The first egalitarian Sephardi siddur

Launch of prayerbook follows the start of an egalitarian Sephardi minyan in the UK


On Sunday St Albans, of all places, will see the launch of a world first: a Sephardi, egalitarian siddur. If you wonder why the need for such an innovation, first, consider the question: why have Sephardi egalitarian communities not sprung up before? After all, in the Ashkenazi world egalitarian services are long established, however only outside Orthodoxy.

In the Sephardi world, separate denominations never came about — they were a European phenomenon following a Christian model. As a result, Sephardim have for centuries followed a far more flexible and people-focused model of halachah (Jewish law), never having had other denominations to gatekeep from or react against. It was natural and even taken for granted that different interpretations of halachah would be followed in different places; the exact same rulings cannot suit Curaçao, Kolkata and everywhere in between.

It’s this flexible approach to halachah, along with unashamed engagement with the wider world, which has prompted traditional egalitarian Sephardi minyanim to emerge. The first, Degel Yehudah in Jerusalem, has been going for 15 years, and other communities around the world are starting to follow, including Kolot haKahal ( “Voices of the Community”) in London.

Kolot haKahal was founded by Lilinaz Eva and Isaac Treuherz this year, with a morning service on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Nisan. It followed a similar service to test the water that took place at last year’s Limmud Festival.

A grassroots gathering of Jews from across the communal spectrum, Kolot haKahal’s service used a mix of Western, North African and Eastern Sephardi nuscha’ot (styles of liturgy) and ta’amim (Torah cantillation), with everyone leading according to their own roots. Women, men and non-binary people led services, read from the Torah, had aliyot, said Kaddish, or simply sang aloud, many for the first time. Since then the community has done smaller Sunday services and shiurim, and is growing towards further Shabbatot.

Furthermore, it is not just for the inclusion of women that new communities are being innovated, as shown by the Sephardi-Mizrahi Q Network in New York. There is a desire, at a grassroots level and across the world, for Sephardi communities to reflect changing social attitudes while remaining within their halachic tradition — as Sephardim have always done.

Unlike in Ashkenazi communities, when such innovation would have splintered away into a separate denomination, among Sephardim this is simply a parallel and co-existent halachic interpretation.

A sorely-needed next step in the development of this still disparate global movement was a siddur. Rabbi Adam Zagoria-Moffet, rabbi of St Albans Masorti Synagogue, began this step three years ago and Isaac Treuherz, a Jewish educator and folk musician who grew up in the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation here, later joined the project as editor. The result is Siddur Masorti.

The publication of a siddur is the type of endeavour normally undertaken only by major publishing or communal conglomerates. Yet Siddur Masorti, funded by a Kickstarter and a grant from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has been painstakingly put together as a grassroots project in the spare time of a communal rabbi and a musician. The result is an unprecedented nexus of Sephardi nusach and egalitarian practice for English-speaking Jews.

This siddur uses traditional Sephardi liturgy drawn from the many different Sephardi nuscha’ot found among different communities, meaning that the common core text has variations allowing access by Sephardim from as many backgrounds as possible.

The volume is also packed with additional piyyutim (poems) and bakashot (petitions) from Sephardi traditions from all over the world. The Hebrew text includes variations for inclusivity of all genders, for example in first-person passages and call-up rubrics, and the translation is completely gender-neutral in its references to the Divine.

The siddur also has a full transliteration, a first in a Hebrew-English Sephardi siddur. This is not in any way incidental; to quote the book’s introduction, “education and accessibility is a central part of forming egalitarian communities. Simply removing barriers isn’t enough: to actually present leadership opportunities to all genders, communities have a duty to actively compensate for the colossal gender disparity in education in our community…

“One of the reasons for the increasing loss of Sephardi traditions over time is the distinct lack of accessibly presented texts and learning materials, cutting swathes of our community off from their own minhagim [customs].”

Finally, the siddur is illuminated throughout with digital textual art and prints of purpose-drawn calligraphy by Noam Sienna, sofer (scribe), artist and author of A Rainbow Thread. Noam’s pieces are all contemporary interpretations of illuminated Sephardi manuscripts; like the siddur itself, they re-sanctify traditional models of prayer by innovating them for the modern Jew.

Since launching this month, the initial attention has surprised even us, with hundreds of pre-orders and global interest. A second volume — for Shabbat and festivals — is on the way.

It is hard to predict where this movement will go, but with a blend of unashamed inclusivity and vibrant halachic discourse relighting a flame in Sephardi grassroots communities around the world, something definitely seems to be beginning.

More on Siddur Masorti can be found at and on Facebook: and on Kolot haKahal at To join Sunday afternoon’s launch at St Albans Masorti Synagogue, reply to

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