Conservative Machzor Makes Room for Gay Jews
“His/her death left me with a legacy of unhealed wounds, of anger and dismay.”
This emotional phrase describes a “parent who was hurtful.” Now it appears in a groundbreaking new High Holidays machzor whose prayers aim to include lesbian and gay Jews, for whom the words might carry even more of an emotional charge. The New York Times reported on the book last week.
Along with modernized translations, simplified transliterations and more gender-neutral language, the machzor includes a reworked Yizkor — the Yom Kippur memorial for dead relatives — that for the first time include a prayer for a deceased “partner.”
What’s surprising is that the book didn’t emerge from big-tent Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism, but from the Conservative movement. According to the Times, the book — called “Lev Shalem”, or “whole heart” — represents the movement’s first updating of the machzor in 40 years.
Objections to the new books have arisen, but they’re not focused on gay-inclusive language, according to the Times; instead, some congregants have taken issue with the deletion of lines from traditional prayers, like a phrase about “asking God to avenge Jewish blood” in Avinu Malkeinu.
So far, 120,000 machzors have been ordered by 125 of the 850 Conservative congregations worldwide, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, told the Times. The book can also be bought on Amazon.
"The Rabbis in the Talmud spoke of the necessity of both sinai and oker harim, that is both those who collected traditions that were handed down and also those who literally “overturned mountains.” Essentially, the one group would not survive without the other. It is in the radical interpretations of the given traditions, and in the broad and fluent knowledge of the traditions that one is able to create radical new interpretations."— Dr. Aryeh Cohen
""I have never felt that repentence, prayer, and tzedakah would change my fate. Rather, I feel that through honest reflection, refinement, and a sense of responsibility, I do have incredible power to affect the decree for others.""— Cantor Ellen Dreskin
"Teshuvah does invite us to begin again, but not from the beginning. Part of what it means to be human is to learn how to begin again and again – from right where we are, right in the messy middle of things. The Torah, according to an ancient midrash, reminds us of this truth by opening the story of creation itself with the letter Bet…Even when we have rolled the parchment scroll as far back as it will go, the letter Bet meets us there -- insisting that this story cannot be told from the very beginning. No story can. Beginnings elude us."— Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
"This year our theme at Temple Emanuel Beverly Hills is “If not Now, When?” and we asked congregants to tweet their responses to #innwtebh or to fill out cards filling in the blanks :“If not now, when will I….” We will prepare these ‘intentions for the year” in a similar way, as a power point presentation scrolling quietly on the screen facing the congregation as individuals come forward silently in front of the open ark before neilah."— Rabbi Laura Geller