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What the Orthodox think about us… and what we think about them

I work very closely with Simi, a Jew who is very Orthodox (she’s my age and about to get married) and very modern (she associates with Jews of all types and started wearing pants last week).

Right before Rosh Hashanah, she was surprised to discover that there are observant Jews (Reform, etc.) who only do one day of yom tov. And yesterday she turned to me and said, “So I hear Reform Jews do actually fast on Yom Kippur.” I was dumbfounded.

A little while later, she saw an article someone posted on Facebook that had something to do with the Orthodox. A comment on it read, “I am almost always impressed by the trends of thought in Judaism. The only exceptions are anytime I encounter information about the Orthodox.”

Simi turned to me and said, “What is this about? Why do people think this?”

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My first observations about the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur


When I first posted this siddur trailer (!) over a year ago, I wrote that it was coming later in 2010. Since then, Amazon has emailed me like three times to tell me the release was being postponed. Well, it’s finally here. This morning, I played around with my new toy in shul. Here are some initial observations:

The Rav meets Sir Sacks:

There’s a lot of Modern Orthodox star power in this volume. Rabbi Joseph “The Rav” Soloveitchik did more in his lifetime to shape Modern Orthodoxy than anyone else ever has. This siddur includes his commentary throughout, as well as a number of great introductions and forewords about him and about his views on Jewish prayer.

At the same time, it’s still a member of the Koren Sacks family of siddurim because it still features the translation used in the Sacks siddur.

It’s yet another (mostly) beautiful Koren product:

Yes, it has the usual beautiful Koren typefaces and layout, but it doesn’t have the bookmark ribbons that some of their other recent siddurim have had, which is a little disappointing. And then there’s this:

In my copy of the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, page 441/442 has some issues. The corner of this page arrived pre-bent. If it’s not totally apparent from the image above, here’s what it looked like when I unfolded it:

So that’s special.

It’s hard to read English from right to left:

It’s a recurring problem: A siddur should open from right to left, but anglophone siddurim have forewords and commentary printed in English, which makes for weird reading. Reading an introduction, when you get to the bottom of the page, you have to keep reading by looking at what would be the previous page in an English book. Koren has a clever way of helping you wrap your mind around this:

In lighter print, they indicate that you should continue reading on the next/previous page with the direction of the arrow and they tell you what the next English word will be. Koren is very focused on using visuals, rather than instructions, to help the user navigate the siddur. This is one of many cases in which they do this very well.

But I came across a problem today: They don’t do the same thing for a piece of commentary that lasts over multiple pages. For example, let’s say you there’s a piece of English commentary in the middle of the service that starts on the left leaf of a two-page spread (we’ll call it page 2). If this piece of commentary is long enough that it stretches over two pages, they run it on the next English page, but the previous Hebrew page, if that makes sense (we’ll call it page 1). If it’s longer than that (I found one like this in this siddur today), it then jumps two English pages back or two Hebrew pages forward (we’ll call it page 3). You with me? The point is, it’s downright confusing and Koren ought to use little arrows to help us through it.

It would be cooler if it wasn’t just Soloveitchik’s commentary:

In one of the introductory sections, Hanhagot HaRav, we get a list of his personal prayer practices. For instance, in Birchot Hashachar, he used to replace the word “goy/nation” in “shelo asani goy” with “nochri/stranger” because the Tanach sometimes uses the word “goy” in reference to the Jewish nation. He also used to omit “hanotein laya’ef ko’ach” because it wasn’t listed in the Talmud. Yet this siddur includes it as well as the word “goy,” as you can see:

It would be a lot cooler if it was the siddur according to Soloveitchik, rather than a siddur with his commentary.

Some new nikud?

Koren isn’t alone in this, but they like to indicate the difference between the two types of the shva vowel. They indicate which ones are vocalized and which ones are truly silent by making the dots of the vocalized shva a little bigger, as you can see in the word “hamevorach” from my copy of a different Koren siddur:

You can see that the shva under the mem is bolder than the shva under the final chaf. That’s what I’m talking about.

