Conservative Rabbis Update Religious Manual

For the first time in over 30 years, the Conservative branch of Judaism has produced an updated manual for rabbis. The manual contains gender-neutral language, modern versions of prayers, ways of conducting end-of-life medical decisions, and a brand new “grieving ritual” for couples after an abortion.

The Rabbinical Assembly, responsible for publishing the manual, is part of the “middle-of-the-road” conservative branch of Judaism serving 950 synagogues, mostly in North America.

Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, an editor of the manual, said the book intends “to help a rabbi meet the contemporary needs of the congregates he or she serves, always drawing on the sources of our tradition.”

A particularly controversial section of the manual takes a non-judgmental attitude toward abortion. This section was written by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, who provides words to be used by couples after an abortion. “You made a choice, choosing life for (mother’s name), for the two of you as a couple, for your family, for the well-being of children yet to come into your lives. We grieve with you over the loss of this seed of life, and we affirm your essence as people gifted with the ability to nurture other life.”

Other contributions were made by women rabbis throughout the book. They used services which included writings by women from the 1980s and 1990s as well as traditional prayers.

The inclusion of gender-neutral language was also new to the manual. The word “monarch” replaced “king” and the word “mortal” was used in place of “man.”


AP - October 20, 1998

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