The Shmooze

Conservative Machzor Makes Room for Gay Jews

By Michael Kaminer

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“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.


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