But in the Mesorat HaRav Siddur, they’ve got a new, more obvious way of marking the vocalized shva:

Now, they leave the shva itself alone so that both types appear the same. But they add a line above the letter that has the vocalized shva. The advantage is that it’s way more obvious. Plus, in the example above, you wouldn’t now that the shva in “barechu” is vocalized because there are no other shvas at that type size to compare it with.

That is all. So far. Shabbat shalom.

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Occupy Kol Nidrei: Paperback Lev Shalem; a new-found appreciation for the Middle Ages; and how I learned to stop worrying and love English readings

Keep in mind that this photo was taken close to the center of the circle so you're only seeing about a fifth of the crowd here.

As you may recall, I went to the Kol Nidrei service organized by Jewschool founder and “social media activist” Dan Sieradski at Occupy Wall Street. (So did my mom, by the way.) There are many articles and blog posts out there that you can read about the service (including my blog post for the Forward, which was the most read article on their sit the day it went up and remained one of the most emailed articles on their site for several days; and which was reposted by Haaretz).

But there’s only one play-by-play, complete with exhaustive notes on liturgical minutiae. Here it is.

Machzorim:

  • The Rabbinical Assembly? I never thought I’d see the day, but when it suddenly looked like hundreds (estimates have ranged from 700-1000; personally, I think it’s closer to 1000) would show up to this service, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism was the only organization that stepped up and helped out with some machzorim.
  • I want one! I, of course, brought my copy of Machzor Lev Shalem with me, but was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the machzorim the RA was donating were these slim little paperback MLS “Kol Nidrei and Evening Service of Yom Kippur” booklets. At the end we were told we could keep them. I perked right up and this Hadar fellow I was sitting next to kindly offered me hers, which you can see above, next to my regular old MLS.
  • Are there more of these? Since I’m going to continue to use MLS as my primary machzor for the foreseeable future it would be great if there was a full set of these booklets. According to the inside front cover, they’re drafts that were piloted in a few Conservative shuls prior the full publication of MLS. By the end of YK, my arms were so tired from holding up the brick that is MLS that I found myself in dire need of a slimmer machzor option so I’m hoping I come across more of these someday.
  • It really is a machzor for all: When the RA was generating a lot of press for MLS, a little over a year ago, one note they hit over and over again was that MLS wasn’t merely a Conservative machzor, but that it was meant to be used by a much wider audience. It’s not only remarkable that they offered these up but that they were accepted. There was a time when establishment was establishment and anti-establishment was anti-establishment and never the twain shall meet. Today, the adherents of the traditional egalitarian style that is popular all over the non-denominational, non-establishment Jewish world has no problem using a Conservative machzor if it fits their needs.

Demographics: So there were a lot people, as I’ve mentioned. But one thing that’s been interesting about Occupy Wall Street and about this service in particular is the diversity of the crowd. As the protest has gone on, the protesters have gotten more generationally and racially diverse; and of course we’ve all heard about how ideologically diverse they are. The Jews at the service were no different. (Though they were not overly racially diverse, as you might imagine, I’m pretty sure I spotted the Black Jewish rapper Y-Love.) So in terms of age diversity, my mother was not the only person beyond her 30s there. And in terms of ideological diversity, I saw Jews I know from all over the denominational and ritual spectrum. (Except for the anti-mixed seating crowd, though I suspect there may have been some of them there as well.)

The service itself:

Shlichei tzibur: Getzel Davis (left), Sarah Wolf (center) and Avi Fox-Rosen (far right)

  • Our fearless leaders: Though organized by Sieradski, the service was led by the intrepid trio pictured above:
  • Getzel Davis: Getzel is a friend of mine from Limmud NY, though we see each other from time to time elsewhere now. He hosted me last year when I visited Hebrew College in Boston, where he is a fourth-year rabbinical student. Much more on Getzel later in the post.
  • Sarah Wolf: Sarah, a first-year rabbinical student at JTS here in New York, approached me before the service, wondering why she recognized me. We couldn’t figure it out and then it hit her:  “Oh! Are you David Wilensky?” Apparently, she’s a fan of this blog.
  • Avi Fox-Rosen: Avi is a musician. I encountered him once before when he was a presenter at Limmud NY a couple of years ago. He chanted Kol Nidrei itself when the time came.

