Culture, Religion

How Jewish Women Mourn

A call for submissions was just sent out by Tamar Fox and her sister, Deena Fox, soliciting writing about the experiences of Jewish women in dealing with death and mourning.
The full submissions call is below, after the jump. They’re looking for all sorts of writing, but to show you the depth and breadth of the collection-to-be, I thought I’d include a little cut from Tamar’s bleak and wholly incredible blog, Blogging the Kaddish, which she wrote over a year of mourning for her mother:

It has been a pretty scary month since I stopped saying Kaddish. Two weeks ago the family gathered in Chicago for the unveiling of the headstone, and since then I’ve been feeling pretty strange. I’m calmer than I have been in months. I’m getting more sleep. I’m seeing more of the people I want to see more of. I’m riding my bike, and reading interesting books and staying up all night with friends drinking whiskey and laughing. I don’t think I’m better, really. I certainly have a lot more “grief-work” to do, but I think that ending Kaddish allowed me to settle into my grief in a way that I never could during the eleven months.
For me, saying Kaddish was really a struggle. It hurt, but it felt important. I guess it was like the intense ache you get in muscles after you work out really hard. The next day it’s painful, but also a sign of increasing strength. You’re not exactly glad for the pain, but you appreciate that it’s necessary for the work you have to do.

Now here’s how to submit.

Call for Contributions: Jewish Women Mourning
After my mother died of breast cancer in September 2008, I received a number of books about the experience of mourning and saying kaddish. These books did bring me some comfort, but they were all written by men. As a woman, reading about Orthodox mens’ experiences with grief, loss, and Jewish ritual was not entirely satisfying because many of the stories took place on the other side of a mechitzah. Having spoken to many women who feel the same way, I believe that it is time to compile a book about the experience of mourning as a Jewish woman.
Loss is a deeply personal experience. The relationship between the person left alive and the one who died shapes the experience. The age of the person who was lost, the degree that family members were able to prepare for the loss, the ages of the mourners, and the mourners’ previous losses also influence the experience. But, grief is also universal. Everyone who experiences loss struggles through moments of pain, anger, and loneliness. And mourners also share rituals associated with death—including shiva, kaddish, unveilings, and many more.
During the moments of great loneliness after a loss, it can be soothing to read about others’ similar experiences. I am looking to bring together stories from women across many demographic groups – ages, denominations, types of loss, numbers of losses. Among these voices I hope that women experiencing fresh grief will be able to find common threads and take comfort in the fact that they are not alone.
Through conversations with friends, I have identified a number of topics and themes that I would like to address in this collection of vignettes and essays. However, I am sure there are many issues I missed and am open to adding to the current list of themes. Below, please find a brief outline of the book as I envision it. If you have a relevant story to tell, I would be honored if you would share it with me. And if you know others who might also want to participate in this project, please forward my message along.
I am looking for vignettes or essays relating to grieving as a Jewish woman. Please send me Word documents of 2-10 pages in length describing a specific experience that you had during your year of mourning for a relative or friend. The contribution need not be entirely focused on kaddish or another Jewish ritual associated with mourning, but ideally the pieces will relate to grieving as a Jew, rather than grief in general. I have included a few of my own experiences after the project outline for guidance.
Email contributions to [email protected] by March 1, 2010.
May we all be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Jerusalem.

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