Warning: Artscroll Women’s Siddur

That’s not my title. That was the subject line of an email I just received from JOFA condemning the new ArtScroll women’s siddur. Appended to the email is a review of the siddur and a letter that JOFA has sent to modern Orthodox day schools and other religious institutions. The letter declares that JOFA has “come to the realization that this siddur is inappropriate for a modern Orthodox institution or one that sees its role as encouraging women’s participation in prayer.”

It’s good to see a Jewish organization, particularly one that identifies as Orthodox, speaking out against ArtScroll’s tendency to present a single view as the only way to do things and the way things have always been done all the way back to Sinai. (Old joke: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because Artscroll told it to.) I get upset when I look around at egalitarian minyanim full of liberal Jews davening mostly from ArtScroll siddurim. I do understand that lots of people like ArtScroll because of its clear explanations and translations (which are more honest/literal in most cases than, say, Sim Shalom). But those clear explanations of practice are heavily biased toward certain viewpoints, and reductionist to the max. It drives me crazy to hear people telling each other what “the halachah” is based on what they’ve read in ArtScroll. (My upsetness is directed at ArtScroll, not the people using the siddur. The liberal world is in desperate need of a usable, well-translated, well-explained, well-footnoted, well-laid out siddur.)

ArtScroll’s perspective also irritates JOFA reviewer Jennifer Stern Breger. Excerpts from her review:

In general, the siddur ignores positions (many of them very mainstream) that run counter to the editors’ own positions and viewpoints. There is a range of halakhically acceptable positions on many aspects of tefillah, but the editors do not include them.

Every time Mourners Kaddish appears, rather than saying that there are different opinions, the notes say clearly, “Although reciting Kaddish is a comfort for the soul of the departed, even silent recitation by a woman is generally frowned upon.” For Birkat Hamazon, the notes say, “The accepted custom is for a woman never to lead zimmun even if only women are present.” In the text of Birkat Hagomel, the note says, “according to the prevalent custom, a woman does not say the Bircas Hagomel,” and in the background note, “The primary reason given for women not saying Bircas Hagomel is that it is immodest for women to take any part in a mitzvah that is typically performed in public.”… Regarding havdalah it states, “It is preferablefor a woman to hear havdalah from a man rather than make her own havdalah.”

In general the siddur takes the mother of young children as the norm, and the stress is on the least that a woman can get away with. Not only does the note for ma’ariv say, “For women, maariv is an optional service. If you choose to say maariv, it would be best to precede its recitation with the words “bli neder” without a commitment, to indicate that you are not accepting its recitation as an ongoing obligation”… While it concedes that women have a special connection to the Shmoneh Esrei because of Hannah, it does not quote the mishna that says clearly that women are obligated in tefillah— i.e., the amidah—rather saying that it is considered highest priority at shaharit and minhah when family obligations allow.

Filed under Feminism, Religion

65 Responses to “Warning: Artscroll Women’s Siddur”

  1. *this siddur is inappropriate for a modern Orthodox institution”

    This is no small matter. Artscroll directives are indeed frequently inappropriate for Jews outside of the haredi world. Whether Left, Right,or Center. Including non-haredi Orthodox Jews.


    DK · September 18th, 2007 at 5:51 pm
  2. The liberal world is in desperate need of a usable, well-translated, well-explained, well-footnoted, well-laid out siddur.

    Amen!!!


    Rachel · September 18th, 2007 at 6:07 pm
  3. To be fair, the review had a glaring error. Artscroll has NEVER come out with anything significant for the Sephardic minhag, save for a very rich and concise hagadah.


    B.BarNavi · September 18th, 2007 at 7:18 pm
  4. I have often thought about putting together a custom siddur. Unfortunately despite the traditional siddur text being in the public domain, there are no freely available digital copies. And of course any changes made since 1923 still belong to the original copyright holder.

    But if enough people are interested in collaborating to produce a public domain digital siddur, it would be a great resource for future generations.


    Avi · September 18th, 2007 at 8:29 pm
  5. “Ohel Sarah” The title says it all – women off in their own tent, out of the way, not to be seen, not to be heard, to be as unlike the Matriarchs as possible.

    The liberal world is in desperate need of a usable, well-translated, well-explained, well-footnoted, well-laid out siddur.

    Nu? So when do we start? And do we use Imahot in the Amidah?