Sieradski and one of the leaders, Avi Fox-Rosen, attempt to create aisles. You can imagine how well that worked out.

  • Mic check! You may have read or heard about “the people’s mic,” the un-amplified method that the Occupy Wall Street protesters use to communicate to large crowds. The individual initiating it shouts, “Mic check!” The crowd responds in unison, “Mic check!” Repeat. The announcement is then delivered in short phrases, each one shouted back by the crowd before the speaker moves on to the next phrase. If the crowd is exceedingly large, the phrase may get repeated in multiple waves, taking two or three repetitions to reach the members of the crowd farthest from the speaker. This method was used throughout the service for page numbers, readings, etc.

Sieradski about an hour and a half before the service

  • Why are we here? Imagine the following all shouted by Sieradski in the call-and-response format described above:
  • Shatz: “Mic check!”
  • Kahal: “Mic check!”
  • Shatz: “Welcome to Kol Nidrei at Occupy Wall Street!”
  • Kahal: “Welcome to Kol Nidrei etc…”
  • “The reason we’re here is the prophet Isaiah!”
  • “Who requires not only a fast from food!”
  • [Some explanation of Isaiah's thing about "This is not the fast that I require, etc...]
  • “What better way to observe Yom Kippur!?”
  • “Than in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street!?”
  • And so forth.
  • Fun with page numbers: We began on page 204. Kind of. We began on page 204 of the full MLS that I brought with me. Since many others had it with them as well and since there were also 100 copies of that MLS Kol Nidrei booklet present, page numbers were announced for both. It was announced–via the shout-and-response method–that H=P+201, where H is the page number of the full hardcover edition of and P is the page number of the paperback booklet. This led to a lot of people’s mic announcements along the lines of the following, which never ceased to elicit a titter of giggles from the entire congregation:
    • Shatz: “We are beginning on page three!”
    • Kahal: “We are beginning on page three!”
    • Shatz: “And also on page 204!”
    • Kahal: “And also on page 204!”
  • Or Zarua: And begin on page 3/204 we did, with the chanting of “Or zarua latzadik ulyishrei-lev simchah” (Ps. 97:11) a few times. There was some clapping.
  • Three times, with hand signals: “Bishivah shel malah uvishivah shel matah… im ha’avaryanim” is traditionally recited thrice. To keep the crowd together, the shatz trio each waved a finger in the air as we said it the first time, two fingers the second time and three the third time. This was done a couple other times throughout the service for bits that are meant to be repeated a certain number of times.
  • QUESTION: Why am I enjoying this English? Getzel led us in some English corresponding to the bit we had just recited three times–call-and-response, of course. (In fact, from here on out you should assume that any English I mention was shouted out and then shouted back by the crowd.) I played along and had a series of thoughts about it while we shout-prayed in English:
    1. This is nice.
    2. Wait, why am I enjoying this?
    3. Am I actually participating in this English?
    4. Whatever, David, just go with it.
  • ANSWER: Because it was lively as all get-out! In services, you may find yourself saying two sorts of things out loud. You may sing or chant some Hebrew or you may recite some English. And by recite I mean mumble un-enthusiastically. And by mumble un-enthusiastically, I mean space out. But this was a whole other thing. Everyone paid perfect, rapt attention to all of the English we did throughout the service. And when they responded, they responded with vigor! I can’t believe I shouted English in the middle of a service the way I did during Kol Nidrei this year.
  • Kol Nidrei, once more with feeling: We said Kol Nidrei three times, each time building on the energy of the previous time.
    1. Avi Fox-Rosen chanted Kol Nidrei through once. I was very close to the middle of the circle and found him only vaguely audible.
    2. Getzel and Sarah joined AFR for the second time through. (All three of them waving two fingers in the air.) The crowd got in on the action a little bit this time.
    3. By the third time, the whole crowd has heard the tune at least once. Some of us already know it, while I suspect some haven’t been to shul in years, but the excitement of this service seems to be jostling free the memory of this melody somewhere in the recesses of their brains. The third time through, Kol Nidrei is loud and proud.
