web analytics
March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Rabbis Tweak Inaugural Readings to Make them ‘Jewier’

Gina Campbell, the cathedral’s director of worship, “encouraged all the religious leaders to be faithful to their own traditions.”

The Obamas and Bidens during the singing of the National Anthem at the National Cathedral.

The Obamas and Bidens during the singing of the National Anthem at the National Cathedral.
Photo Credit: Donovan Marks / Washington National Cathedral

Preaching to a preacher man – or woman – doesn’t always play out as planned.

That’s the lesson learned this week by officials at the National Cathedral after several clergy, including three rabbis, made impromptu changes to the readings they were given to deliver at a prayer service following the Jan. 22 inauguration of President Obama.

Rabbis Rick Jacobs, Sharon Brous and Julie Schonfeld made changes to the texts they were handed in the hope of making the language “Jewier,” as Brous put it later: more conversational, more forthright and more reflective of the rabbis’ understanding of Jewish theology.

“I wanted to be able to pray with real kavannah [intention] in that moment, so the specific language mattered a lot to me,” Brous, the founder of the independent IKAR congregation in Los Angeles, told JTA in an email. “I worked to find a way to capture the essence of the prayer in a Jewish idiom, to translate the beautiful sentiment into words that would be more personally resonant.”

A spokeswoman for the National Cathedral said the institution had no problem with the changes. Neither did Josh Dubois, the White House’s faith-based initiatives boss, who helped coordinate the event.

Gina Campbell, the cathedral’s director of worship, “encouraged all the religious leaders to be faithful to their own traditions” and to emend texts as they saw fit, said the spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of not being named.

Clergy were assigned readings rather than asked to offer their own because the service was pegged to the inauguration’s theme, Faith in America’s Future, drawn from Abraham Lincoln’s determination 150 years ago to keep the nation united and to expand its liberties to all its people.

“The staff at the cathedral were sensitive about theological language and wanting people to speak in language that was comfortable and authentic,” said Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Jacobs was assigned the recital of the priestly blessing alongside Laila Muhammad, the founder of a Muslim family service organization in Chicago. Muhammad told Jacobs beforehand that she would change “The Lord” in the blessing to “Allah.” Jacobs replied that he, too, would not use “the Lord,” substituting “the Holy One” to reflect the Reform movement’s tendency to abjure gender-specific references to God.

Schonfeld, the executive director of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, had no objection to the translation of a psalm she was assigned. But reciting it without context raised difficult theological questions about human responsibility, especially in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren last month in Newtown, Conn.

The translation, as assigned by the cathedral, reads in part, “The Lord watches over the innocent.” Schonfeld changed that to “The Lord watches over the innocent and calls upon us to watch over the innocent.”

“God can only watch over the innocent insofar as human beings watch over the innocent,” Schonfeld wrote in notes on her emendations that she shared with JTA.

The services also featured Cantor Mikhail Manevich of Washington Hebrew Congregation, who sang the Shema prayer in Hebrew.

Christian clergy also made adjustments in keeping with their particular religious orientations. The Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination emphasizing outreach to the LGBT community, replaced five masculine pronouns in her assigned prayer, which opened the service.

The National Cathedral is both an Episcopal seat and a place of worship chartered by the Congress in the 19th century as the natural setting for national events. The church’s website emphasizes that it “welcomes all faiths.”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Rabbis Tweak Inaugural Readings to Make them ‘Jewier’”

  1. Les Legato says:

    "Clergy were assigned readings rather than asked to offer their own because the service was pegged to the inauguration’s theme,".

    DESTROYING AMERICA'S PROMINENCE IN THE WORLD.

    /fixed it.

    These are fake Jews co-wroshipping with muslims and marxists.

    WTH is this doing in the Jewish Press?

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks to reporters with his wife at his side at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday morning.
Israeli PM Netanyahu Arrives in US to Speak at AIPAC, Congress on Iran
Latest News Stories
Bibi Wan vs Darth Obama

Jew Wars: Episode 7 – Revenge of the White House

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks to reporters with his wife at his side at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday morning.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived Sunday in Washington DC ahead of appearances at the AIPAC conference and before the US Congress, to discuss the Iran nuclear threat.

IDF soldiers on routine patrol  near Hebron.

Israel’s military Central Command decides to spring a surprise 2-day “readiness” drill in Judea and Samaria.

Some 1,500 teens from around the world at the Chabad CTeen convention hear a personal greeting from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 1, 2015.

Some 1,500 Jewish teens heard UN Secy-Gen. Ban Ki-moon urge them to “make a difference” as they gathered in Crown Heights, Brooklyn at the Chabad CTeen Convention.

An Egyptian court has formally ruled that Gaza’s ruling Hamas faction is a banned terrorist organization.

Goldberg might as well have been quoting from Netanyahu’s talking points sheet.

The ads use of quotes from a 2001 Netanyahu speech, in which he supposedly described the U.S. as “a thing you can move very easily.” Watch the tape here.

This past summer’s war isn’t over for everyone.

“With the launch of this new historic agreement, we hope to make the lives of newlyweds better and more meaningful, so that if, God forbid, the marriage breaks up, it will be done in a fair and respectful manner.”

Bibi’s speech will be during the U.S. workday, but prime viewing time in Israel.

The report, ordered but never implemented by PM Netanyahu, determined that Israeli settlements are legal according to international law.

This isn’t the first assassination attempt against him.

Herzog, Livni and their media backers have thrown everything at Netanyahu. Voters are not impressed.

He said his mission is “fateful, maybe even historic.”

The report seems unbelievable, but the newspaper has an interesting track record.

Snow is uniting the American people, so to speak. An area in every one of the 50 states, including Hawaii, will see snow this week, according to the WeatherBell site. This week will be the first time since 2012 that even Florida will see snow. New York is expected to get another 3-4 inches today, […]

More Articles from Ron Kampeas
Hillary Clinton

Clinton derided perceptions that U.S.-Israel tensions had become tense under Obama.

“We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text.”

It’s not yet clear if Nemmouche was acting on orders and, if so, whether the orders came from ISIS.

“The Jewish community is going to have to work harder,” said one veteran official who has worked both as a professional in the Jewish community and a staffer for a Jewish lawmaker.

The disagreements don’t seem to have gone away, despite a cease-fire that appears to be firmly in place.

“On the Hill and with some people with whom I have spoken who are robust Israel supporters, people are concerned if not angry,” one of the staffers, a Democrat, told JTA

President Obama in an April 25 press conference seemed ready to take a break. “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” he said.

Obama himself suggested that a break from the process may be necessary.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rabbis-tweak-inaugural-readings-to-make-them-jewier/2013/01/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: