To Stand or Not to Stand? That Is the Kaddish Question!

by Amy Lansky (CJC Ritual Chair)

Our Sheliach Tzibbur Julie Batz and I have been discussing the issue of standing during Mourner’s Kaddish and we feel it is a topic that should be discussed more openly.  In Reform congregations, it is generally the custom that everyone stand during the recitation of Kaddish.  In Conservative and Orthodox congregations, only those in a period of personal mourning or observing a yahrzeit/anniversary of death usually stand.  At CJC, we leave it up to the individual.  Still, there is often a feeling of pressure to stand when so many others are doing so.

The next time it comes time for Kaddish, here are some pros and cons to consider when you make your decision whether or not to stand (if you are not in a period of mourning or observing a yahrzeit):

Reasons to stand:

  • Many people feel that standing is a show of support for those observing mourning/yahrzeit.
  • Many people feel that standing should be done in respect for victims of the holocaust.

Reasons not to stand:

  • Standing solitarily during mourning/yahrzeit is a cathartic experience that can be an emotionally healing (though sometimes painful) part of the grieving process.  Having others stand who are not going through this process can have the effect of watering down this important experience.
  • When the lengthy period of mourning is finally over, not standing can  be an important step in the healing process.
  • Those who are sitting and audibly saying the “response” portions of the Kaddish prayer are, from a ritual perspective, showing their support for those who stand. When the entire congregation says the full Kaddish out loud together, the call/response function of the prayer is lost.