Prayer Book Revision to Be Foremost Question Before Rabbis’ Central Conference
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Prayer Book Revision to Be Foremost Question Before Rabbis’ Central Conference

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Revision of the Union Prayer Book is expected to be the foremost question at the Central Conference of American Rabbis, when it holds its 41st annual convention, in this city, June 25 to 30. The body of the convention will undoubtedly favor, as it did at Detroit last year, “a thorough-going revision” so that the new Prayer Book will shed lustre on Reform Judaism in America and will square with liberal religious concepts.

Proponents of revision claim that the Prayer Book put out 10 years ago was in no sense a revision, but merely an oral or literary revamping, while the present movement will result in the first real revision that has taken place since the Prayer Book was written. A vigorous minority opposed to the revision claim that the new book will suit neither the rabbis nor the congregations and that the real difficulty is that the present Prayer Book is not properly read.


At the Detroit convention the Liturgical committee was instructed to make a survey of the kind of revision desired by the conference and to confer with a similar committee working for revision, which was appointed by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and to report back at Providence the result of their study and conference.

It is generally admitted that the revision will not take place in a year, but the body of the conference believes that although the present Prayer Book has a great Jewish background and contains beautiful Pre-Kaddish prayers and meditations, yet as a theological presentation of the spirit of Reform Judaism it is unsatisfactory to the rabbinate and laity. It has been pointed out that “Thy People Israel” are not the only ones that have enjoyed redemption as the Prayer Book implies, that the psalms used for responsive reading show confusion between the idea of “antique” and “antiquated”.


Those opposed to the revision state that a new Prayer Book would be no guarantee of the return of a prayerful spirit to the people. Undoubtedly the policy of revision will be settled at the convention here: Whether the new book will contain more traditional and less new material or vice versa.

Four speakers representing the different schools of thought will present studies on the course that revision should take: Rabbi Sol B. Freehof of Chicago will speak on “The Union Prayerbook in the Evolution of the Liturgy”; Rabbi Israel Bettan and Rabbi Samuel S. Cohon, both of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, will present the function and the religious ideas of the Prayer Book, respectively, and Rabbi Jonah B. Wise of New York, city will discuss “The Devotional Value of the Union Prayer Book.”

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