  • “We renounce publicly…” Sieradski chimes in, announcing, “We renounce publicly…” (I’ll say!) followed by a list of things that we renounce.
  • Let the service speak for itself: I didn’t write down any of the things we were renouncing, but my notes at this point say, “He’s getting v. political. Unsettlingly. Let this event & the words of KN speak for themselves.”
  • Minutiae from my notes: We’re now on page 205/4. From my notes:
    • “Venislach lechol-adat… lechol ha’am bishgagah” once
    • Then “[Moses prayed:] ‘As befits Your abundant love… from Egypt until now.’ And there it further says:”
    • Then “Adonai replied, ‘I have forgiven, as you have asked.’”
    • Then “Selach-na la’avon ha’am… ve’ad-henah. Vesham ne’emar:”
    • Then Shehechiyanu to that sing-songy tune
  • The crowd that leads itself: AFR was going to lead Ps. 92 (“Mizmor shir leyom haShabbat. Tov lehodot…”) silently, but after a moment of that, a cluster of musically-inclined members of the congregation about a third of the way around the circle from my position spontaneously began a tune, which quickly caught on.
  • Tzadik Katamar: When we reached this part of Ps. 92, Getzel led us singing through the end of the psalm to the tune that I generally refer to as “that one we did at the lay-led services when I was a kid.”
  • Maariv: For the most part, Maariv was conducted in the mostly-silent-but-with-a-few-lines-of-nusach fashion.
  • Triumphant Mi Chamocha: Mi Chamocha was sung so triumphantly, you’d have thought there were walls of water to our left and right.
  • “Chapter, verse!” My mother (who used to shout “Chapter, verse!” in services when I was a kid anytime the page number of the Torah reading was announced rather than the chapter and verse because she always brought a different edition with her) took the opportunity of the silent Hashkiveinu to stand up from the folding beach chair she brought with and ask Getzel to kindly inform us not only of page numbers, but of where in the service we were because lots of people had different machzorim with them. (She had Eit Ratzon with her.)
  • Veshamru: The Carlebach tune
  • “We are not praying to the building!” The plaza across the street from Zuccotti Park where we had the service happened to be bordered on the east by the Brown Brothers Harriman building. Before Chatzi Kaddish, AFR announced:
    • “We are not praying to the building!”
    • “We are praying to the east!”
    • “Toward Jerusalem!”
    • “Not for political reasons!” (The crowd snickers.)
    • “For spiritual ones!”
  • The 24-hour drum circle: Occupy Wall Street’s 24-hour drum circle has become (in)famous. Around the time I reached the first Uvechen in the silent Amidah, I was suddenly very aware of its muddy volume leaking across the street, over the falafel trucks that bordered us to the west and all the way to where I was standing in the middle of the Kol Nidrei crowd.
  • The crowd is leading itself again: We were brought out of our individual Amidahs not by any of the shlichei tzibur, but by an Oseh Shalom that sprung up somewhere within the crowd.
    • The Tower of Babel: According to my notes, it was around this time that I noticed that the building before us seemed to disappear into the night sky. I couldn’t see its top! Later, I snapped the picture above.
    • The man who prayed with his feet: A quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel (who marched with MLK in Selma and later famously said, “I felt like my feet were praying”) was featured atop the photocopied supplement we used later in the service. He also put in an appearance here (page 225/24, at this point).
    • A.J. Heschel on “body and soul”: Sarah led us in reading a comment in the margin in the upper left corner of the page, quoting him on the subject of “body and soul”: “Originally the holy (kadosh) meant that which is set apart, isolated, segregated. In Jewish piety it assumed a new meaning, denoting a quality that is involved, immersed in common and earthly endeavors; carried primarily by individual, private, simple deeds rather than public ceremonies”
    • Yeah, but how much more public could this particular ceremony get? That may sound counter to the very spirit of this particular venue for Kol Nidrei, but wait until we get to Aleinu to pass judgement on the inclusion of this quotation.
    • “Haneshamah lach…” Then Sarah and AFR led us in signing “Haneshamah lach vehaguf po’olach, chusah al amalach.”
