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Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir Paperback – May 9, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Reprint edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805211314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805211313
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goldman (The Search for God at Harvard; Being Jewish), a former New York Times reporter who is now an assistant dean at the Columbia University School of Journalism, offers a clearly written autobiographical memoir that appears at first glance to be simple and straightforward. In fact, it is a profound and sophisticated examination of human relationships, particularly between a son and his parents. A modern Orthodox Jew, Goldman writes about observing the ritual requirements following the death of his father, as he had done four years earlier for his mother. Among these rituals is the obligation to "say kaddish" each day for 11 months. This Aramaic poem, which praises God, is recited in daily prayer services in the synagogue with 10 men present. In the memoir, Goldman describes the people he met and the experiences he had as he fulfilled this commitment. More importantly, he uses this as an opportunity to explore his relationships with his parents, who divorced when Goldman was six. Finding himself an orphan at age 50, Goldman forthrightly shares his ruminations about the meaning of this status, and sensitively scrutinizes the implications of such insights for his relationships with his wife, children, brothers and friends. What comes across with crystal clarity is the remarkable personal growth Goldman achieved during this period. His narrative has an inspirational quality for everyone confronting the inevitable loss of parents.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A Jewish son is duty bound to recite the kaddish prayer daily for an 11-month period after his father's death, an act of reverence for a deceased parent. In the midst of grief and personal loss, it is an expression of faith and trust in God. Professor Goldman, author of The Search for God at Harvard (1991), examines the spiritual and emotional aspects of this ritual and how this period of mourning affected him in his role as a father and husband. "Sometimes I think of my whole life as a search for my father," Goldman writes, regretting that after his parents had been divorced 44 years earlier, he saw his father as only a "distant presence." Goldman describes the daily recitation of kaddish in an Orthodox synagogue near his Manhattan home and recounts his friendship with the nine other men required by Jewish law to make a minyan. The book is a poignant chronicle of bereavement and solace to be read by Jews and non-Jews alike who mourn the loss of a loved one. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Thanks to this author for again helping us on our own journeys.
Paula D. Matuskey
Very much unlike the usual in-house sentimentality that is found in synagogue bulletins, there is hard-headed, incisive reporting here.
Werner Cohn
Goldman's book articulates so many of our thoughts and feelings through the first 30 days.
Winning in the Kitchen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on August 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When Ari Goldman was six, his parents divorced. They were as different as the North and South poles. Goldman remained part of each of their lives through his commitment to 1950's-style Orthodox Judaism. In September 1999, Ari Goldman turned fifty. He had a party. The next morning he got a call. His father, 77, was dead in Jerusalem. The funeral would be in a few hours, since Shabbat would soon begin in Israel. Goldman tore his shirt and began to mourn. He sat shiva for his father only one day, since Sukkot started the next day. He went on to mourn for his father for the required 30 days, and then the full 11 months. Ari inherited his father's tallit (which he wore and made his own). In this memoir, he tells the reader about the people he touched and those who touched him during his year of saying kaddish. He writes that while the kaddish will not bring back the dead, it will bind one to the community horizontally, and redeem a death vertically. Ari finds that so many people have their own kaddish stories to share with him, and he shares some with us. In this book, he knits a story being an "avel", of mourning, of loss (loss of parents, loss of one's regular seat in the synagogue). He writes about mentoring, on modeling an upright life to his kids, and his brand of Fifties-style Judaism. There are also asides on the various people he meets when he seeks out shuls in which to say kaddish on the road. He explores his daughter's conflicts when she is forced to move to the women's side of the mechiza at the age 12. He reflects upon the power of the kaddish and how the passage of time changes his approach to the prayer and the process. He honestly asks himself why he tells people he is mourning. Is it a badge on his lapel? Is he seeking some sort of status? Comfort? Honor? It is a story of loss, of growth, as well as the fascinating story of how his neighborhood shul became resurrected.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paula D. Matuskey on October 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a lovely book which shows how the Jewish ritual of Kaddish helped the author come to grips with his father's life and death, as well as his own life. Being an Episcopalian married to someone whose Mother was Jewish (but did not attend temple), I found the author's description of his shul, the life within it, and the practice of prayer to be extremely powerful and informative. And the spiritual journey that the author embarked upon in the process was engaging. I had read his early book about his sabbatical at Harvard Divinity School, and was inspired by that work as well. The sharing of personal stories helps all of us live. Thanks to this author for again helping us on our own journeys.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chris Zimmerman on September 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Living a Year of Kaddish portrays one man's search to come to terms with the loss of his father. But it does more than that: it shows, with vivid and stirring vignettes, how the most painful pages of a life (divorce, estrangement, and death are some of the ones Goldman grapples with) need not be turned with the bitterness of a victim, but can be read with the openness of a student who is willing to learn, and to grow. Goldman is an Orthodox Jew, and as the title of his book makes clear, he draws first and foremost on the religious and cultural traditions that have shaped his family for generations. But he does not write for fellow believers alone. A keen-eyed observer with a gift for distilling the universal from the particular, he speaks in terms that will resonate with a wide and varied readership.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on November 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The other reviewers have all given this excellent book the only reasonable rating -- five stars. I concur with their judgment and also with their descriptions of what the book is about.

My take is just a bit different, however. I found the book inspirational and consoling, as they did, but I was struck mainly by how unusually informative it is, and in several ways.

The author is a seasoned reporter (now a professor of journalism at Columbia), and, perhaps without specifically intending to, it is this craft that gives his book its very specific value. As someone who is not a stranger to synagogue life in New York City, I found the description of modern Jewish Orthodoxy (Manhattan style) eye-opening. Goldman writes with great sympathy about this social milieu, but (and you sometimes have to read carefully and slowly) he does not shrink from telling it as it is. Very much unlike the usual in-house sentimentality that is found in synagogue bulletins, there is hard-headed, incisive reporting here. Read carefully, keep your eyes open ! (I will not spoil your enjoyment by giving away just what it is that I found so hard-headed and unsentimental).
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