(RNS) The rabbinical arm of Conservative Judaism has published a new prayerbook, notable for language embracing women, gays and people who can’t read Hebrew. “Siddur Lev Shalem” is expected to eventually predominate in Conservative synagogues across North America.
Five years in the making, the prayerbook “has been expressly designed to meet people where they are, whether at synagogue or at home, religiously or spiritually,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.
Conservative Judaism, which represents the second-largest group of Jews affiliated with a synagogue in the U.S., — about 18 percent of American Jews — stands between Reform and Orthodox Judaism, which adheres to a more literal interpretation of Jewish law.
The new prayerbook draws from more than 500 different sources, including ancient blessings that date back to the first millennium and traditions from contemporary Jewish cultures around the world. It provides translations of Hebrew, as well as transliterations, which indicate how Hebrew words should be pronounced. It promotes gender-neutral language, and offers wording for gay couples marking important events in their lives.
The Conservative movement does not require its member congregations to use its new prayerbook. The one now most common in Conservative synagogues, Siddur Sim Shalom, will likely remain in use in some congregations. The new 666-page prayerbook sells for $49, but $29.50 for individuals, synagogues and retailers associated with the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the congregational arm of the Conservative movement.
(Lauren Markoe is a national reporter for RNS)