Archive | July, 2010

Mahzor Lev Shalem, this year’s HHD blogging project and more Mishkan T’shuvah news!

The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly sent me a review copy of their brand new machzor, Lev Shalem. This year I’m gonna be getting three or four machzorim and reviewing them around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur. Others on my list are the also brand new Machzor Eit Ratzon, and the less new Mahzor Hadash. MER is a companion to my favorite siddur (for groups, not for individual use), Siddur Eit Ratzon and Mahzor Hadash is the maczhor we use at Chavurat Lamdeinu in Madison, NJ.

Machzor Lev Shalem. It's a much richer brown in person

Machzor Lev Shalem is a really gorgeous volume on first glance, which is the only glance I’ve yet had time for. It has a really beautiful brown cover that feels very soft to the touch. I think it’s faux leather.

The most typographically persnickety readers will notice that it’s been designed with an all-new typeface. It has less outright personality than Koren’s fonts, but it beats that wacky script from Mishkan T’filah. At first I thought it was Hadassah, but it’s a slightly more elegant variation on Hadassah, the most ubiquitous modern Hebrew typeface. It was designed by Scott-Martin Kosofsky, whose thoughts you can read about the machzor on this thread over at Typophile.

The most interesting thing I gleaned from the thread is this:

I am working with the CCAR, the Reform rabbinical organization, on a prayerbook for mourners at home and, soon, their new Mahzor. Israel Seldowitz and I are well into a new typeface for it, this one based on Ismar David’s work.

I previously wrote about the CCAR’s new machzor project here. My assumption was that the new machzor would be modeled very closely on Mishkan T’filah, though it now seems it will not be so slavishly similar. If Kosofsky is involved–I discovered him yesterday, but I’m already in love with him–I think the layout will be smarter and less airy. And we already know there will be a new font. So full steam ahead.

A couple more pictures of the new machzor:

The red type used throughout reminds me strongly of Gates of Repentance

The layout is most similar to Or Hadash, Reuven Hammer's commentary on Sim Shalom. Apparently the morning service commentary in this machzor is based on Hammer's Or Hadash commentary

Read full story · Comments { 12 }

THE AMIDAH: Brought to you today by our partners at Microsoft!

High Prayer Mistress Sue, my worthy opponent in what she calls our "blog war"

I wrote last week about the offer from, an ecumenical for-profit prayer resources for women, to become a partner site, which may or may not have involved having “The Reform Shuckle” inserted into some pre-written prayer/poem thing. For women.

In my post, I wrote about how I didn’t like their website, mission or methods very much. I didn’t use the word “hate,” but in her response post, Grand Pray Poobah or whatever Sue said I hate them. Okay. You said it, not me, Sue.

From her post:

The word “schuckle” alone, brings to mind the warmest of memories. I came to formal worship late in life and learned the choreography of prayer sitting behind a righteous man, a good man; Howard Sinton, of blessed memory. Howard shuckled. He would sway back and forth when reciting the holy words and I would follow his movements, because I was learning and it seemed like the right thing to do.

There’s no grand point to be made about this lovely (using that word honestly here–no sarcasm intended), except to point out that there’s nothing that peeves me out more than adoption of prayer choreography without knowing what it’s about. That’s how we get people bowing at “va’anachnu/and we” instead of waiting for the next word “korim/bow,” where the bow belongs.

It’s also how we get Reform Jews mindlessly sitting down halfway through something called the Amidah, the Standing Prayer.

It’s how come someone recently asked me which way I bow first in Yihyu L’ratzon, left or right? I said neither. We bow left and then right at the end of the Amidah, to complete the throne room metaphor as we leave God’s presence. Yihyu happens to be at the end of the Amidah as well as a few other places. So now people associate the bowing with Yihyu rather than the end of the Amidah so that every time Yihyu crops up elsewhere, people are bowing.

And, most odiously, it is how we get high school students at Kutz rambling on all day about Reform maxims like “Choice through Knowledge” and then copying their bunkmates in rising to their tiptoes at the mention of each mother and father in Avot V’imahot, which has no basis in anything! I swear, that one’s like a perpetual motion machine, summer after summer for no reason other than the fact that someone is doing it…

But back to the Pray Commander’s post:

So, after I read a great post by blogger David Wilensky of The Reform Shuckle website, I added it to the Excel spreadsheet we keep of potential partners for Prayables. Here’s our process: Each day, Amanda, Ed, and I, reach out to five websites on the list to tell them about Prayables and offer to promote their website in exchange for a mention of Prayables on theirs. This isn’t a money proposition; it’s just a little guerilla marketing.

Well that’s cool. I keep track of my life in spreadsheets too. This may be guerilla marketing, and I get that no one was talking about money, but the very idea is distasteful. There’s nothing wrong with earning money from a product that is religious or spiritual in nature, but there is something intrinsically wrong with marketing directly on or in the product. Imagine what the title of this post suggests, a prayer leader announcing that today’s prayer are brought to you by…

I admit that this is an imperfect comparison. Again, no money changes hand and this is merely a cooperative cross-promotion by two entities with something in common, but still, in the prayer?

Randi, if you’re out there reading, I could use some backup on this front:

I’m on board with the notion that all women don’t fit into neat categories of same tastes and equivalent inclinations. And, I duly note David’s opinion that our poetry (prayers) suck, but with the caveat that Prayables are not written for him. Yet, I do believe that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. We have different issues, emotions, and we typically we don’t express ourselves in the same way as men. I do believe that women of all faiths share the same values.

Read full story · Comments { 18 }

Self-promotion through online prayer. Also, wtf.

I got a funky e-mail today from something called I’ve reproduced it, annotated, for your reading pleasure here:

Dear David,

Let’s just note that any pretense that this is a genuine e-mail targeted at me written by someone who knows anything about flies out the window after this line. is an online prayer community that helps women integrate prayer easily into their daily lives. We have noticed that you have a lovely mission, and would love to strike up a website partnership with your site. We are not looking for a contract or monetary exchanges of any kind. We would just like to feature you on our site and, in turn, have Prayables featured on your site as a text link, button, or mention.

I’m certainly on a few missions, but I’m not sure which of them would be described as lovely.

We are willing to provide a link to your site in our “May We Suggest” category of our web links and recognition as a Partner, a reference to your website and mission in a particular Prayables prayer, and even a customizable Partner Page dedicated to your message and your organization. For an example of a reference to an organization in a particular prayer, please see the prayer “TisBest” located on our website. This prayer was crafted for the TisBest website, but what I am pointing out is the “May We Suggest?” text located below the prayer’s “About” section. The Prayables team will find a prayer in our archives that relates to your mission and gladly insert your information and text links.

Emphasis mine. At this point, I was planning on sending back a simple no thanks, but this has my a little grossed out. Customized, cross-promotional internet prayers? That’s taking the partnership between technology, spirituality and marketing a one or two steps too far. There’s a little more to the e-mail, but this is the bulk of it. Continue Reading →

Read full story · Comments { 9 }