and encompasses both Shloshim, Yortzeit and the year of Aveilut.
  • Another option: "Is anyMAN in the Shloshim?"  
    • This question at least acknowledged my presence in the room and my pain in being bereft of my parent.  The anyONE question tries to be inclusive, yet does not address the elephant in the room which is known by any who choose to pray in an Orthodox setting.  Being direct and acknowledging the obvious goes a long way.  

Charged Comment: "Wow, you go to Minyan 3 times a day!  That's a lot!"
  • This comment hits in two ways, depending on who is speaking.  One perspective hits like a backhanded compliment: "Wow, that's so impressive that you make the effort to go so much!"  In my head, I want to respond: "Ok, thanks, but I'm not going because I want to... I'm going because it feels like the right thing to do while I'm mourning my father."
  • The other side comes across more as a judgment "Why are you bothering to go to synagogue so often? Don't you know that women aren't obligated in this?"  To which I want to respond: "Yes, I do know, and I've encountered many challenging situations as a woman entering a man's space to say kaddish.  It's definitely not easy, and often more challenging for me than for the men who are in the same position.  And yet, it still feels like the right thing to do for me at this time to honor my father as I move through the mourning process.  So please keep your judgments to yourself." 
Try this instead: "That takes dedication."  
  • Keep it neutral, and try to keep the judgment out of your voice.  If you want to continue the conversation, try one of these.  I have plenty to say about the experience itself, but I'd rather not feel the need defend my choices in casual conversation.
    • What have you learned?  
    • What have you found meaningful? 
    • What challenges have you encountered?

Charged Comment: "Don't you have any brothers?"
  • There are many ways to answer this, but all of them ask me to defend my choice to recite kaddish myself.  I am my father's child - why shouldn't I honor him by saying Kaddish? 
  • What if I don't have any brothers?  Does that mean I should outsource Kaddish to someone outside the family simply because I am my father's daughter and not his son?  Why can't I also honor my father by saying Kaddish as his CHILD?  
  • What if I have a brother who is choosing a different path?  For starters, it's not your place to remind me of this.  Families come in all shapes and sizes and choices and your judgment that my brother should be saying Kaddish instead of me (or in addition)... well, maybe it's not something I haven't thought of before.  Maybe that's one more hurt that I'm feeling, at the same time as I'm saying Kaddish for my father.  
  • What if I have a brother who IS saying Kaddish?  Am I not my father's child too?  Why should Kaddish be limited to only one of my father's children because he is male?
  • And finally, why is MY family situation YOUR business?  I came to you to find an opportunity to say Kaddish with a minyan.  Please save your judgments for a more opportune time (or never). 
Try This:  Just don't ask.  If curiosity overwhelms you, perhaps ask "Do you have any company in saying Kaddish for your father?"  But read the knee-jerk responses above before deciding whether satisfying your curiosity is the best choice for the moment. 

Charged Comment: "Wow, look at all the beautiful women in Shul today!"
  • This is another backhanded compliment.  Because women are not halachically obligated in daily communal prayer, those who do attend often do so because they are saying Kaddish.  As such, your comment is tantamount to "Look how many beautiful grieving women we have in shul today!"  I'm sure this is hardly what you mean to say, as I'd like to believe that you would never want to call attention to our pain.  Yes, there is some beauty in the camaraderie that forms when people come together to achieve a certain goal, but the response to your comment, at least in my head, reads: "yes, I'm here today, because I'm saying Kaddish.  I wish I didn't have to be here for this reason, and I wish even more that you didn't feel the need to remind me that I'm here in Shul today because my father is not." 
Try This: NOTHING.  
  • Don't say anything.  It's not your place to comment.  Move on. At the very least, comment on the camaraderie that you see or offer to be a listening ear.  Perhaps try "It's good to see you today, how is saying Kaddish going?" or even better... if you happen to be an officer of a Shul, ask how the Shul can make saying Kaddish easier for women in the future.  Now THAT would be a help, more than a hindrance!

Charged Comment: "How much time do you have left (to say Kaddish)?"

  • Ouch.  This one really hurt in ways I didn't see coming.  First of all, it required me to calculate how long it has been since my father passed away and how much time remained of my marathon year of Kaddish.  As exhausting as it is and has been, contemplating the end of the year (or the eleven months) cut like a knife, as it forced my feelings of loss and fear of the end of this structured mourning period into sharp, unwanted focus.  
  • Though it seems like a long time, now that I'm past the halfway point of the year, every additional day that I get to go to Shul and recite Kaddish for my father feels like a gift... a last lingering connection with my father.  I dread the day that will mark the end of this period of intense and daily remembering and begin a chapter of a new normal where my first thought on waking up is something other than "Daddy" and the idea that there is still something concrete that I can do with my feet/body/words/&soul to honor him. 
  • Of course there are times when I, myself, look forward to lazy Sundays and sleeping in perhaps a little later some days of the week.  Don't think for a moment that it's not hard some days and weeks.  I have not yet figured out (at the 7-month point) what role prayer/minyan/shul will play in my life after the end of this year.  It's hard to wrap my mind around the idea of "THE END" juxtaposed with the challenges I'm currently facing.  Please know that I don't mean to jump down your throat with my response to your innocent question - these thoughts are just something I need to express somehow, some way, and this blog has become my forum for doing so.  I hope I will not be quite so stark in person!
Try This: "How long has it been?" 

  • This may not seem substantively different than the first comment, but it allows me to stay in the moment and focus on what I have done until now, rather than on the dwindling time I have left to continue to do it.

If you have caught yourself using any of these charged comments in the past, don't waste time feeling bad.  Just try to choose your words more carefully going forward.  I appreciate your all of efforts to help, especially when your intentions are good and the words just don't come out as you or I would have wished.   Thank you many times over for all of your love and support in this difficult time. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

3 Wishes - for minyan related peace of mind

Nearly 7 months of attending daily minyan to say Kaddish for my father has given me much time to reflect on the minyan experience itself, among many other related topics. 

Thankfully, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and the bumps in the road have been relatively minor, all  things considered.  If my small gripes here and there have painted a negative portrait of a woman's experience in shul, and wish to apologize to any institutions or individuals who have been maligned by my processing these experiences in a public forum.  

At the same time, the conversations on Facebook and otherwise have helped me to distill three distinct wishes that would make the experience so much easier.

Three Wishes:

  1. A place to stand/sit/daven
  2. Security in knowing that there will be opportunity to recite/hear Kaddish when the time comes
  3. Knowing that there will be time to recite Aleinu before Kaddish begins

Let me explain each in greater detail:

1. A place to stand/sit/daven

Knowing before I arrive that there is a designated space for woman would greatly mitigate the anxiety I feel before attending a new minyan.  Wondering what I am walking into, pushing myself to arrive extra early to allow time to setup, negotiate for, or locate the Women's Section adds an additional element of discomfort/anxiety/anticipation on a regular basis.  Once I know the lay of the land, the second visit is always easier!

How synagogues can help: 
  • note on the website that there is an accessible, regularly available Women's section - or a listing of whom to reach out to in advance to make arrangements before arrival 
  • post signs pointing clear directions to the Woman's Section for visitors who might not know the building
  • have a woman's section set up, free of men, at every service, whether women attend regularly or not.  I can't count how many times I have been the only woman in attendance, and there have been times that I have not been able to arrive early.  
    • The anxiety of arriving late coupled with not knowing whether there will be a place to stand can be overwhelming at times and has nearly caused me to miss out on Kaddish. 

2. Security in knowing that there will be opportunity to recite/hear Kaddish when the time comes
For a woman who is not, in some communities, permitted to recite Kaddish aloud by herself, there is an added element of wondering whether there will be someone in the men's section available to recite Kaddish in the appropriate time.  At Mincha and Maariv, the Kaddish occurs only at the end of the service.  On days when I recognize fellow "club members" in the crowd, I know that time will be allotted for Kaddish and that I will be able to hear and follow along without difficulty.  When I don't recognize anyone in the crowd, I find myself anxious throughout the service wondering whether there will be someone present to recite Kaddish.

How synagogues can help:
  • Note on the website the Shul's policy when it comes to Kaddish -
    • Whether a woman can recite Kaddish alone or accompanied
    • Whether the Shul has a custom of reciting Kaddish regardless of whether a male mourner is present (there are many reasons for this, but not knowing whether or not this is the case in a particular minyan has caused me no small angst over time). 
  • A sign, a flag, a nod, a conversation... to let me and/or other women know that Kaddish will be recited and what our responsibility is vis a vis the Shul custom: recite alone, follow along quietly, follow along aloud, etc. 
  • Make sure that the men reciting Kaddish in various areas in the room are synchronized, so that women can easily hear and follow.  If possible, mourners stationed near the mechitza allow for the easiest follow by women mourners. 

3. Knowing that there will be time to recite Aleinu before Kaddish begins
Different leaders lead at different paces.  That said, many seem to rush through Aleinu at breakneck pace.  Given that Aleinu is almost always followed by Mourner's Kaddish, would it not make sense to slow it down just a smidge so that mourners can complete the Aleinu without racing against time? 

How synagogues can help:
  • Create a policy whereby Aleinu is given an extra beat or two on a consistent basis so that mourners looking toward Kaddish might be able to predict the amount of time allotted and pace themselves accordingly.  
  • Extend the the leader's repetition so that mourners have a bit more notice in advance of Kaddish.

Based on conversations with other mourners, I think that if synagogues took steps to grant us these three wishes, our experiences saying Kaddish would be greatly ameliorated.  Any additional steps they can take toward smoothing the way in these three categories would be vastly appreciated.  

Remembering Uncle Paul Kalish, z''l (Melech Yona ben Yidel Dov)

It's so hard to write these words today.  My uncle, Paul Kalish, passed away this morning at home after a valiant 10 months battling  gl...