New Conservative Judaism Prayer Book Embraces LGBT Community

Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat & Festivals
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A new prayer book has been published by Conservative Judaism and its inclusive language has embraced gays, women and also people who are not familiar with the Hebrew language.

It is expected that Siddur Lev Shalem will become dominant in Conservative synagogues all over North America. This comes at a time when a number of Jews are seeking fresh ways to express spirituality.

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, who worked on the siddur as an associate editor, said the publishers tried to offer a number of entry points to service for larger user range. She said that it would be possible for regular shul visitors to pray using traditional liturgy and also search for new ways of understanding and insights via authorship and explanatory commentary. The senior editor of siddur, Rabbi Edward Feld, said that this new book puts the power back into the congregant's hands. That person can now relate to that service in their preferred method.

Rabbi Feld further said that the book will elaborate on the traditions and will help the reader to make one's own decisions concerning what to keep and say. He added that this movement does not precensor tradition but tells what it is. It also gives tools needed to make life decisions.

The publication of this siddur has happened at the crossroads of this Conservative movement. It has problems keeping members and composing a relevant message in the middle of large scale demographic changes within the last generation. The movement has hired the services of Good Omen, a rebranding company and has paid about $350,000 for its services. Margo Gold, who holds the position of international president of the congregational arm of the movement, said that the long time tagline “tradition and change” is no longer applicable as its core message.

The new prayer book is compiled from approximately 500 dissimilar sources. These include ancient blessings dating back to first millennium and also traditions from modern Jewish cultures scattered across the world. It offers both translations and transliterations of Hebrew, and indicates the correct pronunciations of Hebrew words. The language of the book is gender neutral. It provides wording for any gay couple marking the important occurrences in their lives.

There is no need for member congregations of Conservative movement to use the new prayerbook. The present one, Siddur Sim Shalom, will continue to be used in a few congregations.

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