    • Really loving those 13 attributes: No matter how long it’s been since the last time you went to a Yom Kippur service, there’s one tune you will never dislodge from your brain: “Adonai, Adonai, El rachum vechanun, etc.” So the crowd was understandably jazzed to sing the 13 attributes through by the time we got to them on 229/28.
    • Animals and stuff: Looking back, I can’t imagine myself enthusiastic about this reading at all, but my notes indicate that we enthusiastically shout-and-response-ed our way through this English reading featuring a bunch of biblical animal imagery (upper left corner of 233/32).
    • Medieval-style! I also have a note here that says, “Throughout, no need for machzor for C&R.” My point being, I assume, that there was something delightfully medieval about the way this service was conducted. When most communities owned only one copy of the siddur, services were conducted in a very different fashion. With all of this shouting back and forth and with only maybe a quarter of the crowd actually holding a machzor, I sensed a little window back to that.
    • For example: AFR led us in the series of four verses that begins “Shema koleinu” and ends “kochenu al-ta’azvenu.” Normally, each verse is chanted once by the shatz and then repeated by the kahal. He tried the first verse, “Shema koleinu, Adonai Eloheinu, chus verachem aleinu, vekabel berachamim uvratzon et-tefilatenu.” The crowd–once again, most of whom don’t have machzorim–attempted to repeat it, but we petered out about halfway through.
    • So he changes it up: For the remaining three verses, he broke it up. For example, the next verse, “Hashivenu Adonai elecha venashuvah, chadesh yamenu kekedem,” was not chanted and then repeated in its entirety. Instead AFR chanted, “Hashiveinu Adonai elecha venashuvah,” and the crowd repeated it back with gusto. Then he chanted the rest of the verse and we repeated. And so on for the remaining two verses of the section.
    • Anu Amecha: This super-catchy piyut was sung with a lot excitement. When we ran out of words and lapsed into a nigun, it was out of control!
    • Al Cheit: “We will now list some of our sins!” Getzel shouted before we worked through Al Cheit in English. There’s something be said for standing outside in public with a crowd shouting your sins at full volume. I felt a chill when we shouted, “We have sinned against you by defrauding others.”
    • Israel and Palestine: Then we read an interpretive version of Al Cheit by Stew Albert and Judy Gumbo. As interpretive readings go, it’s a pretty good and it was an excellent choice for this particular occasion. One line reads, “We have sinned… by not defending Israel.” I didn’t have a copy of the reading, which was some people had in the photocopied packets that were handed out before the service. So I didn’t know what the next line was and got a little concerned. Then we shouted, “…by not defending Palestine.” Nice choice, I thought.
    • The sermon: The sermon kicked the whole thing up a notch or two. I did a whole post a while ago about the sermon, which I highly recommend you read in its entirety. The high point of it was this:
    • “Yom Kippur is the day that we are forgiven for worshiping the golden calf!”
    • “What is the golden calf!?”
    • “It is the essence of idol worship!”
    • “It is the fallacy that gold is God!”
  • Kaddish Shalem: Chanted by AFR to the fast tune that has the super-emphatic amens
  • Aleinu: Instead of just chanting Aleinu, the service finally reached a point where it was just a tad too goofy for me. Aleinu, it was explained, means “it is upon us” so people were invited to shout out something they were going to take upon themselves in the coming year. Then, of course, each of these things were shouted back by the crowd. And then we would all shout, “Aleinu!” and wait for the next person to start hollering out whatever vague ethical something-or-the-other they were going to uphold in 5772. Some of these were insanely long and impossible to repeat back accurately. Topics covered in the various personal Aleinus included:
    • Palestine
    • The environment
    • Racism
    • Shopping locally
    • Feeding the hungry
    • Cancelling Bank of America accounts
    • Raising kids to have these values
    • Praying with Christians and Muslims (whether they like it or not?)
    • And so forth, seemingly interminably
  • Vene’emar: That rather special “Aleinu” over, we sang the last line of Aleinu and then moved on.
  • The end.
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    Pocket-size weekday Eit Ratzon!

