The JWB (Jewish Welfare Board) Jewish Chaplains Council released a special siddur (prayer book) last week aimed at a special audience: American Jews in the US military.
The siddur was the joint effort of Jews across the religious spectrum to produce a special collection aimed at soldiers, the first of its kind since World War Two.
“We had the ability to move freely through their prayer books, allowing us to create a book that each rabbi can use differently,” said retired Rear Adm. Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of the Council, which is backed by the JCC of North America. “Yet for each soldier, sailor or Marine, it will be the same, no matter where he or she is stationed.”
The impetus to create the siddur dates to 2006, when the Jewish Chaplains Council advisory board realized that its chaplains were using a variety of siddurim depending on what the rabbi or trained lay person leading services chose to use. This was often the prayer book with which he or she was most comfortable, or simply what was available at the base.
The format worked adequately for the rabbi, but wasn’t as successful for Jewish service men and women, many of whom are not fluent in Jewish liturgy and had to get used to a new siddur every time they left for a different base.
According to Robinson, the siddur represents a special show of collaboration between religious officials with widely different viewpoints. He said that Rabbis from every stream had approved the use of the siddur for soldiers - even though text had been pulled from the liturgy of other Jewish movements.
According to Robinson, the prayer includes gender-neutral language, Hebrew and English text, as well as transliterations of the Hebrew.
US President Barack Obama also wrote a foreword to the siddur, acknowledging the sacrifice and commitment American Jewish soldiers make when they serve in the US military.