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Artscroll may soon be losing its siddur monopoly

sacks-siddur1The newest siddur to hit the market is giving Artscroll a run for its money, The Sacks Siddur “enter sexual joke here” (named after the chief Rabbi of England) is on the market and already Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the upper east side ordered 400 copies according an artciel in the Jewish Week, they claim they don’t want to replace Artscroll but I don’t buy it. Apparently the translation is updated from Artscrolls and is more geared towards modern orthodox worshipers.

The siddur is endorsed by the OU, I have wondered when these “novelty” siddurs would hit the frum community. I kind of like the old English of the Birnbaum siddurs, but I am always down with change.

Exactly what makes a siddur modern orthodox is beyond me, and how they could make money marketing a siddur to only the modern orthodox crowd is also beyond me – being that modern orthodoxy is dying quick – being sucked into pluralistic Judaism on the left and yeshivish on the right.

I guess a modern orthodox siddur should have a little blurb where it tells us to say half hallel on Rosh Chodesh and the last days of Pesach also says that according to some opinions Half Hallel is said on Yom Haatzmaut as well – while the majority of opinions hold that full Hallel is said.

Does it have the prayer for Israel in the place that most people say it, or tucked into the back? Is there some sort of song list so that modern orthodox shuls can extend their shabbat services beyond the traditional 12:30pm mark.

Maybe they even have a Rabbis edition with tips for ways to make people comfortable with waiting for what seems like eons until his family is present. What about the halachos of having women speak during shul, or strategies for getting women to don those little doilies so we can tell which ones are married or not.

There already are other siddurim on the market, but translated orthodox siddurim are hard to find. Just like Artscroll has a monopoly in the general frum community, those yellow covered Tikun Mayer siddurs has a monopoly with the older folks, Tehilas Hashem monopolizes chabad and now possibly the Sacks siddur will take over at low mechitza/kipah sruga shuls everywhere.

I have seen siddurim that changed God to a she and took out the morning brachos where it said Thank God for making me a man. I didn’t see it but I wrote about the Gay siddur and I am sure there are a bunch of other novelty siddurim I don’t know about – but what about orthodox novelty siddurs?

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Artscroll has a monopoly

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What are women doing behind the mechitza?

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{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Chosid May 13, 2009, 2:44 PM

    chief rabbi of england.

  • Frum Satire May 13, 2009, 2:52 PM

    My bad thanks

  • shevers May 13, 2009, 2:53 PM

    Yeah Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. England dude.

  • Chayim May 13, 2009, 3:13 PM

    actually..if shuls are REALLY kippa sruga and zionist, they won’t buy into Sacks..he’s on record as saying some pretty nasty things about Israel’s right to defend herself…

  • Aryeh May 13, 2009, 3:28 PM

    Official title: Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

  • Frum Satire May 13, 2009, 4:46 PM

    Ok enough the post is about siddurim people

  • chosid May 13, 2009, 5:07 PM

    What’s a hebrew congregation?

  • Raghav May 13, 2009, 6:24 PM

    Apparently Artscroll is striking back by publishing a “Soloveitchik siddur.”

    This siddur is apparently Modern Orthodox because the transliterations reflect the tav pronunciation over sof. Also, they put the Hebrew to the left of the translation, which is actually a lot easier on the eyes once the novelty wears off.

    • Sheryl Abbey November 3, 2009, 2:39 PM

      Just to bring you up-to-date: The OU has decided to team up with Koren Publishers Jerusalem to publish a long-awaited siddur with commentary by the Rav, Joseph B. Soloveitchik. It will be called The Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur and is scheduled to be out in April 2010.

  • pooglespeak May 13, 2009, 9:13 PM

    Way to misspell “article” as “artciel”.

  • Phil May 13, 2009, 10:03 PM

    Great. Another siddur transalted by Brits. Would like to see one with more down to earth language used by the masses, not the thee and thou stuff.

    Maybe Soul Bratha should do an Ebonics translation…

  • SF2K1 May 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

    Whatever else you say about artscroll, it has a great format and discards anarchistic language. Something that, honestly, I don’t think any siddur before them fully had down, hence why the newer siddurs have all been copying their style. Frankly, they did it so well that they took over the siddur market, meaning people get comfortable expecting the same brand wherever they go (it’s bad enough some have to wade through Ashkenaz and Sfard to find their preference, and then you wanna have several different ones?)

    That said, I doubt this new siddur will be so easily adopted, nor do I think it will become very common. Everything you need that’s not in the artscroll generally gets pasted in the front/back anyhow.

  • Chris_B May 14, 2009, 7:05 AM

    FWIW Amazon has been sending me notices about this siddur every other day.

    Great. Another siddur transalted by Brits.

    That means they spell color and other words with extra leters?

    Maybe Soul Bratha should do an Ebonics translation

    You give him way too much credit. He cant even do a passible imitation of Ebonics.

  • Geoff May 14, 2009, 8:57 AM

    “Great. Another siddur transalted by Brits. Would like to see one with more down to earth language used by the masses, not the thee and thou stuff.”

    What are you thinking? That people in England all speak like they’re acting in some sort of medieval play?

    You probably also believe the country stops at 4pm so that everyone can have a cup of tea.


