Kaddish is not fungible

Kaddish is not fungible

Having read Soma Morgenstern’s “The Third Pillar” many years ago, I can understand the impulse that drew Robert Kanter to think of it as an almost universal Kaddish (“Saying Kaddish for Newtown,” Jan. 18). However, Morgenstern’s elegaic Kaddish is not a fungible document to use as Mr. Kanter did. Morgenstern devoted “The Third Pillar” to try to come to terms with the Holocaust. In the end, he affirms the belief that despite the horror, “We say Yes to the creation, and we say Yes to our Creator and to His eternity and holiness.” He follows this with the traditional Kaddish, in which 17 sites where Jews were murdered (be it concentration camps or Babi Yar) are interspersed with the age-old text. So if we were to read Soma Morgenstern’s text, we would be reciting:

Yitkadal, Auschwitz

v’yitkadash, Lodz

sh’mei raba, Ponar

b’alma di v’ra khir’utei, Babi Yar….

What Mr. Kanter has done by substituting the names of seventeen of the slain children (A’H) in Newton for these catastrophic sites was to wrench Morgenstern’s excruciatingly painful rendition horribly out of context. In thinking that one tragedy is commensurate with another he has at the same time blotted out the existence of a most gifted writer whose name he does not mention.

For the sake of historical accuracy, I would also note that the Siddur Sim Sholom (1985) in its sources section, pages 874-879, carefully attributed this reading for Yom Hashoah to the author (page 877). Furthermore, this is hardly “the Kaddish that Conservative Jews traditionally say on YomHashoah and Yom Kippur.” At the time of publication by the Rabbinical Assembly, the editor, Jules Harlow, together with the Siddur Committee accepted a suggestion from Professor Neil Gilman that this be included in the readings for Yom Hashoah along with the many other readings included in this siddur.

I think we need to tread very carefully on the graves of those for whom we mourn. No matter how deep our grief, each murder and loss deserves to be memorialized in its own way.