Move to Eliminate Sexist Language from Reform Prayer Books, Liturgy
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Move to Eliminate Sexist Language from Reform Prayer Books, Liturgy

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The New York Federation of Reform Synagogues has taken measures to eliminate sexist language from the prayer books and liturgy used by Reform congregations. The Federation’s Task Force on Equality of Women in Judaism released a glossary it prepared which marks a departure from the masculine-oriented tradition of prayer, the authors say.

The glossary, recommended for incorporation in the official liturgy prepared by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical branch of Reform Judaism, would substitute the words "God." "Almighty," "Blessed One." "The Eternal" or "Creator" for such traditional terms as "Lord." "Father," "King," "Master" and "His."

Similarly, it would replace such terms as "House of Jacob" by "House of Israel" and "Shield of Abraham" by "Shield of our ancestors." In naming the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in course of prayers, it would add references to the Matriarchs, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. The latter change has been made in the CCAR’s new High Holy day Prayer Book to be released in 1978. It also uses the word "humanity" instead of "men."


At a symposium sponsored by the Federation’s Task Force here last week. Edith J. Miller, assistant to the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, observed that present prayers created "by men and for men" disregarded the changing role of women in society and religious practices.

She referred to the special meditation service for the aged, young people, children and women. "You have but to read the meditation for women, replete with references to domestic relations and ‘particular tasks as mothers, wives and daughters.’ As human beings we are left out in left field; we are placed in the same category as slaves and minors, in accordance with more traditional Judaism, without religious obligations," Ms. Miller said.

Cecille Fallon, chairperson of the Task Force, declared, "We ask for the development of prayers and liturgy that allows full participation. We ask not for charity but righteousness." Annette Daum. Task Force coordinator, observed that "The language of prayer has a profound impact on people. The proposed substitute language requires a reorientation away from the male dominated tradition and a change in men’s attitudes toward women and women’s attitudes toward themselves."

The New York Federation represents 102 Reform congregations in the New York metropolitan area.

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