AJL Review of On Changes in Jewish Liturgy

by Chaim Seymour, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber is an expert on Jewish customs and liturgy and serves as a congregational rabbi in Israel. This book is based on a lecture delivered at a congress of The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance in 2007. In the early 20th century, ultra-Orthodox men were educated in hederim and yeshivot, but women attended secular schools. In 1917, Beth Yaakov was set up to offer a Jewish education for girls. Today, the modern Orthodox have gone even further and set up parallel institutions to yeshivot for women. A natural result is that highly educated Orthodox Jewish women may find it hard to accept certain parts of the liturgy.

The author asked a “simple” question. Can the liturgy be changed to enhance the experience of prayer for women, while retaining the Orthodox framework? Most of the book is devoted to demonstrating that liturgy is far from static. Sperber does not
find it difficult to prove his point, and the discussion is fascinating. The author concludes with some examples of changes to the liturgy that have been introduced for women. His intention is not to recommend changes, but to demonstrate that the liturgy can be changed and to emphasize what is consonant with halakhah and what is not. A very stimulating book!

The original may be found in the AJL Review Newsletter. From the AJL Review.

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