Pax Americana: Uniform Prayer Book for Jews in Uniform

Orthodox, Conservative and Reform chaplains join forces to write single siddur for American Jewish GIs.

Gil Eliyahu.

From the land of the melting pot: A new Orthodox/Conservative/Reform siddur, or prayer book, has been published for Jewish members of the United States Armed Forces, the San Diego Jewish World reports. It will be used for the first time at this weekend's Shabbat services at a San Diego Jewish community gathering.

Why was a tri-denominational siddur written for Americans in uniform? Because different military chaplains come from different streams of Judaism, so GIs rotating from base to base can't get familiar with one siddur and one kind of service. Thus, the U.S. Jewish Chaplains Council decided to put together one unified siddur to serve all American Jewish military men and women wherever they're on duty, no matter their denomination or that of the presiding chaplain.

We had the ability to move freely through their prayer books, allowing us to create a book that each rabbi can use differently. Yet for each soldier, sailor or marine, it will be the same, no matter where he or she is stationed, said retired Rear Adm. Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of the council.

The writing of the siddur was done with input and editing from representatives of the three major Jewish denominations. This is the first time since World War II a new siddur has been published for the U.S. armed forces. The forward is written by President Barack Obama.

Over Memorial Day weekend May 24-25, the siddur will be used for Shabbat services at three Manhattan synagogues: Reform Central Synagogue, which will use it Friday evening, Conservative Park Avenue Synagogue, which will use it for Saturday morning services, and the Orthodox Kehilath Jeshurun, which will use it for Saturday afternoon services.