Post by Akiva Adiv on Sept 24, 2015 8:51:19 GMT -5
When I first started exploring Judaism my plans to convert were postponed when my mother became ill with cancer. Mom died in April and I started conversion classes in September of the same year. I was fortunate enough to have talked with her about my plans to convert and get her input which she supported my decision. I found a lot of the practices around death in Judaism to be comforting and helped me a lot with my grieving. I was doing mourners kaddish and when I asked the Rabbi about it, he said that I should not do Mourners Kaddish not being Jewish, this was during my conversion year of study.
Now that I am Jewish, I would like to remember her, but I am not sure if it is appropriate to do so such as during Yizkor. I do personally the Yizkor prayers for her, but I am not sure whether I can/should have her name in a list or plaques, etc. She was a Catholic, didn't go to services since I was very young.
How do others observe remembrance of their lost loved ones?
I do the same. They weren't Jewish, but I am, and this is how Jews remember their parents. OTOH, I do not believe that you MUST do so. Conversion creates a new 'person' who is the son/daughter of Abraham and Sarah. Some of the sages state that, after converting, a new Jew could legally marry their biological sister, because she is no longer a relative - but that 'we don't do that so as not to scandalize the gentiles' (basically).
I do make one concession - we remember my (Israeli) husband's parents on the Hebrew anniversary of their deaths, but I remember my parents on the ENGLISH (regular calendar) anniversary. Probably silly, but there you are. Nobody said I had to be totally consistent.
Post by Debbie B. on Sept 24, 2015 21:07:43 GMT -5
I assume that you are asking if it is appropriate for you to stay for the Yizkor service since the members of your congregation follow the tradition that a person does not attend the service if both parents are still alive, however that is only a tradition based on superstition of tempting the evil eye, and there is no halachic justification for it. I have seen articles by Orthodox rabbis trying to convince all congregants to stay for the service even if their parents are alive. So it is fine for you to attend the Yizkor service regardless of whether your parents are alive or not and regardless of whether they were Jewish.
I always leave the sanctuary for Yizkor out of deference to my husband who lost both parents while still a child and thus has long had a reason to stay for that service. Since he was the one to introduce me to Judaism (more than 30 years ago), he has shooed me out of the service since I first encountered it. One year, when a dear friend and Jewish role model had recently died, I happened to pick up the print out that was used for the Yizkor service after returning, and when I read it I realized that it would have been nice to have been able to remember her at the service. The rabbi I studied with for conversion told me that I could stay if I wanted to and that I could explain why to anyone who might ask if one of my parents had recently died. But in addition to wanting to give my husband the space he needs to mourn, I am uncomfortable not following the rules of the majority of the congregation, and so, blessed as I am in still having both my parents alive, I continue to leave for Yizkor.
Unless the service at your synagogue is different from my understanding of it, attendees do not indicate why they are staying, and do not need a "reason" as noted above. So it seems to me that your choice to stay for Yizkor is a private one and you should do so if you find it comforting. You can certainly light a memorial candle at home for your mother as Shocheradam does.
It is also traditional to give charitable donations in honor of departed loved ones. Personally, I am uncomfortable with the idea of a non-Jew being listed on a plaque, but that's just my own gut reaction, so you should ask the synagogue staff or rabbi about whether there is a policy about that. The amounts required for such a permanent memorial may also be out of your giving range, so you should check on that. For a simple donation to any of what are probably many different synagogue funds, I would think that you can just say that it is from you in honor of "your late mother". You can also simply give a donation to any of your favorite charitable organizations which do not have to be "Jewish" at all. Perhaps there is a charity that would have been meaningful for your mother: give to an educational fund if your mother was an education advocate; give to an environmental fund if your mother enjoyed the outdoors; etc.
Two of my very different friends, a college friend who is a totally secular non-observant Jew and a minyan member who is a Shomer Shabbat observant Jew, both chose to honor their mothers by sponsoring a musical concert as a memorial at the anniversary of their mother's deaths. Neither mother was connected to Judaism (at least in their old age), but they were both connoisseurs of early medieval music. Interestingly, both of them had also been estranged from their mothers when they were younger (one of them was left as a toddler to be raised by his father, and the other had a mother who openly expressed her hatred of motherhood), but they came to establish a relationship with their mothers as older adults.
Post by Akiva Adiv on Sept 25, 2015 8:31:56 GMT -5
Thank you for your responses they have been helpful. I had been leaving during Yizkor with Rishana as that being her tradition, it makes sense to me. Last year, after my mothers death, I started attending Yizkor, Rishana still doesn't for obvious reasons.
Looking back at my original post, I didn't clearly state what I was asking about the Yizkor service. I have been staying and doing the personal prayers. However, there is a list of names remembered by people that are publicly announced during the Yizkor service and I don't know if it would be appropriate to have her name in that list. I guess my best bet is to ask people at the temple (we are very small). Thanks! -Tom
It is always a good idea to check with your "friendly neighborhood rabbi." Seriously your congregational rabbi is the best source for info on such subjects. One rabbi (Orthodox) that I asked said that the names of gentile parents must never be spoken in the community. The rationale is that some members may not realize that the persons named are not Jewish and would accord Jewish honors to them which would violate halachah. Other rabbis are not as strict. As you suggest it would be best to follow the tradition of your congregation after consulting the rabbi.