New siddurim from Italy!

I’ve just returned from Italy and Budapest. Budapest is my new favorite. I want to go back. While my mother and I were in Europe, I had some wonderful opportunities to grow my siddur collection.

First up, my Siddur Derech Haim, the siddur of the oldest and most active Reform congregation in Italy, Milan’s Lev Chadash.

SDH is absolutely unique amongst Reform siddurim, as far as I know. Generally, when we talk about Reform, we’re talking about a Reform of the Ashkenazi rite. This nusach Ashkenaz experienced the enlightenment to a greater extent than the practitioners of any other rite, so this is what Reform comes from. However, the rabbi of Lev Chadash, Rabbi Haim Fabrizio Cipriani has other ideas.

LC was founded by Brits living in Milan, though the group we encountered included Italians, Americans and some French. In its early days, the group used the British Liberal siddur, Lev Chadash. When Cipriani arrived at LC, he set about creating a new siddur. Cipriani, much to my surprise, did not go to either of the European Progressive rabbinical schools. He attended the only remaining traditional Italian rite yeshiva that grants smicha.

So the siddur he created is not a reformation of nusach Ashkenaz, but of the old, much rarer, Italian rite. He told me, if you’re gonna have a Reform in Italy, have it be Italian Reform. I couldn’t agree more.

During services, I was repeatedly jarred by remarkably different blocks of Hebrew. But I have some questions, as you’ll see with the next set of siddurim I acquired in Italy.

These two are published by and for what I can only assume are traditional Italian rite synagogues, Siddur Bene Romi and Siddur Bene Romi: Il Mio Siddur. The second is a children’s siddur.

When I got Siddur Derech Haim, I assumed that the vast pieces of unfamiliar text were because of the Italian rite. Indeed, Cipriani told me that he made only minor changes to the Italian rite text, such as imahot. However, Siddur Bene Romi is much closer to the Ashkenazi text.

I purchased SBR at the Jewish museum in the Venetia ghetto, where I also learned that Italy has very old Ashkenazi communities. If that’s the case, perhaps this reflects the rite of those communitites? This page has shed some light on the subject, I’m still not sure what’s going on. Anyone have any light to shed on this?

7 Responses to New siddurim from Italy!

  1. shalhevet June 17, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    I just found your blog while searching for “Italian rite siddurim” and I would love to find a copy of Siddur Derech Haim. Do you happen to know of an online retailer for it? Italian sites are okay.

    – potential (left-wing Orthodox?) convert with an affinity for prayerbooks

  2. shalhevet June 17, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    OK, I realize this could be totally weird, but I looked at your wishlist and wondered if you’ve checked out Kol Haneshamah. I have the Limot Hol and Shabbat V’hagim volumes. If lending out your Italian siddurim to a stranger in any way interests you, would you want to borrow mine in exchange?

    Hmm… a little about me, so this is a little less out-of-nowhere? I like Rabba Sara Hurwitz and the Koren Sacks Siddur, and I don’t know what movement to convert with if I have questions about vegan tefillin and tekhelet, lesbian couples and niddah laws, or everyday sort of things like egalitarian halakha (time-bound mitzvot) and “modest” pants. The pickle I’m in could perhaps be compared to how an observant Catholic with liberal political views might feel if all their best friends are Unitarians. I’m being unusually forward, but I figure if the first comment I leave you is tenatively asking for a favor I may as well introduce myself a little.

    • David A.M. Wilensky June 17, 2010 at 7:45 am #

      Well, shalhevet, welcome to the blog.

      I spent high holy days at a Recon outfit once. I’ll probably get a copy eventually. And I don’t really want to lend/trade/whatever.

      But, have you considered the idea that with the right rabbi, you can do all of what you’re talking about with a Reform or Conservative rabbi? Also, where do you live?

  3. Chajm June 21, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    It is assumed, that the »Minhag Romi« is the oldest minhag, because it developed when there were still communities in Eretz Yisrael. Anyway, The first printed siddur was that of Minhag Romi, it was printed by Soncino in 1486.

    • David A.M. Wilensky June 21, 2010 at 10:02 am #

      This I know. I’m just trying to figure out what has led to the difference between the Italian siddurim I have.

      • Chajm June 24, 2010 at 3:06 am #

        I think there is also a difference between the communities in Northern Italy (minhag Italiani) and Southern Italy (minhag bnei romi) and I heard there is a venetian minhag.
        There is an italian website, explaining some things:

        On the other hand Florence uses the sephardic minhag and Trieste uses the minhag ashkenaz – so italy is quite interesting… it seems the minhag is highly influenced by the history of the certain area in italy. Some cities were independent states, the jewish population of the coastal cities was even different.

        • David A.M. Wilensky June 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

          Right. In Venice, we visited three different synagogues, one Italian, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi, so who knows… I’m going to check out that link though.