Beliefnet
Feiler Faster

The obituary of God is being written on the bestseller lists these days, as we all know. But now the latest chapter in the Death of God sweepstakes seems to be written … in synagogue! The Reform movement has written its new prayerbook in a way that says belief in God is not a condition. Fascinating.

Traditional touches coexist with a text that sometimes departs from tradition by omitting or modifying some prayers and by using language that is gender-neutral. References to God as “He” have been removed, and whenever Jewish patriarchs are named — like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so are the matriarchs — like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The prayer book took more than 20 years to develop and was tested in about 300 congregations. Its release has been delayed for a year because the initial printed product was shoddy, said people involved with the project. But the book is expected to be released in about a month — too late, however, for the High Holy Days, which begin Sept. 13.
“It reflects a recognition of diversity within our community,” said Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman, the editor of the prayer book. “We have interfaith families. We have so many visitors at b’nai mitzvah ceremonies that I could have a service on Shabbat morning where a majority of people there aren’t Jewish,” she said, referring to bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies on Saturday mornings.
“There are even those in my community who come to Shabbat worship each week who don’t believe in God,” said Rabbi Frishman, who leads the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, N.J. “How do we help them resonate with the language of prayer, which is very God-centric and evokes a personal God, a God that talks to you in a sense? There are many, many Jews who do not believe in God that way.”

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