Please write a paragraph of general introduction yourself, including where you are in the process of liturgical studies.

Reb Sami writes:

1) I expect general familiarity with liturgical cycle as described in Klein, "Guide to Jewish Religious Practice"

2) Those who can read textbooks in modern Hebrew should have Yakovson, "Netiv Binah" - 5 vols.

3) Everyone should have a "traditional" Hebrew machzor for sh'losh regalim and yamim nora'im - ideally Koren.

4) Recommended but not required is the Goldschmidt Machzor - for RH, YK, Pesach and Sukkot.

5) Short preliminary assignment: Not more than 2 paragraphs: What is your favorite edition of the Machzor for any occasion and why?

Cynthia Hoffman

I'm hoping to be a new ALEPH rabbinic student, transferring from The
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. I have done a fair amount of academic
study of liturgy, but very little practical study of it. In other words,
I can answer lots of technical questions about the texts, but I know very
little about how to use them. The Rabbi who initially trained me taught me
enough so I'd know how to lead services on the holidays, but that's about
all he taught me. I'm definitely hungry for more.

While I don't have a favorite machzor, I am most familiar with Harlowe as
it's the one I've led services from. I grew up with Birnbaum, and if I'm
forced to quote pieces of the HH liturgy in English, I tend to use those
translations, but I suspect at this point that that's habit and not

I purchased the Koren set two years ago and for the past couple of years I
have used it to daven with while the rest of the congregation uses Harlowe
(or the newest version of the Conservative Machzor, of which only YK is
available, and then only to a few shuls). And I'm afraid I don't know
enough yet about what other Machzorim are out there aside from Artscroll
to have any sense of whether there's another out there that would work
better for me. I'm definitely looking forward to exploring.

Deb Kolodney

I have never studied Yamim Noraim or Shelosh Regalim academically. I have been leading portions of the High Holy Day services (traditional nusach plus creative ritual and some new melodies) for 10 years. I have studied pieces of the High Holy Day liturgy cantorially.

I am most familiar with the old Silverman mochsor and the pretty new Aigen (Canadian Reconstructionist) mochsor (Mochsor Hadeish Yameinu). I served on the mochsor selection committee for Fabrangen about 5 years ago when we selected the Aigen, after decades of using Silverman. Why the move? Mostly the translations-since Fabrangen is very attached to a full Conservative service and we have many folks who are piyyut freaks. During that selection process we evaluated several options, but I must admit, other than Kol Haneshema I'm not remembering them and their relative merits and demerits. I do remember that there is a huge range of translation, there is an unexpectedly wide range of the order of services and the Recon mochsorim don't tend to include the complete Amidah in every iteration. There is also a huge range in the selection/inclusion of piyyutim and of course English commentary. Fabrangen ended up with a 77 page companion to make sure we had the piyyutim, translations, transliterations, full Amidot and a few additional readings we wanted when we switched to Aigen.

I think we use Boksor for Shelosh Regalim.I am much less tuned into the liturgy for the festivals.

I also led the mochsor creation process for a small community i led for 4 years-Shoreshim. The community was not open to a full liturgy, and the mochsor is by no means what I would have created for myself, but it did provide an interesting window into choices, as did my leading their services.

I cannot say that I have a favorite mochsor. All the ones I've worked with and seen have problems. They have full liturgy and lousy translations. They have great readings and chopped up liturgy. They are gender sensitive and have no piyyutim...
Talk to you later!

Leah Frey-Rabine

I was in DLTI-4 and as a Cantorial Program applicant, attended my first Smicha Week last summer. I’m new at this, progressing, as you know, from Walhalla to Ohalah, long on stage experience, short on Jewish experience but running happily to catch up. I assist Daniel Kempin as worship leader at our Egalitarian Minyan in Frankfurt, learning and growing as I go. For the first time I will be leyning part of the Megillat Esther, and I’ve had a brief look at the liturgy for Shalosh Regalim, concentrating by necessity on musical aspects (grateful kudos to Hazzan Jack and also to Pinchas Spiro!), but beginning to understand how nussach helps bring the liturgy alive.

This is my first telecourse and my second liturgy class. The first was Reb Daniel Siegel’s Comparative Liturgy class at Smicha Week last summer. I am at the beginning of my studies, studying Ellbogen, Idelssohn and the My People’s Prayer Book Series. I enter the class with plenty of questions, now that I am noticing discrepancies in my growing collection of Siddurim and Machsorim. I’ve co-led one round of High Holiday services (with Daniel Kempin and Diane Tiferet Lakein – thanks for all your help and support this summer), and I look forward to learning. I have far to go!

My Favorite Machsor(im)

Here I must break my own rule of first mentioning the positive, since I have scant knowledge of Machsorim. After a few years of using the High Holidays Machsor published by the Liberal Synagogue Pestalozzi Strasse in Berlin, the only Machsor I truly know, I must admit that I do not like it. My reasons: 1) There are no ta’amim. 2) It is not comprehensive, lacking Piyutim and shortening/omitting many things. 3) It contains typos that even this rank amateur has discovered. A brief look at the Schma Kulenu (standard Orthodox version favored in the German-speaking part of the world) Machsorim has convinced me that they provide a far better basis for me at this early stage of my learning. For this reason, I have also ordered the Art Scroll Machsorim, which I hope to have within the next 2 weeks.