    Rich · September 18th, 2007 at 8:32 pm
  6. The liberal world is in desperate need of a usable, well-translated, well-explained, well-footnoted, well-laid out siddur.

    It’s called Kol Haneshamah (The Reconstructionist Siddur).


    Eric · September 18th, 2007 at 8:56 pm
  7. It’s called Kol Haneshamah (The Reconstructionist Siddur).

    I appreciate Kol Haneshamah for many things, including its varied God-language, its kavvanot, and its egalitarianism. But (at least for me) it’s not practically usable as a comprehensive siddur in the way ArtScroll (or most other classically inclusive siddurim) is.

    Unless I’m behind on what the Reconstructionist Press is offering at the moment, which is definitely possible, I don’t think there’s a single version of KH that includes Shabbat, limot chol (weekdays), various berachot for food/nature/life events, birkat hamazon, weekday Torah readings, Psalms, etc. I couldn’t take one volume of KH into nearly as wide a range of minyanim around the world and be able to daven from it as I could with ArtScroll or another kol bo/all-inclusive siddur.

    I don’t have my KH’s in front of me so I can’t check, but I also feel like I recall the translations sometimes being more poetic than literally accurate. This makes it harder for daveners who want to learn more Hebrew learn by going back and forth between languages. Again, to be fair, the situation is far worse with Sim Shalom, which occasionally borders on the truly disingenuous. But one of the reasons people seem to like ArtScroll is that it is (or, sometimes, appears to be) a literal translation. A davener can learn or confirm what they’ve been saying in Hebrew.

    Finally, KH is just plain heavy, and a bit awkward size-wise. It has a very heavy hardcover binding and uses thick paper. I bought the KH machzor a few years ago and, while it’s a great resource for learning and teaching, I am in awe that people can daven from it for several hours at a time. I don’t have mine in front of me, but IIRC, it’s about 3 inches thick. And all KH editions that I’ve worked with have a fairly high ratio of white space to text on any given page, meaning that longer tefilot get spread out over numerous pages. ArtScroll is so popular in part because it’s so usable in a practical sense. Heavy hardcover siddurim don’t seem particularly suited for being tossed in a backpack/briefcase/bag and used every day for a wide variety of purposes in a wide variety of physical settings. I know there are people who do use it like this, but it also seems like there could be an easier format.

    Anyway, although KH is a good resource, it doesn’t meet my definition of a liberal kol bo siddur that’s accessible to the range of users that ArtScroll is. None of the liberal movement siddurim do. (And it seems like a lot of people feel similarly given how many liberal Jews I see davening regularly from ArtScroll). I think that the siddurim that come closet at the moment, though they still have a number of the drawbacks above, are Siddur Eit Ratzon and Chaveirim Kol Yisraeil.


    Rooftopper Rav · September 18th, 2007 at 10:05 pm
  8. Googled for more on this issue and found this

    www.cross-currents.com/archives/2006/03/28/artscroll-is-not-to-blame/


    A · September 18th, 2007 at 10:05 pm
  9. [...] by Rooftopper Rav · Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 [...]


    Warning: Artscroll Women’s Siddur « Sevenfatcow seven = sacred. so does fat. · September 18th, 2007 at 10:28 pm
  10. 1. the siddur is not “new” and has been around at least a few years.

    2. if the reviewer was so uniformed as to make a mistake such as the one mentioned above, there could be more.

    3. im far from one to agree with everything that artscroll does, but this is nitpicking. artscroll cant stopping any women from having a zimun anymore than they can stop someone from taking 4 steps backward instead of 3.


    oy · September 18th, 2007 at 10:31 pm
  11. Oy–

    (1) Read before you criticize. Click on the link for the review, and you’ll realize that the review is dated “Winter 2006″, coincidentally around the same time I first heard of the siddur, and I expect, when it was newly published. So much for your argument that the reviewer was “uninformed”.

    (2) You seem oddly confident that there are other mistakes in the review, given that you don’t appear to have read it.

    (3) Well no, they don’t *force* anyone to do anything, in the sense that no one from Mesorah publications has ever held a gun to my head and told me to take my tfillin off.

    However, they know that they have influence, and that people who haven’t yet had tons of Jewish education often turn to them. They owe it to their readers to be honest*.

