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Mishkan T'filah


Mishkan T'filah

Mishkan T'filah—A Reform Siddur ("Dwelling Place for Prayer") is a prayer book prepared for Reform Jewish congregations in the United States by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and released to the general public in 2007. Mishkan T'filah serves as a successor to the Gates of Prayer, the New Union Prayer Book (GOP), which was released in 1975.


  • Development 1
  • Modifications 2
  • Testing and distribution 3
  • World Union edition 4
  • Travelers Edition 5
  • References 6


Gates of Prayer was criticized as being a non-cohesive collection of prayers, resulting in a prayer book that was too large, and for its retention of masculine pronouns. To address these issues, some congregations prepared their own prayer materials (often with edits to neutralize gender) or continued use of the Union Prayer Book.[1]

A project to address these concerns and increase the poeticism of a future prayerbook was initiated in 1981. Israeli poet T. Carmi was brought in to provide guidance on post-biblical Hebrew texts that could be incorporated into the Reform liturgy. The "Carmi Project" generated hundreds of possibilities, many of which would later be integrated into Mishkan T'filah.[1]

A three-year study called "Lay Involvement and Liturgical Change" started in 1985 as part of an effort to better understand the changing spiritual needs of Reform worshipers. Diverse groups of volunteers were asked to keep journals regarding their experiences in prayer services as part of gaining insights into what worked well in the existing GOP prayer book, to prepare standards for evaluating new options and to start preparations for creating a revised siddur. The research found that the themed services touted as a benefit of the GOP did not meet the needs of all worshipers in aiming too narrowly at one group within the congregation and that the traditional responsive readings were found to limit participation. Feedback showed that congregants wanted accurate and meaningful translations of prayers, accompanied by a transliteration and commentaries that would provide additional insights into the text without distracting from it.[1]

The CCAR received 18 submissions in response to requests for proposals to meet the standards specified based on the input gathered. Two proposals were selected, with one from Rabbi Elyse Frishman of the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, who was able to provide insight on Jewish texts on liturgy and worship, who was named to serve as editor of the new siddur. In Frishman's concept, each pair of pages would feature the Hebrew text with a translation and transliteration on the right page and additional readings on the left from such authors as Yehuda Amichai and Langston Hughes. This would allow those seeking a more traditional prayer service to stay on the right side of the prayerbook, while others could choose to focus on the readings on the left. All would conclude with a common chatimah, a one-line conclusion, before moving on to the next page. Judith Abrams, who submitted a second proposal and who provided expertise in rabbinic source materials, was named as consulting editor, and Rabbi Peter Knobel chaired the editorial committee.[1][2]


While the increased use of Hebrew shows a trend toward the traditional content of the siddur, Mishkan T'filah's modifications include elimination of references to God as "He". Mentions of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are paired with the Matriarchs, Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebekah (wife of Isaac), and Rachel and Leah (the wives of Jacob). As in traditional Hebrew texts, Mishkan T'filah reads from right cover to left, a format that was available only as an option in Gates of Prayer.[2]

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman characterized Gates of Prayer as characteristic of a service economy, offering many different choices for individual theological preferences; Its multiple service selections could meet each person's need, but only one could be used for a particular service. By contrast, Mishkan T'filah, offers multiple options on the same page, allowing differing perspectives on prayer to be accommodated simultaneously.[3]

Testing and distribution

Galley proof copies were sent to 300 congregations for three years of field testing, with thousands of recommendations made for improving the original work. By 2006, pre-sales of the new prayer book were over 75,000 copies.[1]

World Union edition

A World Union for Progressive Judaism edition of Mishkan T'filah was developed and published in 2010. It reflects the more traditional approach often taken by English speaking Progressive Jewish communities outside the United States of America.

This edition of Mishkan T'filah is also sensitive to the experiences of Jews living in the Southern Hemisphere (particularly Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) where traditional liturgical seasonal references relating to the Land of Israel are out of step with local weather cycles.

The World Union edition was edited by a team led by Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black from the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism, East Kew, Melbourne, Australia.

Travelers Edition

The Union for Reform Judaism released an edition for those who travel. This compact, paperback version Mishkan T'filah integrates weekday and Shabbat services into an easily transportable volume while still remaining faithful to the style and spirit of Mishkan T'filah. Also includes Festival liturgy. [4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Stevens, Elliot L. (Summer 2006). "'"The Prayer Books, They Are A'Changin (reprint).  
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Unattributed (Summer 2006). "A Conversation with Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman on the Making of Mishkan T’filah—A Reform Siddur, the Movement’s Innovative New Prayer Book" (reprint). Reform Judaism. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  4. ^ CCAR Press (Summer 2009). "Mishkan T'filah for Travelers" (reprint). Reform Judaism. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
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