NEW YORK — A new prayer book recently issued by the Jewish Reconstructionist movement is breaking new ground in American Judaism in its concern for feminist language, ecology and personal spirituality.
"It's a do-it-yourself prayer book. . . . It doesn't have to be used only in synagogues, so more Jews will use it at home," said Rabbi David A. Teutsch, editor-in-chief of the prayer book.
Called in Hebrew "Kol Haneshama," the prayer book was introduced in September. It will be used first on an experimental basis for Sabbath eve and synagogue services in the approximately 60,000-member Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot.
Reconstructionist Judaism was founded by Mordecai Kaplan in 1940. The movement does not see the Jewish religion as having been supernaturally revealed to Moses but rather as a civilization that adapts tradition and beliefs to changing times.
The new prayer book is the second such book for the Reconstructionists since 1945. According to Teutsch, the book reflects the changes that have taken place in the American Jewish community since 1945, while also addressing Reconstructionist concerns on current issues.
"When our first siddur (prayer book) was published nearly half a century ago, Jews were struggling to assimilate into North American society. Today a great ethnic awakening among Jews has taken place, and many Jews are trying to find their way into Judaism. This prayer book is for them," he said.
The book is suited for use by individuals and small groups, known as havurots .