Because my work is here in Germany, not in the USA, I ask you for permission to use these two versions of the Machsorim, which are more applicable for me.

Lynn Claire Feinberg

I have been using the Artscroll Machsorim for High Holidays and much older, handed down German machzorim for other holidays. The only kinds of holiday services I have attended have been traditional orthodox - and I have sung a long on the womens gallery for years.
For the last two High Holidays I have been doing my own versions of services. For Maariv Rosh Hashana and Kol Nidrei I created my own machzorim, building on the work I already have done in translating and transliterating and accomodating to a more renewal style most of the siddur contents to be used by Norwegians. For High Holidays I used a lot from Aigin's Machzor (Canadian reconstructionist) and parts of Reb Marcias machzor - enjoying many of the alternative texts which I also used for the small group I was leading.

I have serveral sets of traditional, orthodox ashkenaz German machzorim, and hope that they will be ok to use for this class.

I have already taken several classes on Siddur, both with you Reb Sami, in 2003, Reb Daniel and on my own as part of my bachelor degree in Hebrew.

looking forward to studying with you.

Melissa Wenig

I have smicha as a rabbinic pastor through the ALEPH rabbinic program and am now slated (all things going well and with the blessings of encouragement of my teachers) for smicha January 2010.

In addition to the practical experience leading services, Friday night, Shabbat day, and High Holy days (for 4 years now), I have studied with Reb Daniel doing a combination practicum and text on the liturgy for High Holidays, weddings and funerals. I also participated and completed Reb Sami’s class on weekday liturgy.

As for my favorite Machzor, I have to say that none of them have ever truly met the needs of any of the independent congregations where I have led Hi Ho services. I have always had to create either a supplement or the Machzor itself. I like what Temple Beth Zion of Brookline, MA has done in terms of creating a Machzor that is a loose leaf book- which opens up the option of adding of subtracting as time goes on. It becomes a reflection of the communities needs, desires and minhagim. As a participant I have liked using Reb Daniel’s Kol Nidre Machzor. I look forward to the High Holy Day Machzor that Daniel has in the works.
Also I did a presentation/paper for a class on the Akeda on the piyyutim of the Akeda, if anyone wants to see it.

Rachel Barenblat

I'm a fourth-year ALEPH rabbinic student. The Pesach liturgy is what really drew me into engaged Jewish practice in college and thereafter; even during a period of alienation from Judaism which I experienced in and after college, the roll-your-own quality of the write-your-own-haggadah tradition kept me involved. I got deeply excited about feminist seders, helped to create the feminist seder tradition at Williams College, and began a process of writing my own haggadah each year which slowly brought me deeper into engaged Jewishness again. (I've written about this at length elsewhere and will spare y'all the long story -- the short version is that in empowering myself to transform that ritual, I wound up transforming myself and my relationship with Judaism.)

I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't have a favorite edition of any machzor except the machzor for the yamim nora'im. (I've just ordered myself the Koren 3-volume set, and am guessing I will come to love those, as I have come to deeply love the Koren siddur for weekday & Shabbat which Reb Sami asked us to purchase for the previous liturgy class and which has become my daily siddur.)

When it comes to the machzor for the HHD, I turn to the New Kehila Machzor when I'm looking for creativity. My own shul uses a homegrown machzor which my rabbi Jeff Goldwasser wrote, which is fairly Reformodox (e.g. all over the map) and I lean on that often. This past year I had my first HHD pulpit, where I was asked to work with the Harlow machzor, which I believe is the Conservative movement standard, so it's now the one I know best. The English drove me a little batty (I've grown unaccustomed to all of that masculine God-language) but the Hebrew seems pretty standard and is very workable for me.

Shoshana Brown

Hi, I think most of you know me. I am an Aleph cantorial student, although I have been working as a cantor since 2002. Currently I am the "spiritual leader" of a small unaffiliated shul in Stamford, CT. (I am really enjoying not just being "the cantor!") I grew up as an Episcopalian, went to divinity school from 83-86 in order to be ordained as a priest, but decided along the way to convert to Judaism! I studied for 2 years in Israel, then started a PhD program in midrash at JTS. I married a Conservative rabbi, then spent the next 10 years moving around the country while I worked on my PhD and raised our daughter. I got divorced in 1998 (by this time living on LI), married Mark Elber in 2001, got a job as a cantor at a Recon shul in 2002 (never finished that dissertation on Eikhah Rabbah), and in 2004 took DLTI, and decided to become an Aleph cantorial student. My first teacher of Jewish liturgy was Jakob Petuchowski (z'l), who came for a semester to harvard Divinity School. He was my first rebbe, and how I wish I could discuss all this liturgical revolution with him now!