    A magical email just arrived in my inbox from Joe Rosenstein, the creator of Siddur Eit Ratzon and Machzor Eit Ratzon:

    Friends,

    I am pleased to announce that, in response to many of your suggestions,
    I have prepared a pocket size weekday version of Siddur Eit Ratzon.

    You will be able to carry this siddur with you wherever you go.  I hope
    this will enable you to replicate during the entire week the positive
    Shabbat prayer experiences that you have told me were made possible by
    Siddur Eit Ratzon.

    This siddur will have the same four-column format as Siddur Eit Ratzon.
    Indeed, although there are many new and revised pages, most of the pages in this siddur are the same as those in the regular version of the siddur … but they are smaller.  To make the siddur more portable, the pages are reduced to 5.25 x 6.5 inches and the cover is paper. It has 144 double pages and a made-to-last sewn binding.

    The prepublication price for a single copy is $22, ($18 plus $4 shipping and handling), to addresses within the United States.  (It’s $8 extra for Canada — and an extra $10 elsewhere.)

    The siddur will go to the printer in a few weeks, and I expect to be
    able to deliver copies in January 2012.

    I encourage you to order copies for yourself *now* (and for your
    friends) since the first printing will be limited. (You can give copies
    as Chanukkah presents although they may arrive a few weeks late.)

    Needless to say, this version of the siddur is also appropriate for
    congregations as a daily prayer book and for shiva minyans.

    Copies can be ordered at the Siddur website – newsiddur.org – just go
    to the “Purchase” page; the middle box is for this new siddur.

    Many thanks to all of you who have encouraged me and have thanked me for my efforts to make Jewish prayer more accessible and meaningful.

    Joe Rosenstein

    I have just ordered mine.

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    An egalitarian, Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Ugandan service? Sign. Me. Up.

    I just posted this on the New Voices Magazine blog and I thought y’all might be interested too:

    Today, in New Voices Magazine, Carly Silver writes about Sephardic student life, or lack thereof, at Columbia University.

    Though the picture is mostly bleak, one group mentioned in the article stands out, New Yachad City. Part of Columbia University Hillel, New Yachad City tries to create services that are more reflective of the diversity of world Jewry.

    They lead student excursions to different synagogues around New York City, typically off the beaten path. They also host their own monthly service. This month’s New Yachad City Friday night service is this week and I think I’m gonna go.

    Details:

    Alternative, egalitarian, multi-traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service in Earl Hall on Friday, October 28th at 6 PM. Welcome in the Sabbath with Shabbat tunes from Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue, Abudaya Jewish community and much more. Experience Shabbat services in a different way and learn about world Jewry while praying! Everyone is welcome!

    If you’re planning on coming, let me know in the comments.

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    Occupy Chag: A sukkah pops up in Zuccotti Park

    Occupy Judaism pushes forward. After Kol Nidrei services in New York, Philly, DC, Chicago and Boston, Sukkot has come to the Wall Street protests of those cities as well as the protests of Atlanta and LA. Or so I hear. I can only report firsthand on the sukkah that went up at 5pm yesterday at Occupy Wall Street’s downtown Manhattan home base of Zuccotti Park.

    A quick summary: There was a lot of press (probably more press than actual Jews celebrating Sukkot), the sukkah was a Pop-Up Sukkah (which you can see in the middle of popping up in the picture above) and music was provided by a klezmer band that just happened to be at the park. And the wind was blowing on a biblical scale.

    I’ve got some thoughts about the alliance of Occupy Wall Street and DIY Judaism at New Voices.

    I’ve also got a boatload of photos. I wanted to embed a Picasa slideshow of them like I did for Occupy Kol Nidrei, but Picasa isn’t playing nice with me right now. So instead, for my play-by-play of the whole, go check out my Facebook album, which is totally accessible to the public.

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    My post about Occupy Kol Nidrei at the Forward! (And more….)

