Letters, March 2, 2016


Innovative siddur not first since 1985
The article reviewing the publication of the Rabbinical Assembly’s newest prayer book, Siddur Lev Shalem (“While some try new prayer book, others wait for theirs,” WJW, Feb. 25), was a most welcome one. Siddur Lev Shalem is a beautifully written and significant addition to the 21st century Jewish prayer experience.

I feel it necessary, however, to correct a misimpression that the article may have left with some readers.

Siddur Lev Shalem, innovative as it is, is not the first new siddur published by the Conservative movement since Siddur Sim Shalom, published in 1985. The siddur currently used in most Conservative congregations today is Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, published in 1998. In 1991, the Rabbinical Assembly formed an editorial committee, which I was asked to chair, to thoroughly rewrite Siddur Sim Shalom as an egalitarian, inclusive, and user-friendly prayer book, which would help usher Conservative congregations into the spirit of the forthcoming 21st century. Our work was completed and a dramatically new siddur, Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, was published in 1998, which bore little resemblance, except for the traditionality of its liturgy, to its predecessor. It continued the name Sim Shalom as the result of a commitment made to the major philanthropic donor of the original edition.

It is this siddur which pioneered the move to refer to God as “Sovereign” rather than “King,” and introduced an alternative option for opening the “Amidah” with reference to the matriarchs, as well as numerous other dramatic innovations, both in text and translation, and it has been met with widespread acceptance.


The Conservative movement remains committed, as it has for many years, to step-wise, incremental development of Jewish law and liturgy. Alongside Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals and its companion volume, Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays, published in 2003, it is that tradition in which this new siddur, Lev Shalem, firmly sits.
Rabbi Emeritus
Congregation Har Shalom

Student disability inclusion provides opportunities
I commend the editorial (WJW, Feb. 25), “What is disability inclusion?” Kol Hakavod!

I am a college student and am on the autism spectrum. In the context of Jewish education, I attended programs in the Washington area and in Israel. The opportunities that those schools provide students to contribute their skills and talents to the community had — and continue to have — a very positive impact. Because I greatly enjoy writing, I regularly wrote for my high school newspaper. It is essential to provide opportunities for individuals who have special needs to contribute their talents and skills to their communities. I especially like the following from the editorial:  “Inclusion … is when people with disabilities are encouraged to participate just like everyone else.”

I hope to work in special education, which would be very special and meaningful. Again, Kol Hakavod to WJW!
Chevy Chase

EMET takes the credit at the expense of ZOA
In Jennifer Dekel’s op-ed (“Congress at its best,” WJW, Feb. 25), she falsely claims that her boss, Sarah Stern, “spearheaded the passage of the Koby Mandell Act,” which created an office in the Department of Justice to capture and prosecute terrorists who have harmed or murdered Americans overseas. This is untrue.

Although Stern worked for the Zionist Organization of American during a portion of this effort, many others at ZOA made this happen. After the passage of this bill, Sherry Mandel, Koby Mandel’s mother, said, “We want to thank the Zionist Organization of American for initiating this fight for justice. … Koby would have deeply appreciated this fight for justice by the ZOA.” Stephen Flatow, father of terror victim Alisa Flatow, said, “We want to thank the ZOA for being the only organization to have made this bill and this fight a priority and being relentless in this pursuit of justice.”

The New York Times ran a major article saying that “an intense three-year campaign by Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America” was “important” on this issue. ZOA’s campaign included ads in the Times and in newspapers around the country, organizing House and Senate press conferences on Capitol Hill, publishing op-eds and letters in newspapers around the country, discussing the bill on TV and radio, and distributing a powerful ZOA booklet entitled, “The Forgotten Victims: American Citizens Murdered by Palestinian Arab Terrorists.”

As Uriel Heilman wrote in the Jerusalem Post in June 2005, “the ZOA … spearheaded the drive to get the bill passed last year.” He then quoted Klein: “We had many Department of Justice officials and there seemed to be a lack of interest in capturing Palestinian Arabs that murdered Americans. That’s why we decided we really needed legislation.”

And a key factor in the passage of this legislation was a private meeting between Klein and the late Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a close personal friend of Klein’s, who promised him he would personally lead the fight to get this bill passed. Thanks in large part to Specter, President George W. Bush signed the legislation into law as part of the omnibus spending bill in December 2004.

Chairman of the Board,
Zionist Organization of America

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