My favorite Mahazorim

There is a special place in my heart for the Birnbaum Mahazor ( I know I spell this word strangely,but I recently realized that we Americans pronounce it leaving out the second vowel--why is that?). It is the first one I ever owned. During my second year in Israel, I was traveling up to Kibbutz Hanaton to spend Yom Kippur there, and on the way on the bus I sat there and simply read straight through the YK service. The English is quite good, and the typeseting is very clear (unlike Silverman) any case, by the time I got to the Avodah service, I was extremely moved by the piyyut about the Face of the Kohen ("Mareh Kohen") was the first time I had felt any possible sense of the beauty of the whole priesthood/sacrificial service, and I will never forget that moment. In general, Birnbaum preserves a lot of lovely piyyutim (there is also one by Elazar Kallir, which I wrote a paper about, about the voice of Rachel "b'Ramah, m'vakah al-Baneha" which takes as its jumping-off point the haftarah for the second day of Rosh ha Shanah). Perhaps these piyytim are also in other, more liberal mahazorim ( I know the "Mareh Kohen" is in Silverman), but since I first encountered them in Birnbaum, this version is special to me.

I am also partial to the Recon, "Kol HaNeshamah" mahazor, since it was the first one I ever used in the role of shalichat tzibbur for the HH's. It has some very nice English readings and meditations, and the Hebrew and English print is very clear. The drawback is that it is so fat and heavy, and it leaves a lot of traditional material out. Still it's a nice mahazor to construct (or "re-construct") a HH service out of.

Shulamit Wise Fairman

Greetings :)

I'm newly enrolled in the cantorial program and I’ve been serving Kehilla Community Synagogue (Renewal) in Oakland/Piedmont, CA for almost four years.

I did some formal liturgical study at Hebrew College in Boston as part of my MA in Jewish Studies/Certificate of Cantorial Arts a while back. My thesis was a close study of "Hashkiveynu”, it's development across Jewish space and time, as well as a performance and analysis of various cantorial settings. Good times!

But that formal study was really just an introduction for me. Over the last ten years, my personal and professional engagement with Judaism has primarily been rooted with Renewal communities, and I have limited communal davenen experience/exposure with the traditional liturgy, though I love reading it and working with it personally. At Kehilla, I've been supported around introducing more of the traditional liturgy that I do know, particularly for HHDs and festivals, and that’s been fabulous. But there are stretches of liturgy I’ve never looked closely at.

As for a favorite machzur and occasion…

The unetane tokef is one of my favorite all time High Holyday journeys. I led it from the Harlow for several years, and then from the old Kehilla machzur for several years, where it only appeared in the form of a creative English adaptation. Now, my favorite edition for that prayer-journey is definitely the new "in-house” machzur we created for our community last year, simply because it allows me to lead the traditional Hebrew and also my preferred non-traditional rendering over the course of the holidays.

The traditional words have never felt more potent—for example, “who by fire, who by water”… and I’m deeply stirred by the reality of these end-of-life circumstances, the relationship between some natural disasters and our environmental impact, and yet our utter lack of control. Not to mention getting to chant the dramatic two opening paragraphs—exquisite. And then at the other service we chant Rabbi Burt’s full creative adaptation, including: “who shall burn with the fires of greed, who shall drown in the waters of despair?” and a whole different dimension of my inner being is stirred and awakened, confronting not only my mortality, but the essential quality of how I and others live. Good stuff!

(Rabbi David has our whole machzur digitalized, featuring lots of his and Burt’s translations and adapted Hebrew as well, in case anyone wants to take a look.)

I love referencing the Kol Haneshamah machzur “below the line” during my own preparations, and I adore how the Harlow prints the “Shabbat only” pages on lavender J

Simcha Daniel Burstyn

Hi everybody, Simcha Daniel here,

I have been studying liturgy since I began studying with Reb Zalman in the 1980s. The best paper I wrote in graduate school was a comparison of two Kibbutz Movement Pessach Haggadot and their relation to the traditional Haggadah. I like to think of myself as a collector of many varieties of Jewish liturgies. As a choral singer, I have become acquainted with a good deal of music connected to the liturgy, too.

For a long time, I really liked the Harlow Mahzor for the high holidays. It replaced the old Silverman in the Conservative congregation in which I grew up, and I liked its shape and size, and I liked the translations. I didn't notice the thing that eventually led to the rejection of the mahzor in many congregations - the odd text in the Yom Kippur Mincha confessional - "for the sin we have committed before you and before the memory of the six million". There are also some nice additional readings in English in that book - like Jack Riemer's alternative Aleynu.

I also really like the Israeli Reform Mahzor HaKavvanah SheBalev. It's compact, but almost complete. It includes a nice Selichot section, with many short hasidic stories, texts from mussar, etc, for perusal during the month of Elul.

Two years ago, I became acquainted with Mahzor Hadash, which was published in response to the Harlow. It is also very nice, in typography resembling the old Silverman Mahzor.