Kaddish in Memory of Black Lives
February 2, 2021
Rabbi Sandra Lawson received ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in June 2018. She holds a Master’s degree in Sociology with a focus on environmental justice and race, is an Army veteran, and an Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow.
Kaddish is the Jewish prayer we say when we are in mourning. Kaddish was the first song I ever wrote. Writing this song allowed me to express my grief in a way that words could not. I wrote my version of this Kaddish during the summer of 2015. When it seemed to me that day after day, unarmed black people were killed. Many of them were killed by police, others killed by white people who felt entitled to take the life of a black person, and let us not forget this was also the summer when a young white man walked into a church, prayed with black parishioners, and then fired off rounds killing nine of them.
This video cannot come close to naming all the victims who have died because many in our country do not value black lives. My hope for this video is that people in America will begin to understand that our country was built on the brutal enslavement of black people. Racism and white supremacy are in our DNA, and it’s time for our country to do in Hebrew Heshbon Hanefesh an accounting of our soul, a self-evaluation of who we are and who we want to be as a nation. It’s time for us to decide if we’re going to finally live up to our Democratic values, which we fail to do time and time again.
As clergy, I see that the connection point of Judaism and democracy translates into the practice of B’tzelem Elohim, the recognition that every individual is created in the Divine image. If we truly believe that all are created in God’s image, it is time for us to live up to our values of freedom and justice for all and see each other’s humanity.
Hi my name is Rabbi Sandra Lawson. First of all thank you all for letting me spend some time with you. The song I’m going to sing is Kaddish. And Kaddish is the traditional Jewish prayer we say when we lose someone. It’s a prayer that helps us to lift up the memories of those who are no longer with us. And when we recite this prayer we remember that all of the goodness, grace and love in the world has often come to us from those whose lives have touched us. And so we remember them and their memories.
I wrote this song… can’t remember if I said this or not, but I wrote this song… it was the first song that I ever wrote because I was grieving and crying from all of the senseless murders and I was watching them play out on our television. So here goes…
Yitgadal v’yit-kadash sh’mei rabba
B’allma dee v’ra chir’utei
Dear God lift me up in my time of need
Please show me how to live and love in peace
I want to live in a world full of hope
But it’s so damn hard when there is so pain
uv’chayei d’chol beit yisrael,
Ba’agala u’vizman kariv, v’imru, Amen
Adonai, Adonai I praise your holy name
Turn my sorrow turn my pain and show me the way
Adonai, Adonai we bless your name
So that One day may there be peace for us all
Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav,
hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu,
v’al kol yisrael v’imru, Amen