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Congregation Sha’ar Zahav’s first siddur appeared in 1982. It was revised in 1994and again in 2000. The richness of this siddur, like the Sha’ar Zahav community, is rooted in its integration of Jewish tradition with egalitarian, feminist, and LGBTQ-positive ideas and language. With this edition, we have sought to continue and expand the Sha’ar Zahav tradition of creating liturgy that reflects who we are. The compilers of the 2000 edition wrote: “A Jewish prayer book which had nothing in common with the traditional siddur would lack the wealth of history which connects our worship with Jewish practice around the world and over the centuries. On the other hand, many of us are uncomfortable with some of the imagery and language found in the prayer books of the major Jewish denominations in the United States. With this prayer book, we have attempted to capture the spirit of Jewish liturgy while avoiding the objectionable elements.” When Congregation Sha’ar Zahav was founded in 1977, only a handful of synagogues offered full acceptance to bisexual, transgender, lesbian, gay, and queer-identified Jews. From the outset, Sha’ar Zahav has been a community that is open to all. Sha’ar Zahav is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), and this siddur reflects many of the innovations of the Reform movement as well as the URJ’s commitment to an evolving liturgical tradition. The members of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav – the authors of most of the new material in this siddur – come from many varied backgrounds, movements, affiliations, traditions, and practices. Some identify with Ashkenazi, Sephardi, or Mizrachi traditions. Some were born into Jewish families, while some chose Judaism. We are young and old and every age in between. We have sought to reflect both our shared traditions and our differences in our liturgy. In order to create a spiritual home for all who choose to enter our gates, and in order to develop a siddur which will continue to resonate with the congregation and reflect our community’s diversity, we have tried to cast a wide liturgical net. We have drawn from the traditions we have been handed, we have sought out sources that have been hidden, and we have tapped the creative gifts of our own community. In this edition, we have been mindful of, and have sought to expand, the principles which have distinguished this siddur in the past: using non-sexist language when referring to both people and God; restoring visibility to women throughout Jewish tradition; speaking directly to the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified people; understanding the concept of Jewish chosenness as uniqueness; envisioning the Messianic time as the fulfillment of tikkun olam, the repair of the world, and seeing ourselves as participants in the holy work of repair. Siddur Sha’ar Zahav includes alternative English versions of prayers, and alternative Hebrew and Aramaic, so that our values can be reflected in all of our languages of prayer. Because of the gravity of altering wording that may be hundreds of years old, we spent considerable time developing guidelines for Hebrew prayers. In keeping with the Sha’ar Zahav tradition, we decided not to remove customary versions of prayers, but to add new versions alongside them. We did not alter any passages taken from the Torah, except to ensure gender inclusivity, which is noted in the text. Nor did we alter prayers such as the Mourners’ Kaddish, which serve so powerfully to connect us to the Jewish people across time and space. Where we did create new Hebrew versions, we followed a set of principles, which are discussed in the appendices. Siddur Sha’ar Zahav endeavors to respect the varied, and at times contradictory, sensibilities of our people and our congregation. Our goal is for all of us – progressive Jews within the Reform movement’s umbrella, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation – to see ourselves reflected in our liturgy, so that none of us experience the invisibility and exclusion we have historically encountered. Our prayer book attempts to embody the teaching that each of us is created b’tzelem Elohim, “in the image of God.” While we know that not every reading will speak to each of us, we hope that in these pages all of us will find a point of departure for prayer, and for dialogue with the Source of creation.
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