    *If you don’t think they are disengenuous, please read the review first and see if it doesn’t make a good case for dishonesty.


    rebecca m · September 19th, 2007 at 12:26 am
  12. Just double checked– the siddur was published in 2005, making an early 2006 review quite reasonable.

    I’m not surprised it took this long to make it’s way to Rooftopper Rav’s inbox. After all, I suspect most people who subscribe to Artscroll’s view of things don’t keep track of the latest Sim Shalom or Kol Haneshama.


    rebecca m · September 19th, 2007 at 12:28 am
  13. B.BarNavi writes:
    Artscroll has NEVER come out with anything significant for the Sephardic minhag, save for a very rich and concise hagadah.

    The reviewer was probably conflating Sephardi with Nusach Sefard.


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 2:44 am
  14. I’m not surprised it took this long to make its way to Rooftopper Rav’s inbox.

    While I had seen the women’s siddur in the bookstore, you’re right that it didn’t make enough of an impact for me to remember when it had been published. I received the JOFA letter and review about 11 hours ago, directly from JOFA, so I’m just the messenger. I suppose, as their letter says, it just came to their attention that modern Orthodox schools and institutions are buying the siddur for their students.


    Rooftopper Rav · September 19th, 2007 at 3:06 am
  15. 1. The Liberal world should, perhaps, work on making siddurim for people and not for shuls. Sim Shalom is OK in a synagogue setting, but who would daven alone from it (what with the silly responsive readings and all).
    2. Oy – of course people change their practice based on Artscroll. People adopt the “artscroll havarah”, and tell the gabbaim at their shuls what they should do based on artscroll. Artscroll and its ilk have killed – literally killed – mimetic tradition within the Orthodox community. I have a rant about mimetic tradition in Liberal communities but that’s another thing.
    3. Interestingly, haredi women here in Israel – with no artscroll at their disposal – are seen praying more frequently than the AWS “requires” them to, usually three times a day, and usually on buses. Haredi poseqim are quite strict regarding this matter.


    Amit · September 19th, 2007 at 4:21 am
  16. Please post your rant about mimetic tradition in liberal communities!


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 5:06 am
  17. “The liberal world is in desperate need of a usable, well-translated, well-explained, well-footnoted, well-laid out siddur.”

    Change “liberal” to include non-Haredi Orthodox and my next question is “When can we start making one??”

    ADDeRabbi had a nice ransacking of the Artscroll Women’s Siddur back in July 2005. adderabbi.blogspot.com/2005/07/artscroll-womens-siddur-men-and-women.html

    About Kol Haneshamah: In my opinion, they’re as bad as Artscroll. Triumphalistic, exclusionary and offensive to the viewpoints of anyone who disagrees with them. Every time I read in their commentary what “modern Jews” think or what “contemporary Jews” are disturbed by, my blood curdles a little.

    The four-column Siddurs are the best — from a standpont of pluralism and accessibility — but need some work on the esthetics, size and binding before it will become feasible for people to carry around and use as a general-purpose siddur.

    Perhaps what’s needed is a Nusach *database* with all the variations among ethnics groups (Lita, Aram Zoba, Yekkish, Yemenite..) and among ideologies (Imahot, prayers for the state, chosenness-language..), with intelligent commentaries and minimal stage direction. (or at least non-hegemonic stage direction)

    Folks could assemble their own siddur to be as particular or as pluralistic as they like using a pre-set pagination. Hmm…this is sounding more and more like a CS project. I just like tefilot. :)

    And just to emphasize the point — Artscroll isn’t a liberal problem NEARLY as much as its an non-Haredi Orthodox problem. traditional Ashkenazi Orthodox minhag is literally dead right now in all its variety because of the invasive species of Artscroll, and with each new Artscroll siddur used in a non-Haredi shul, non-Haredi orthodox Judaism gets a little harder to sustain.


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 8:16 am
  18. Just a quick response about KH:

    -Sounding the call for a kol bo siddur and then complaining about the weight of KH (which does indeed have biblial/textual citations, footnotes, poetic kavannot, etc) seems contradictory to me.

    -The translations in KH are EXTREMELY faithful to the Hebrew, yet still in moving, fluid English. A very difficult and admirable accomplishment.

    -I agree that the tone of KH can be at times triumphalist, but if you read carefully, you’ll notice that KH is also pluralistic – not only by including even more traditional prayers than Sim Shalom, but by including traditional versions of the Hebrew b’rachot that they have altered. Right there in the siddur next to the Reconstructionist blessings are the traditional Aleinu and Torah blessings. What other movement would offer versions of tefillot that directly contradict their fundamental theological tenets for the sake of k’lal yisrael??


    Eric · September 19th, 2007 at 8:51 am
  19. Eric:

    I’m aware they stuff the traditional versions of some teffilot and brachot down there under the line…..right next to a commentary that disparages those who might choose to recite them. I didn’t go into my full “What’s the problem with KH for pluralistic Jews” rant here, because I’m somewhat loathe to hijack the discussion, and I’m a little tired from making it in different places for a while.

    The short version is: The same way the Artscroll commentary implies that liberal changes to liturgy are motivated by laziness/a lack of value for Torah/to slavishly ape goyishe trends — thereby adding a crime of slander to their liturgical totalitarianism — the Kol-Haneshamah commentary implies that people who choose to continue using the traditional formulas are motivated by sexism/antigoyist bigotry/medieval thought processes/fundamentalism.

    I say: You can be anything you want to be, but don’t try to speak on behalf of people different from you. Especially if you’re doing so, without a pretension of ‘walking in their shoes’, just to make yourself look better.


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 9:18 am
  20. Damnit Eric the internet just ate my response. Here’s the short version:

    1. You’re right, KH does include a few of the traditional texts they change.

    2. However, they do so next to a commentary that disparages using them.

    3. Just like Artscroll’s commentary compounds their hashkafic triumphalism with slander, by implying that liberal Jewish liturgical changes are motivated by laziness/lack of value for Torah/a desire to ape goyish trends…

    4. Kol Haneshamah’s commentary compounds their hashkafic triumphalism with slander, by implying that Jews who use traditional formulas in prayer are motivated by sexism/antigoyist bigotry/medieval attitudes/fundamentalism.

    5. Standard rule by me: I respect you for your choices. There’s no need to put anyone else down, especially through misrepresenting their values.


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 9:25 am
  21. -Sounding the call for a kol bo siddur and then complaining about the weight of KH (which does indeed have biblial/textual citations, footnotes, poetic kavannot, etc) seems contradictory to me.

    How do you figure? No one ever complained about the size of Artscroll.


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 10:07 am
  22. Sounding the call for a kol bo siddur and then complaining about the weight of KH (which does indeed have biblial/textual citations, footnotes, poetic kavannot, etc) seems contradictory to me.

    Why? Artscroll and Metsudah do it compactly and lightly. Sim Shalom has a pocket-size version. KH isn’t even a kol bo (doesn’t have the berachot, Torah readings, tehilim, etc. etc. that I need) and it outweighs them.

    What other movement would offer versions of tefillot that directly contradict their fundamental theological tenets for the sake of k’lal yisrael?

    Well, they’re not movement siddurim unless the havurah world counts as a movement, but the two siddurim I cited above do. They give a range of possible options within the text of a single tefilah.

    In any case, at least by anecdotal evidence, non-Orthodox Jews who want a Hebrew/English siddur are increasingly using ArtScroll. I don’t think it’s because they don’t know about KH.


    Rooftopper Rav · September 19th, 2007 at 10:15 am
  23. Well, they’re not movement siddurim unless the havurah world counts as a movement

    And even if it did count, these siddurim aren’t published by any national organization. Chaveirim Kol Yisraeil (aka “the purple siddur”) was produced by the now-defunct Progressive Chavurah of Boston and is now published by Ktav, and Siddur Eit Ratzon (aka “the yellow siddur”, though the new edition is red) is self-published by Joe Rosenstein.


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 10:24 am
  24. this is a fascinating discussion. Lots of cool threads are now spinning. a few thoughts:

