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Gates of Prayer

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Gates of Prayer
(Shaarei Tefillah)
The New Union Prayerbook - Large Print
Edited by Chaim Stern
Central Conference of American Rabbis, (1975)
ISBN: 0-916694-46-1

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness:

Gates of Prayer is the new prayerbook of the American Jewish Reform movement and it replaces The Union Prayerbook. Gates of Prayer contains the services for Weekdays, Sabbaths and Festivals and is designed for use in both the home and Synagogue. This large print pulpit edition of Gates of Prayer contains the same text as the standard print edition, including prayers based around special themes such as Peace, Nature, Loneliness, and Righteousness. It also includes various meditations, short readings, and excerpts from Chapters of the Fathers. This edition also includes an appendix with 70 songs and hymns, and the transliteration of 24 recurring passages, such as the Shema and Havdalah Blessing.

This edition is hardbound, and has a dark blue cover with gold lettering. The book measures 8-1/2" x 11" and contains 779 pages. It is Hebrew opening, i.e., left to right. It also has a long red ribbon sewn into the binding so that you can easily mark your place in the prayerbook. The prayers are printed in vowelized Hebrew, and are followed by English translations. As well, variations in font styles offer the reader suggestions on how the text should be read during services. For example, Roman type is used for the portions read by the prayer leader (reader) and italics for the portions read by the entire congregation (all reading).

The liturgy used in the Gates of Prayer was compiled by the liturgy committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. One of their goals in compiling this new prayerbook was to make it as inclusive as possible. In doing so, they tried to take into consideration the many social and cultural changes which have occurred since The Union Prayerbook was last revised in 1940. These changes include the rebirth of the nation of Israel, the effects of the Holocaust, and the changing status of women. For instance, they have included services for Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha-atsma-ut), and Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaSho-ah). They also strove to keep this new prayerbook firmly connected to the foundations laid out in the The Union Prayerbook, while at the same time updating it.

A unique feature of this prayerbook is that it offers different versions of the same service to meet various needs. For example, there are versions of the Sabbath services designed to be used at those services at which a large number of children are likely to be in attendance. There is also a special Kabbalat Shabbat service. One thing left out of this prayerbook is many of the more traditional prayers often found in other prayerbooks. Nonetheless, since its release in 1975, Gates of Prayer has gained wide spread acceptance within the Reform community.

A word of warning about this prayerbook, if you are going to be holding it in your hands during a service you may find it a bit awkward to handle. Because of its size and weight, most people will find it much easier to use if they can lay, or rest it, on a hard surface while it is in use. In addition, for the Shabbat Eve Services I, III, V and VI, large print offprints are available. Each of these pamphlets contains one complete service, and is lightweight and easy to handle. By making a large print edition available, the Central Conference of American Rabbis is helping to ensure that members of the Reform community with low vision can participate more fully in religious activities.

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