    [vodpod id=ExternalVideo.1005065&w=425&h=350&fv=host%3Dpicasaweb.google.com%26hl%3Den_US%26RGB%3D0x000000%26feed%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fpicasaweb.google.com%252Fdata%252Ffeed%252Fapi%252Fuser%252Fdavidamwilensky%252Falbumid%252F5661318143548158465%253Falt%253Drss%2526kind%253Dphoto%2526hl%253Den_US]

    I’ll have a traditional me-style play-by-play of the service itself up soon. For now, here’s some stuff about the service that’s appeared elsewhere so far:

    fwd osw post 1

    The Forward is using my photo and story on the home page!

    My post at the ForwardI’ve got a post on Forward Thinking blog about my experience at the service. This is the most concise assessment of the phenomenal experience you’ll get from me. (It was also re-posted by Haaretz!)

    The Forward‘s video: Along with the post, there’s a great video from the Forward‘s Nate Lavey. I’ve see three videos from Occupy Kol Nidrei so, but this one is by far the best:

    Jewschool: We’ve got several posts up at Jewschool so far.

    • Kung Fu Jew’s personal account of the service
    • I posted a copy of Getzel Davis’ excellent sermon, which include this winning bit: “What is the golden calf? It is the essence of idol worship. It is the fallacy that gold is God.
    • We’ve got two posts from Occupy Boston. There were also Kol Nidrei services held at Occupy DC, Philly and Chicago. I think we’re planning to have posts from those cities soon.

    Religion DispatchesI love this site and I’m so glad they’ve got a piece up about Occupy Kol Nidrei. It’s an interview with Dan Sieradski, the organizer of this whole thing. There are a lot of interviews and bits of interview with him flying around right now, but this is the most interesting.

    Get involved: There is now an Occupy Judaism page on Facebook. Go there to see what else is going on. There are plans for sukkot and for Shabbat services in the works.

    UPDATES–

    Avodah, The Jewish Service Corps: My friend Rachel Van Thyn, who I had not seen in a long time until I ran into her at Occupy Kol Nidrei, has a post on Avodah’s blog about her mixed, but generally positive feelings about the sercvice.

    TabletThe Jewish Week and even Yediot Achronot (Israel’s largest print daily) also got in on the action.

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    Rosh Hashanah notes, part II: Miriam and imahot

    Some stuff I noticed during RH this year:

    I was surprised to find Miriam appearing along with Moses here in the lead-up to Mi Chamocha. I must have noticed her lurking in here last year, but she still managed to take me aback again this year.

    I also noticed their bracketed use of the mamas along with the un-bracketed papas. (Again, must have noticed it last year, but….) This is interesting, if we look at it the context of the Conservative movement’s history with the matriarchs. In the original release of Sim Shalom (and its forebears, it goes without saying), avot just had the avot. The second edition added a B-page, such that there are two versions of the first page of the Amidah, one with the imahot and one without. But the page that has them does not have it worded quite like Reform liturgy does. Whereas R-liturgy says, “…vElohei avoteinu ve’imoteinu…” and then lists them all, C-liturgy says leaves it alone, except for the list. So they don’t say ve’imoteinu is my point.

    Between then and now, R-liturgy reoriented itself to include the imahot all over the place. In Mishkan T’fillah, every time is says “avoteinu” it aso says “ve’imoteinu.” In MLS, C-liturgy catches up. Kind of. On the first page of the Amidah, we get both options. And the ve’imahot option not only lists their names, but it now says “vElohei avoteinu [ve'imoteinu].” That continues throughout the siddur. Every time it says something about the avot, we get a bracketed word for the imahot.

    Now that the Rabbinical Assembly has announced that they’re working on a new siddur, it’s interesting to notice the new stuff that’s already crept into this machzor. I have to wonder how much Reform and Conservative liturgy is going to continue to converge. I assume the line will be drawn at least at Musaf, but I wonder how much else will be the same. How long before C-liturgy doesn’t give us the avot-only option at all?

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    Rosh Hashanah notes, part I

    Hineni. More on that below.