    1: it’d be great to have a comprehensive siddur with hebrew, translit, english, and some stage direction or discussion of major minhagim.
    2: KH has mostly good english, progressive hebrew, but is heavy for the reasons RR mentioned concerning binding and layout but also precisely because of the ample kavanot. i love that aspect of the siddur. the choices of what to inlcude are mostly exceptionally good and the commentators fairly broad from neo-hasidic (green, zalman, heschel) to conventional ortho (steinsaltz, etc) to conventional Recon (MMK, Scult, Ira E) to contemporary semi-secular (piercy, etc). I’d love to see a Kol Bo with much of that retained but layed out to minimize space with a tight cover, and portable light vibe.
    3: Re: KH v. ArtScroll, i hear your view that KH should chill with the contemporary jew business but it just seems dishonest to conflate that with what AS is doing. AS is making incorrect normative statements about jewish law which appear to be factual claims and are not correct. KH explains changes they have made in ways which are perhaps too confident in their correctness or damning of folks who haven’t evovled their liturgical choices but they don’t misrepresent changes they have made nor do they pretend changes they made have been in the text for several thousand years the way AS does.
    4: the idea of the purple book is very good and 3 of the 4 columns are good but i think the commentary is just so-so. it doesn’t add much to my davening experience but the book is very accessible and well done. i suppose it is an even worse offender than KH in terms of weight/size:services contained ratio.

    5: i think one of the things which attracts folks to AS is its warm feel. part of what turns me off so about Sim Shalom is that from the layout to type faces to lack of commentary it has a hospital-level vibe of sterility.


    zt · September 19th, 2007 at 10:53 am
  25. chillul who?– I’m with you there.


    rebecca m · September 19th, 2007 at 10:53 am
  26. It would be great if the slim paperback version of the purple siddur (the draft version, which contains just the Friday night service, without the additional material that is in the hardcover version, the only one commercially available) were available for sale — this would be much more convenient for roving Friday night minyanim to schlep around. (The NHC has several hundred copies of this version, which are used at NHC events throughout the year, and Kol Zimrah has some of the copies on loan.)


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 11:11 am
  27. Agreed with zt too. On a theoretical weighted sclale dishonesty + condecension is worse than just condescension, but it’s not a great choice. KH also gets points for being more interersting to read or use as a resource.

    I’m also really lucky that I don’t need to choose– my hebrew is strong enough that I can use an all-Hebrew siddur and store all my liturgical micro-changes in my head or pencil them in the margins.


    rebecca m · September 19th, 2007 at 11:26 am
  28. KH is a non-starter for me for all the reasons mentioned.

    For a Kol Bo Liberal Siddur for liberal-Conservative or Reform Chavurot, there is Paths of Faith, by Chaim Stern. I’ve been using this at home for years. I’m not in love with its layout, but it’s translations are more reasonable than KH. It has everything I want, although I find its Bedtime Shema wanting, and tend to use AS for that. (I want in a Bedtime Shema Ribono Shel Olam, Hashkivenu, and HaMapil as well as the Shema, AS adds to that a couple of psalms and Adon Olam.) Apart from that, I have not found a circumstance, from tefillah, to hospital visits, to mealtimes, where Paths didn’t have something to meet the need.


    Rich · September 19th, 2007 at 11:32 am
  29. Not that I advocate davenning from any siddur that claims God won’t hear you if you use a different Nusach, but the new Chabad siddur is a masterpiece of user-friendliness, clear layout, and homey typeface.


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 11:33 am
  30. Here’s another option for the Bedtime Sh’ma. (It’s a children’s book, but there is a full Hebrew text in the back.)


    BZ · September 19th, 2007 at 11:39 am
  31. chilul who? – thanks for posting a link to my review. it was written 6 months before, boosted the number of hits into the blogging stratosphere, and pretty much nails every point that Breger does, but in a much funnier way. i guess jofa can’t send out my review. i still wonder if breger read it (including the hundreds of comments it generated on my blog and on blogs which linked to that post) before writing her review. i hope she didn’t. i’d like to think we arrived at our similar conclusions independently (and indeed, i formulated my ideas after discussion and feedback with friends – perhaps some are mutual?), and that the latter was not built atop the former.


    adderabbi · September 19th, 2007 at 12:22 pm
  32. The Mission Minyan published its own siddur for these reasons. We went one step at a time though, because the licensing of the translation, and the printing, were expensive. It’s just a very complete Friday night siddur. Next project is Saturday, then holidays. For now we use the Birnbaum because someone donated them to us. I see plenty of Artscroll in the room though.


    sarah · September 19th, 2007 at 12:44 pm
  33. Sarah, is there a way we can check out a copy on the East Coast?


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 12:53 pm
  34. Adderabbi- considering that Ms. Breger lives in Woodside, (neighborhood in Silver Spring, in the DC suburbs for all you out of towners) mutual friends would not be surprising.

