Roots of Reform Judaism has launched a new publications program that is designed to fill a need for more accessible prayer services, readings, and home observances for Reform Jews, interfaith and intercultural families, and progressive spiritual seekers from different backgrounds.
Today most of the more than 850 Reform congregations in the United States conduct worship services largely in Hebrew, even though a majority of those who attend these services cannot read or understand it. Our publications provide prayer services written primarily in English. All of the Hebrew passages are accompanied with transliterations and interpretations, so that everyone understands what is being said. The English passages are written in the gender inclusive language of the 21st century and are selected for their beauty and their ability to touch hearts and souls.
There is another unique aspect of our liturgical resources. We use metaphors for God that connect us with the mystery of life. According to numerous social surveys, including the 2013 Pew study, A Portrait of Jewish Americans, a majority of American Jews of all denominations report that their Jewish identity it tied more closely to their Jewish heritage and culture than to any particular belief in God. There is nothing surprising about this finding.
The word “God” has always been considered indefinable in Jewish theology. God is a word that embodies the definition of what many call “spirituality.” It captures what we understand to be the meaning of life and the desire to connect to the transcendent. We use metaphors for God that resonate with Jews of all generations. We call God by many different names, including the Eternal One, Source of life, Creator of the Universe, the still small Voice within us, Father, Mother, eternal Presence, nurturer, and more.
We are designing the following booklets to help meet the needs of unaffiliated and disenfranchised Jews who live in assisted living facilities, are home-bound, in need of comfort during times of illness and loss, who want an accessible guide to Jewish practices in the home, including the texts for the blessings for lighting the Sabbath and Chanukah candles, and instructions for how to bless a home and attach a mezuzah.
The list of pamphlets already conceived and in the cue for production are:
A Time to Mourn: Home Prayers and Readings for Mourners
A Time to Share: Home Observances
A Time to Reflect: A Sabbath Service for Today
A Time to Rest: Sabbath Prayers and Blessings
A Time to Rejoice: Rosh Hashanah Service
A Time to Forgive: Yom Kippur Service
A Time for Comfort: Readings and Prayers During Illness
A Time to Serve: Prayers, Readings, and Rituals for Jewish Men and Women in the Military
This article first appeared in the High Holy Day 2019 edition of the Reform Advocate, view the archives »