Where is The Prayer Book Press?

I have a number of pieces in my collection published by Prayer Book Press. Their material that I’m aware of seems to be Conservative, but not USCJ, which seems like an odd distinction, but there it is. I say this because it looks like that’s the tone of the content and because at least one of their works that I have was edited by Morris Silverman.

I just googled PBP. They’re located in Bridgeport, CT, it seems. Other than that, there’s nothing about them on the web except for their siddurim and machzorim. They have apparently on web presence. Does anyone know anything about them? Do they still exist?

Shabbat Shalom.

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9 Responses to Where is The Prayer Book Press?

  1. Larry Kaufman September 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    I can’t tell you anything about the Prayer Book Press, but I can see you doing the same kind of conflating in the Conservative movement that you do in the Reform movement. The USCJ is not in the siddur/machzor business any more than the URJ is. The prayerbooks used in most Conservative synagogues are published by the Rabbinical Assembly, just as the prayerbooks used in most Reform synagogues are published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

    You have brushed this aside in the past as a distinction without a difference, and it may be true that for amcha the three legs of the liberal movements are perceived as one stool — but anyone who wants to write authoritatively about Judaism as a religion needs to recognize the varying spheres of influence of the three arms — the synagogue arm, the rabbinic arm, the seminary arm. (Note to copy editor: challenge the switch from three legs to three arms.)

    While I think that Eric Yoffie would probably be broadly acknowledged as “the head of the Reform movement,” that would not be true for his opposite number in the Conservative movement. In the past, it was the head honcho at JTS who was the acknowledged head of the movement; whether that will continue to be the case with non-rabbi Arnold Eisen in that spot remains to be seen.

    One reason I am so concerned about the misattribution is that one of my major concerns throughout my years of involvement in Jewish community leadership has been drawing the boundary line between the professionals and the volunteers. In the synagogue setting, my credo has been that the rabbi is responsible for what happens on the bimah, the laity is responsible for what happens in the synagogue outside the sanctuary. In the two movements (and probably in the Reconstructionist movement as well), we have given over prayerbook creation to the rabbis, while retaining the right not to buy their books if we’re not satisfied with them. And in the indie world, from what I read, there is no mechitza between lay and clergy, often because there are no clergy (or clergy performing as such).

    And by the way, I not only grew up on the Silverman prayerbooks, I also dated Silverman’s niece. Not germane, but possibly interesting.

    • David A.M. Wilensky September 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

      For the purposes of siddurim, the URJ and the CCAR are the same thing. But that’s only kind of relevant. I don’t know much about the inner life of the Conservative world, but it is unclear to me if PBP publishes things on behalf of/in conjunction with the RA. At least one of the books I have is published by PBP, but endorsed (I think that’s the term they used) by the RA. But it looks like that’s only Silverman-era stuff. More recent PBP works by Silverman (from what we might call the Sim Shalom era) seem to be published in a Conservative style by PBP, but not as part of any formal relationship.

      Re: the niece. Not germane, but definitely interesting.

      • Larry Kaufman September 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

        “For the purposes of siddurim, the URJ and the CCAR are the same thing.”

        Absolutely. And for the purpose of the worshipper, the Amidah and the Aleinu are the same thing.

        • David A.M. Wilensky September 5, 2010 at 7:31 am #

          No! I’m kind of hoping that’s a joke, but it’s funny (kind of) because it’s kind of true. For the worshiper who missed out on a quality education in Jewish prayer, those things are the same. But they don’t have to stay the same. We can start teaching and leading prayer with an extra inch or so of clever and the joke just won’t be funny any more.

          • Larry Kaufman September 5, 2010 at 11:53 am #

            Maybe a better analogy would have been to the balance of powers in the U.S. Government, with assigned roles for the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements all have assigned roles for their congregational arm, their rabbinical arm, and their seminaries.
            As I said previously, which arm dominates may be different from movement to movement, and from time to time. When you want to make sweeping statements, you’re on reasonably firm ground when you talk about the Reform movement, but you will be evaluated as a sloppy journalist when you attribute to the Union that which belongs to the Conference. (Or if not as a sloppy journalist, as the ass you confessed to acting like in another post and another context.)

            I think some chiddushim in the Movement can be traced to one or another of the three arms. Gender sensitivity seems to me have come from the seminary — the new ordinees pushing it on their congregations and on their seniors. But it was the rabbis who take credit for the introduction of the imahot. (Specifically, Peter Knobel says this emerged from a conversation involving him, Larry Kushner, and Everett Gendler.) B’nai mitzvah were forced onto the clergy by congregants. T’shuvot seem to have shifted from the rabbinate to the seminary — during his prime, pulpit rabbi Solomon Freehof was the undisputed posek-in-chief, and he passed the mantle to his successor (in his pulpit as in developing responsa) Walter Jacob. But now the mantle has passed to HUC, and the two best recognized poskim are Mark Washofsky and Rick Sarason.

            Meanwhile, back to my joke. The worshiper who “missed out on a quality education in Jewish prayer” is almost all of us, and many of us are reluctant to be taught any more than we already know. We know, for example, that one stands for the Shma, and when David Stern tried to teach us otherwise, the shit hit the fan. Our new rabbi, in her position since July 1, has introduced two changes in liturgical practice that I am aware of, without any fanfare, to the extent that I doubt most people are really aware of them as changes. Our new cantor, in his position for a year now, has made many changes, but I think people think of them as changes in music rather than as changes in liturgy. People don’t care as long as you don’t take them out of their comfort zones.

            Having said all that, one reason that I make such a big thing out of rendering Caesar what is Caesar’s is that I know as member of the Union board, and a past member of its Executive Committee, that as a governing body we had no say-so about any aspect of MT — although as individuals attending URJ functions, we were the guinea pigs during its extensive testing phase. Being asked for input is very different from making decisions. The Pittsburgh Principles were watered down because of protests from laity — but not through actions of the URJ. You do yourself a disservice when you disregard the process and the dynamics of change, and when you care excessively about things that most Reform laity and most Reform rabbis are not terribly concerned about (e.g., the “missing” section of the Shma).

            • David A.M. Wilensky September 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

              “You do yourself a disservice when you disregard the process and the dynamics of change, and when you care excessively about things that most Reform laity and most Reform rabbis are not terribly concerned about (e.g., the “missing” section of the Shma).”

              Your point about the dynamics of change is fine. I get it. But where do you get off telling me what to care about? I care about the missing section (and it is, indeed missing, your scare-quotes aside) a great deal. Someone probably said the same damn thing to the imahot people at some point.

  2. Frank Castronova September 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I am disappointed that Prayer Book Press does not have a web site. I’ve found their publications at various brick-and-mortar and on-line stores. The only way to get a catalog is to call them and ask for it to be faxed or mailed to you.

    • David A.M. Wilensky September 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

      But you’re sure that they are still extant?

      • Frank Castronova September 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

        Not 100% sure. Their books are still sold by dealers that sell new books.