My latest (JTA): ‘For Reform, new gay-friendly High Holidays prayer book keeps up inclusivity trend’

JTA's caption for a different picture of basically the same thing: "Mockups of the new Reform High Holidays prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, on display at the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Philadelphia, March 17, 2015."

JTA’s caption for a different picture of basically the same thing: “Mockups of the new Reform High Holidays prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, on display at the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Philadelphia, March 17, 2015.”

UPDATE: Evidently, the story has also appeared on Haaretz.

The biggest story of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (or CCAR, the professional organization of North America’s ~2,000 Reform rabbis) Convention in Philly was the installation of the group’s new leader, the CCAR’s first openly gay president. Yeah, I covered that story — but that’s not the real reason I went. My purest motivation in going was my desire to look into the new Reform machzor, Mishkan haNefesh, which will land in time for High Holidays 2015. Though there was a time when this blog was an active center of debate and discussion around new Jewish liturgy, it’s been a while since I had much in the way of new material to contribute to that conversation. So, I was excited to jump back in.

JTA's caption: "The new Reform High Holidays prayer book adds a third option to the traditional formula calling worshippers to the Torah to reflect the experience of individuals who don’t identify as male or female."

JTA’s caption: “The new Reform High Holidays prayer book adds a third option to the traditional formula calling worshippers to the Torah to reflect the experience of individuals who don’t identify as male or female.”

Here are some highlights of my JTA piece on the new machzor:

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — The Reform movement’s rabbinic association unveiled its new High Holidays prayer book — one that continues the movement’s trend toward inclusive liturgy — at the group’s 126th annual convention.

The prayer book features the voices of female writers and language more reflective of the LGBT experience. But the volume also signals a return to gendered language for God in Reform liturgy, including a version of the iconic High Holidays prayer Avinu Malkeinu that refers to God as both “Loving Father” and “Compassionate Mother.”

The previous Reform machzor, Gates of Repentance, was published in 1978. By the time the process of creating the new prayer book began in 2008, Person said, there was a feeling that the older text was no longer relevant.

“Today we live with different fears and anxieties than we lived with in the ’70s and ’80s,” she said. “There are references in Gates of Repentance to the post-Vietnam era or the fears of nuclear holocaust. Our fears are different. We still have them, but they’re different. I think the Jewish family is understood differently today, who the people in our pews are is understood differently.”

The new machzor continues the movement’s tradition of inclusivity, replacing a line from Gates of Repentance that referred to the joy of a bride and groom with “rejoicing with couples under the chuppah [wedding canopy].” The machzor also adds a third non-gendered option to the way worshippers are called to the Torah, offering “mibeit,” Hebrew for “from the house of,” in addition to the traditional “son of” or “daughter of.”

Head over to JTA to read more about it. I’ll also probably have more of a deep dive on it sooner or a later.

It feels good to be back in the liturgy game!

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