    Yours was more fun though. And cool stuff in the comments which led to me looking stuff up in a Tur and confusing this old man who checked to see if I knew what parsha it was before he could swallow the idea of me being able to handle the Tur. It was very odd.


    rebecca m · September 19th, 2007 at 12:59 pm
  35. For Friday Night, I enjoy the Friday Night Alive siddur which I haven’t seen outside of Germantown Jewish Centre.

    Still, it doesn’t fit the needs of an all-in-one usable liberal siddur.

    The siddur issue, however, just barely grazes the surface with respect to the criminal neglect the liberal movements have shown to making well-translated versions of the entire Jewish textual tradition widely available.


    mhpine · September 19th, 2007 at 2:10 pm
  36. Chillul Who – Can you provide a link, or the full name, of the Chabad siddur? I’d like to check it out but I want to make sure I’m looking at the right one – The siddurim my local Chabad has are all ancient.


    Hineini · September 19th, 2007 at 2:12 pm
  37. Hineini:

    It’s just the new edition of the Chabad “Tehillat Hashem” siddur. I’m not a fan of it, just the way it looks/is laid out on the inside.


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 3:20 pm
  38. The cover looks like this: www.tallis-n-tefillin.com/newthenglg.jpg


    chillul Who? · September 19th, 2007 at 3:22 pm
  39. turns out it was indeed a coincidence


    adderabbi · September 19th, 2007 at 3:26 pm
  40. 1. LEARN HEBREW. Seriously, there’s nothing a responsible Jew can do earlier. Translations will always be problematic, commentary will always be problematic, footnotes – well, you get the gist. A regular unchanged siddur can fit in a back pocket of skinny jeans.
    2. It’s more important for people, apparently, to have their siddur be “authentic” than for it to jive with their values. I don’t know what to make of this, I just know that there are alot of artscolls in Liberal minyanim.
    3. Make it cheap. How come I can buy a siddur in Hebrew for less than 30 NIS (about $8) and the entry-point price for a translated one is $40? How come the liberal siddurim cost so much? Cut on paper costs, print on more of the page, I don’t care – just make it affordable.
    That’s it. Now I’m going to work on my mimetic tradition rant.


    Amit · September 19th, 2007 at 5:14 pm
  41. A regular unchanged siddur can fit in a back pocket of skinny jeans.

    “Regular and unchanged” according to whom? Yes, I’m channeling BZ, and I know you know this, and I know that the large-picture matbeah tefilah is essentially “regular and unchanged,” but there are tons of smaller semantic (and sometimes structural) changes in different siddurim. It’s a totally minor point, but still.

    That’s it. Now I’m going to work on my mimetic tradition rant.

    Can’t wait to read it!


    Rooftopper Rav · September 19th, 2007 at 5:33 pm
  42. PLEASE!

    is anyone being forced to use this siddur?!

    Are people who are charedie not have allowed to have their own translated siddur because it offends people?!

    If you don’t like it there are plenty of other siddurim. And if you don’t like the ones out there make your own.

    Nitpicking means finding things to be offended by.


    happytobefrum · September 19th, 2007 at 9:05 pm
  43. Chillul: I find big blocks of unsectioned text quite difficult on the eyes (which, incidentally, is why I prefer Sim Shalom’s layout over my mainstay siddur!) I know the “new” Tehillas Hashem is supposed to retain the textual layout of the “old” one, but with all those pages/space, shouldn’t they clean it up a bit?

    BTW, I’m surprised (and severely disappointed) that all the Sim Shalom bashing was unaccompanied by any mention of Or Hadash. Whatever you think of this new siddur, the Rabbinical Assembly has heard our cries for more intellectual commentary.

    Also, I should probably mention here that I have seen a Sephardic siddur “l’Nashim” (Hebrew-only, as always). I know, unfortunate, but I wonder how long the idea has been laying around.


    B.BarNavi · September 19th, 2007 at 10:28 pm
  44. happytobefrum: You act like anyone can just get his or her own siddur by the pop. This ignores the fact that whole congregations by Artscrolls in bulk for the sake of ALL of their congregants, and these congregations (and their congregants) are subsequently influenced by Artscroll paskening? And these people recommend Artscroll to other Jews based on its ease of use, thus spreading the Rav Art Scroll v- “phenomenon”? Whether you like it or not, Artscroll HAS made and IS making inroads throughout the entire Jewish world. That alone means that those under its influence should be able to call attention to their philosophies/methods.


