As I have often noted, I edited a sidur this summer called Sidur Eilu D’vareinu. It is currently in the copyediting and formatting process. Readers of this blog will be amongst the first to know when it is complete. This is not fact that I keep quiet, to say the least. I am quite proud of my sidur and I often tell people about it.
Not long after meeting the Austinite and the American, names I shall use for two Hillel board members here at Drew, I told them about my sidur. They thought that it was interesting, but did not say much of it. Fast-forward a week or so all the way to yesterday. I walked out of my Intro to Islam class and into a courtyard, whereupon I was accosted by the Austinite and the American. They said, “We want you sidur.” I said, “No, you don’t.” “Yes we do,” they insisted. “You’ve seen that thing that we use at Hillel. It’s awful.” They are referring, by the way, to the photocopied packets of pages from Big Blue that we daven from at Hillel services. “Agreed,” I told them. “I don’t like it much either, but my sidur is not your solution.” I carry it around in my bag so I took it out to show them why they do not want it. “Oh,” said the American. “It’s all in Hebrew,” said the Austinite. “Right,” I said.
The way this conversation ended was with me agreeing to create a service for Hillel. I say a service, not a sidur, because all that Hillel does around here is Friday night. This service will include Hebrew, English translation, and transliteration. This whole thing is a giant can of worms.
The problem here is a problem of power. This project gives me a lot of power over what people say. As far as I can tell, the liturgy committee, my overseers in this endeavor, only care about what is in Kabalat Shabat and what selection of closing songs get included. That works out well because those are two things I could not care less about. This leaves me free to do whatever I want with the Shma section, the Amidah, and the Aleinu. I can assume that most of the people whom this sidur is being made for have no idea what they are saying. If I keep the small changes I made in my sidur to satisfy my theology in this service, I have great control over what other people say when they pray. That kind of scares me.