Liberal congregations have been asked to pilot a new Shabbat morning liturgy as part of a revised siddur which is under production.
Siddur Shirah Chadashah, “Prayerbook of a New Song”, will include transliteration of Hebrew into English letters and, for the first time, feminised Hebrew versions of some prayers.
It is planned to supersede Liberal Judaism’s Siddur Lev Chadash (“Prayerbook of a New Heart” – an allusion to Ezekiel), which was published in 1995.
In an introduction to the new service, its editors, rabbis Lea Muhlstein and Elli Tikvah Sarah, write: “Since the dawn of the new millennium, alongside Liberal Judaism’s championing of equality, the new watchword has been inclusion.”
Although the current siddur uses gender-inclusive language in the English translation, it is more difficult in Hebrew, which has only masculine and feminine grammatical forms. The title of the new siddur, for example, uses a feminine form.
Feminised versions of Hebrew have been introduced for some prayers such as the second blessing of the Amidah about God’s powers. The feminine form is used to “subvert the traditional association of ‘powers’ with masculine attributes”, the editors explain.
For some other prayers, the “gender-neutral” first-person plural n’varech, “let us bless”, is employed.
Another feature is the English transliteration of prayers as part of a desire to promote greater participation. “Of course, individuals must always be encouraged to learn to read Hebrew,” the editors say.
“The inclusion of transliteration is not a substitute for the skill of Hebrew reading but rather than an aid. Once individuals who cannot read Hebrew are able to participate fully in the service, they may feel inspired to learn to read it.”
Another aid is a box containing explanations and questions for reflection. Contemporary readings reflecting on the theme of the prayer are at the foot of the page.
“These may be read by the congregation as alternative texts or read by the individual in silence to themselves during the service.”
Congregations have been asked to use the new draft service at least once a month over the year in order to provide feedback early in 2019.