    English

    I was surprised by how much English we did. I’m used to the idea that Reform congregations amp up the English for the High Holidays, but I was surprised by how much we did at Beth El. (Usually Beth El is a standard Conservative shul when it comes to English. By which I mean that the only liturgical piece that occurs in English is the prayer for our country. (Which I hate, but that’s beside the point.) It was nowhere near as much English as you get at Reform shuls on RH, but it was surprising.

    Is this normal at C-shuls? Is there an urge to add extra English for the two-day-a-year crowd across the liberal denominations?

    The best thing about day two was…

    …chanting Ve’ahavta to the HHD trope! One of the best things about this time of year is the Torah trope. The rough jumpiness of the regular trope gives way to the mellower, more melodic sound of the HHD trope. And on day two of RH, we chanted Ve’ahavta to it. It was glorious.

    Unetaneh Tokef… sung by children

    Doing Hineni up right

    Cantor Perry Fine does delight in his chazanut. It seems he’s at his best with the high drama of this time of year. Hineni is prayer to be said by a prayer leader before beginning the service. In Lev Shalem, it’s presented between the Amidah and the repetition of the Amidah. (I don’t know much a bout Hineni so this may or may not be a normal place for it.)

    Anyway, the way he did this was dramatically the highest of the high. It was a slow, mournful melody, sung as he entered the room from the back. Beth El has a multi-purpose room behind the sanctuary with a removable wall in between for this time of year. So to turn back and see him slowly walking up from the back singing Hineni was really something else.

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    New details on Kol Nidrei at Occupy Wall Street

    As I said yesterday, there will be Kol Nidrei at Zuccotti Park among the Occupy Wall Street folks tomorrow night. By way of an update on the logistics, here is a message that went out to everyone who has RSVPed to the Facebook event (all links and strikethroughs inserted by me):

    Thank you for joining us for Kol Nidrei at Occupy Wall Street

    Friday night, Oct 7 @7PM
    Zuccotti Park (Broadway & Liberty St.)
    Exact location TBA
    Look for signs

    For your convenience, some notes:

    It will be a traditional egalitarian service (Hebrew language with some English readings and an unseparated mixed-gender community, with both men & women leading prayers).

    Our wonderful volunteer leaders are Avi Fox Rosen (Storahtelling), Sarah Wolf (JTS), and Getzel Davis (Hebrew College), who are being assisted in preparations by Yosef Goldman (JTS) and Rabbi Ezra Weinberg (RRC). Affiliation is for identification purposes only.

    If possible, please bring your own Yom Kippur machzor. If you do not have a machzor, we will have ~100, graciously loaned to us by The Rabbinical Assembly for Conservative Judaism. If you prefer, you can download and print this PDF: http://d.1ski.me/3V2m263m460P1m0R3l0K. Save some trees by printing two-up, double sided. It is an Orthodox translation, as that was the only free one available online.

    We could still use help getting a Torah and perhaps a folding card table to put it on.

    No pre-fast meal is officially planned, but feel free to coordinate with others in the comments on the event.

    No Saturday services are planned. If you will be in the area of Lower Manhattan, you are welcome to attend services at Battery Park Synagogue. Otherwise, CBST has welcomed all participants to join them for services at the Javitz Convention Center. There are also free services at the Brooklyn Lycaeum in Park Slope.

    Expect another update that will repeat much of this information.

    G’mar chatimah tova!

    UPDATES:

    A Torah has been secured, though I believe there is still a need for a folding table.

    Someone I have just met on Facebook called Nomi Raye is trying to coordinate a pre-fast meal that sounds like it will involved trying to bring a bus down near the park and cooking vegan food in it. She’s looking for help coordinating that.

    Another option (a better one, in my opinion) for printing out a service booklet for yourself is the PDF of the Kol Nidrei service from the new Conservative machzor available over here.

    Leave a comment on the post if you’re coming! I’ll be wearing a big boring white and black talit and the jacket I’m wearing in the picture below.

    However, I will not be wearing that sweater and my hair is a little shorter. And I will not have that odd green device with me.

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