Synagogue Eliminates Kol Nidre Formula from Yom Kippur Night Service
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Synagogue Eliminates Kol Nidre Formula from Yom Kippur Night Service

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A decision to eliminate the recital of the Kol Nidre formula from the Yom Kippur night service was taken by the trustees of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, 15 West 86 Street, a conservative congregation of which Dr. Mordecal M. Kaplan is the leader.

Following a discussion in which opinions pro and con were expressed, the board decided to substitute the One Hundred and Thirtieth Psalm, Shirr Ha’maaloth Mimamakim (De Profundis) for the Kol Nidre. The psalm was sung by the cantor to the traditional Kol Nidre melody. The announcement called forth wide comment in Orthodox circles.

In a statement issued to the Jewish Daily Bulletin Dr. Kaplan made clear his position in the following statement.

“The Society for the Advancement of Judaism has in its Yom Kippur services substituted the 130th psalm for the text of Kol Nidre, retaining, however, the Kol Nidre Chant. It has introduced this change in keeping with the principle in its platform, in which it declares that “We want the synagogue to enable us to worship God in sincerity and truth.”

“When we gather in our Synagogue on Yom Kippur eve, we ought to have an opportunity to give vent to our deepest religious yearnings. The opening prayer ought to sound the keynote of the day. In it we should voice out sense of helplessness in the presence of life’s perplexities and failures and our consequent dependence upon God for guidance and courage.

“If we were to make use of music instead of words as a means of prayer, we could not concieve of any music more appropriate for the Yom Kippur mood than the music of Kol Nidre. It strikes the chords both of tragedy and of hope with such inevitable truth that once heard it never ceases to haunt us thereafter. Let us therefore by all means conserve it. But as prayer is also to depend upon the use of words, no text could be more inappropriate and less in keeping with the spirit of Yom Kippur than the text of Kol Nidre. It is a dry, legalistic formula couched in ancient Aramaic to be recited in matter-of-fact fashion in the presence of an improvised Bethdin of three men for the purpose of absolving one from ritualistic vows. All that talk about it having been recited by the secret Jews to absolve them from their acceptance of Christianity is mere rubbish, since it is known to date back to the Gaonic period before the Spanish persecution.

“It is poor religious taste, to say the least to resort to a legalistic formula for the articulation of our emotions on Yom Kippur night when we have ready at hand so divine a poem as the One hundred and thirtieth Psalm which opens with the outcry “Out of the depth have I called thee O Lord” and contains those matchless words “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than the watchman for the morning.” Set these words to the music of Kol Nidre and you have a perfect combination of thought and feeling.

“It is well known that ever since the practice of saying Kol-Nidre on Yom Kippur ever has been in vogue, some of the greatest authorities in Judaism have tried their utmost to combat that custom. The only excuse for the retention of that custom has been blind and undirected sentimentalism. If however we want our religion to have that vital appeal which will earn the whole-hearted allegiance of thinking men and women, we must eliminate from it all those elements which cannot ##and the test of spiritualized intelligence.”

The Young Women’s Christian Association of Utica., N. Y., has decided to turn over its swimming pool and gymnasium exclusively to the Young Women’s Hebrew Association members one night a week.

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