A Brief History of the High Holy Day Prayer Book in America

Sept. 21 2015

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally use a special prayer book known as a maḥzor. The Jewish Weekly provides a timeline of the major U.S. maḥzorim, beginning with the Reform movement’s edition published in 1894:

First published in the 1890s and slightly revised periodically for decades, this maḥzor and the accompanying Shabbat and daily prayer book [the Union Prayer Book] came shortly after the Reform movement’s landmark 1884 Pittsburgh Platform. In accordance with that document, it excised references to the messiah, the future ingathering of Jewish exiles in Israel, and other ideas deemed insufficiently modern. The Union Prayer Book was a definitive ingredient of 20th-century classical Reform—its King James-style English was stentorian [and] its fragments of Hebrew few and far between; it rejected particularism in theology, while embracing Protestantism aesthetically.

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Read more at Jewish Weekly

More about: American Jewry, Judaica, Prayer books, Reform Judaism, Religion & Holidays

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam