Lab Tested: the New Siddur from Koren and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Update: We "Lab Tested" the new siddur at shacharit today at KJ in NYC. We were attending a bris of the grandson of dear friends from Teaneck. (Rabbi Norman Lamm was also in attendance.)

The new Siddur is a handsome and hefty volume. It is ~1200 pages. As many reviewers point out, the Hebrew text is on the left side and the English translation is on the right. This is easy to adjust to and has a surprising benefit. I found myself drifting back to the right side and actually reading some of the davening in English - not something I normally do during active tefillah.

The notes at the bottom are informative and well-written. But in true British style they tend to overdo the superlatives. The annoyance here is you read that the notes from the bottom left page to the bottom right page and then you turn the page from left to right and continue again from the bottom left. Adjusting to that shift takes more than a few minutes. We consider it awkward.

There is a soothing quality to the type face and the overall layout, as compared to the Artscroll which has been annoying us for a long time with its design, font and layout, not to mention its content. God is no longer "Hashem" in the new book. God is God. And don't forget, this is the official siddur of KJ - one of NYC's flagship Orthodox shuls.

As Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt said in his eloquent encomium of praise for the new prayerbook in the Jewish Week, "Rabbi Sacks manages in many passages to create what T.S. Eliot called an 'objective correlative' for the original Hebrew texts, an English liturgy that sings in King David’s key instead of clumsily sagging under the weight of technical correctness and emotive impotence."

Here is what we said in our early version of this post...

Can you believe that Artscroll has been at it for 25 years?

The Artscroll Siddur has dominated as the most popular Orthodox Jewish prayerbook for a long time.

According to the Rabbi Martin Lockshin writing in the Canadian Jewish News, a new Siddur is finally coming to town from Koren and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to challenge Artscroll after a mere 9125 days. Not that we are criticizing the work ethic of the Siddur competitors.

You can order the siddur at Amazon in one of three sizes - tall, grande and venti. (As of 6/2, the books are not yet shipping from Amazon.)

You can watch Rabbi Sack speak about the Siddur - it's a bit of a bland sell:

[hat tip to mimi]


Theophrastus said...

First, I want to not with mild amusement that your Amazon bookstore is currently recommending Meier's volume 4 in his Marginal Jew series on Jesus. An excellent book, from all accounts -- but perhaps not in a subject of primary choice to your readership?

A minor nit -- if you consider Chabad and Breslov to be Orthodox, then the Kehot siddur is perhaps in nearly as many shuls as the Artscroll.

I am sure that the Sacks siddur will be an excellent work, but I wonder if can really complete with Artscroll, with Artscroll's inclusion of many piyutim used by some congregations and omited by most standard siddurim (e.g., Birmbaum includes almost none of these); its many editions (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, RCA, transliterated, interlinear); and its matching machzorim. I'll be surprised if Koren has much success with this siddur.

You can read reviews of the siddur here and here

Tzvee Zahavy said...

thanks for your insights and especially to the links to the reviews. the amazon ads change all the time by themselves, but we do think many of our readers are interested in meier's books...