    B.BarNavi · September 19th, 2007 at 10:44 pm
  45. Chillul: I find big blocks of unsectioned text quite difficult on the eyes (which, incidentally, is why I prefer Sim Shalom’s layout over my mainstay siddur!) I know the “new” Tehillat Hashem is supposed to retain the textual layout of the “old” one, but with all those pages/space, shouldn’t they clean it up a bit?

    BTW, I’m surprised (and severely disappointed) that all the Sim Shalom bashing was unaccompanied by any mention of Or Hadash. Whatever you think of this new siddur, the Rabbinical Assembly has heard our cries for more intellectual commentary.

    Also, I should probably mention here that I have seen a Sephardic siddur “l’Nashim” (Hebrew-only, as always). I know, unfortunate, but I wonder how long the idea has been laying around.


    B.BarNavi · September 19th, 2007 at 10:49 pm
  46. If you don’t like it there are plenty of other siddurim. And if you don’t like the ones out there make your own.

    That’s exactly the point of this whole thread. It started because JOFA sent out an email encouraging people to (exercise their free market consumer power and) not buy the Artscroll Women’s Siddur.


    BZ · September 20th, 2007 at 2:18 am
  47. biqoret.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/mimetic-tradition-part-i/


    Amit · September 20th, 2007 at 6:31 am
  48. I had too much to say here, so I just wrote my own post.


    Desh · September 20th, 2007 at 11:10 am
  49. [...] up on the excited discussion stemming from Rooftopper Rav’s post on the new ArtScroll Siddur for women, Desh has written about what he’d like to see in a new [...]


    Jewschool » Blog Archive » New Siddur Project · September 20th, 2007 at 12:37 pm
  50. BTW, I’m surprised (and severely disappointed) that all the Sim Shalom bashing was unaccompanied by any mention of Or Hadash. Whatever you think of this new siddur, the Rabbinical Assembly has heard our cries for more intellectual commentary.

    Eh. I haven’t read it carefully, but there are places where Sim Shalom includes liturgical innovations that are not mentioned in the commentary, which seems almost Artscrollish in its “this is the way things have always been” attitude.


    BZ · September 20th, 2007 at 3:05 pm
  51. you means “Or Hadash”, right? I’ve thumbed through Or Hadash (a commentary on Sim Shalom? What were they *thinking*? it was written *yesterday*!) as well as the new Machzor – and they don’t fit the bill. THey’re not resources for people, they’re fixtures for pews.


    Amit · September 20th, 2007 at 3:15 pm
  52. Or Hadash doesn’t even belong in a pew. It’s way too large and heavy. The only place for Or Hadash is in a library and maybe a class on Conservative tefillot.


    Avi · September 20th, 2007 at 3:20 pm
  53. I have to dissent from Amit’s suggestions as missing the point (although I highly recommend reading his “mimetic” rant on his blog – good food for thought.)


    1. LEARN HEBREW. Seriously, there’s nothing a responsible Jew can do earlier. Translations will always be problematic, commentary will always be problematic, footnotes – well, you get the gist. A regular unchanged siddur can fit in a back pocket of skinny jeans.

    I agree with you that Hebrew illiteracy is a major problem, but its not going to be solved anytime soon. A someone who is semi-literate in Hebrew, translation helps. It should try to be as literal as possible. Sim Shalom drives me crazy on this point. People should know whether they are praying for the return of the Temple sacrifices or not.

    2. It’s more important for people, apparently, to have their siddur be “authentic” than for it to jive with their values. I don’t know what to make of this, I just know that there are alot of artscolls in Liberal minyanim.

    To some extent you are right, although another reason is that you can’t trust Sim Shalom’s translation, and Artscroll dafka facilitates personalizing the prayer experience for us semi-literates more than Sim Shalom.

    I think that this “authenticity” issue however is a problem that liberal Jews need to address. Why is it for most “serious” liberal Jews that only gender that comes for a critical reevaluation while the rest of the service is taken uncritically? I believe this is a clear sign of what BZ calls half-assed Orthodoxy. Once again, I blame the Conservative and Reform movements decision to hide the ball on changes to the service.

    That’s why, heft aside, I do prefer siddurs like KH that give alternate Hebrew texts, but footnote where and why they are making changes. If a liberal siddur differs from the traditonal text, it should say so. However, space could be saved by cutting down on the inspirational English selecitons (although, there again, KH is better than what you find in Sim Shalom).

    3. Make it cheap. How come I can buy a siddur in Hebrew for less than 30 NIS (about $8) and the entry-point price for a translated one is $40? How come the liberal siddurim cost so much? Cut on paper costs, print on more of the page, I don’t care – just make it affordable.
    That’s it. Now I’m going to work on my mimetic tradition rant.

    Agreed, but the needs of a liberal siddur are different than that of a Hebrew-only one. Still, you would think they could get the price down to the $20-25 range.


    mhpine · September 20th, 2007 at 5:36 pm
  54. Agreed, but the needs of a liberal siddur are different than that of a Hebrew-only one. Still, you would think they could get the price down to the $20-25 range.
    A couple different factors probably contribute to the price.
    1) Translating costs money. You need to pay people to translate all of the siddur.
    2) Making idealogical changes costs money. Editing a siddur is a lot more difficult and time consuming when you are researching and debating changes to the siddur instead of just printing the traditional hebrew text.
    3) It’s a captive market. There is no real competition for Sim Shalom in Conservative shuls, Gates of Prayer in reform shuls, or Rol Haneshama in Recon shuls. Why should a siddur printer lower the price when it knows shuls will buy it regardless and the shuls will just get donors to pay for it either way.
    4) All the other alternative siddurim mentioned aren’t produced in enough quantities to take advantage of any economies of scale.


    Avi · September 20th, 2007 at 8:17 pm
  55. Agreed, but the needs of a liberal siddur are different than that of a Hebrew-only one.

    Of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive — the Israeli Reform and Conservative movements have their own (all-Hebrew) siddurim.

    Even separate from these, I find that all-Hebrew siddurim in general (if they just contain the prayers, with no commentary), such as Koren, are far less ideological than Artscroll, so they may not be liberal, but they’re not “Orthodox” either.


    BZ · September 21st, 2007 at 12:42 am
  56. Is it just me or does “frowned upon” not mean YOU CANT DO IT OR YOU WILL BURN!!!!
    Its MORE THAN frowned upon to be a yanakee fan in boston yet people still do it.


    fran · September 22nd, 2007 at 9:04 pm
  57. Liberal Jews don’t need a siddur because they DON’T DAVEN.

    If you want to daven, be frum. Any other stance is ridiculous, and no matter how many movements you found to try to get a round it, it’s STILL ridiculous.


    Eisan · May 19th, 2009 at 11:01 pm
  58. Liberal Jews don’t need a siddur because they DON’T DAVEN

    Not one liberal Jew davens! Especially the ones looking for siddurim!


    BZ · May 20th, 2009 at 1:00 am
  59. Eisan-
    could you tell me what it is I do when I think I’m davening if I’m not davening? If I stand with kavanah and recite the tefilah l’fi ha’halakhah three times a day, and in the morning in tefillin, what is it that I’m doing?


    Justin · May 20th, 2009 at 12:09 pm
  60. Justin-
    NOT DAVENING.


    BZ · May 20th, 2009 at 1:35 pm
  61. well, you know, it is kind of fun to stand places in silence and rock back and forth…


    Justin · May 20th, 2009 at 1:41 pm
  62. Someone just alerted me to this post in my the comments on my post about the new Koren sidur. Where was I when this conversation was going on?!


    David A.M. Wilensky · July 16th, 2009 at 9:02 am
  63. Look at the date. I think you were in the eleventh grade.


    dlevy · July 16th, 2009 at 10:36 am
  64. [...] prayerbook translated by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, sponsored by the OU, and designed to give Artscroll a run for its money. To make a long review short, I hailed it as the second [...]


    The Koren Sacks Siddur: Afterthoughts » Mixed Multitudes – My Jewish Learning: Exploring Judaism & Jewish Life · October 3rd, 2011 at 10:06 am
  65. [...] is known for presenting a very clear, unambiguous interpretation of Jewish law and practice. (As an essay on the release of an ArtScroll siddur for women noted, one old joke goes, “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because ArtScroll told it to.” [...]


    eTalmud: The iPad Future of the Ancient Text - The Atlantic | · August 3rd, 2012 at 11:33 am

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