When my father died in January 2000, I joined the millions of other Jews, past and present, who honour their deceased loved ones in prayer. Yiskor is recited four times a year in synagogue in a collective remembrance for those who have died. Jews also individually commemorate the Yarhzeit, or anniversary, of the person (parent, sibling, child or spouse) who has died. In all, there are five designated opportunities every year in which to mourn the loss of a loved one.

Over the years, reciting these prayers has felt hollow to me. In synagogues where I knew no one, where my father was also unknown, I did not find comfort among my fellow worshippers. I  recited the prayers by rote, and the prayers did not reflect the personal nature of my grief.

I am not a religiously observant woman although I identify strongly as a Jew.  The memory of my father is one that I carry not just five times a year but every day. I knew that my father, who was more observant than me, would have wanted his life honoured in some significant manner,  so I looked for how I could memorialize him that also felt meaningful and heartfelt  to me.

Starting with the Passover holiday in 2015, I forego the communal Yiskor prayers and instead created a photograph of remembrance. I continued this practice over the three remaining Yiskor opportunities as well as for his Yahrzeit anniversary. To distinguish his Yahrzeit  I created a lumen print, which incorporated a  photograph of him as well as  a partial text of the Kaddish prayer, which is a key prayer in the Jewish liturgy.

Using Format