    Artscroll has done wonders for making certain texts more accessible to the world, but there’s no doubting it has an agenda (as does Koren/Sacks, but at least theys now offer an alternative to Artscroll). For a good example, try reading Shir Hashirim – it blows. The Artscroll English bears almost no relationship to the original text – presumably lest someone get caught giggling in shul on shabbat chol ha’moed Pesach. How patronising.

  • Puzzled May 14, 2009, 9:07 AM

    What’s wrong with anarchist language?

    On shir hashirim, that was the original thing I was puzzled about when I chose my name, actually. To me, it’s symbolic of the whole problem of imposing Brooklyn norms on the past. Shir Hashirim can’t possibly have any resemblance to what it says.

  • Phil May 14, 2009, 9:20 AM


    To begin with, Brits use language and terms quite different than ours.

    Next, siddurim and other seforim are usually translated by people that use language different to ours as well, they tend to use words that are very rarely used.

    So by the time you get a siddur translated by brits, it’s likely to sound like one of those thee / thou jobs done 100+ years ago.

    Using your Shir Hashirim example, breasts are likely referred to as “bosom”. I’m not suggesting they use “tits” or “hooters”, breasts would be fine.

  • Raghav May 14, 2009, 11:00 AM


    To begin with, British English isn’t “quite different” from American English, especially in formal written registers. If you gave an American a New York Times article and a Financial Times article with the spelling regularized, I doubt they’d be able to tell which was whichmuch less find it hard to understand the FT one.

    Secondly, while Rabbi Sacks is British, Koren is an Israeli company and the siddur is an American edition with American spellingit even includes prayers for the American military.

    Thirdly, if anything it’s American siddurim, like Birnbaum, that go for the archaic thee-thou-ing. After all, American English is by and large the more conservative: it uses verb forms like “gotten” which have dropped out of British English (except in phrases like “ill-gotten gains”), strong verb conjugations (dove, snuck) are rarer in British English, American English retains older spellings like the -ize endings, etc.

  • Geoff May 14, 2009, 11:05 AM


    “So by the time you get a siddur translated by brits, its likely to sound like one of those thee / thou jobs done 100+ years ago.”

    I understand what you’re saying, but I invite you to read the translation before you pass comment on what you *think* it’s going to be like – the translation is actually very readable (even to a non-Brit like me).

    As for Shir Hashirim, of course I’m not talking about breasts / mammary glands / hooters / tits / jugs / fun bags.

    I think we all understand that Shir Hashirim, rather than being biblical soft porn, is in fact a metaphor, but I would rather read what the text *says*, and then understand the metaphor from commetaries. I feel cheated by the Artscroll translation telling me what it thinks it *means* rather than what it *says*. That’s what commentaries are for, and that’s why there are so many of them.

    I just can’t help but feel they are trying to “protect” me from something “naughty”. I’m saying it feels like censorship.

    Instead of tearing out the pages, they just changed the words.

  • Phil May 14, 2009, 11:29 AM


    I have two versions of the Tanya translated into English. The first is by Nissan Mindel. He translated a line in the first chapter as “this requires to be understood, for it contradicts the mishnaic dictum”. Next translation is from R. Levy Wineberg (ironically from South Africa), that translated the same line as : “this requires to be understood, for we have learned in the mishnah”.

    Both say the same thing, one is in proper English, the other is in understandable English. Nissan Mindel was a professor, Levy Wineberg is a rabbi.

  • Dave, UK May 14, 2009, 12:30 PM

    I don’t exactly know the contents of this koren version, but the Chief Rabbi published a siddur a few years ago and it might well be the same stuff:

    –NOT thee/thou
    –A prayer for the state of Israel without the phrase refferring to the beginning of the redemption just before the sefer tora is put away (and the prayer for the royal family is probably not in there)
    –The Chief’s own commentary, which is in parts quite high-brow, but brilliant if you have the time to sit and get your head round it

    By the way, Sacks is a big supporter of Israel; he speaks at the main London Yom Haatzmaut event and was the main speaker at the rally in Trafalgar Square during the Gaza conflict.

  • Phil May 14, 2009, 1:00 PM


    You’re right I should read it before assuming that it sounds like most of the other ones I’ve read. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the Nissan Mindel version of things.

    It can get complicated to differenciate between exalt and exult, why use terms like “magnanimous in all his deeds” to translate “vechassid bechol maasav”?

    When was the last time you heard someone using that word?

  • Yochanan May 14, 2009, 4:17 PM


    Tehilat HaShem translates chesed as “loving-kindness” instead of just “kindness”.

  • Phil May 14, 2009, 4:25 PM


    Magnanimous came from the Artscroll translation of Tehillim.

    Would that make chassidim a bunch of magnanimouses?

  • Juggling Frogs May 19, 2009, 6:29 AM

    I haven’t seen the Koren version, but I have had (and daven from) the Rabbi Sacks siddur since it first came out last year.

    It is beautiful, with a fantastic font, that includes the kometz gadol. (The kometz gadol is like a pocket knife – something you don’t imagine you’d need, until you start to carry it, at which point it becomes indispensible. )

    The English translation is beyond compare. Instead of an afterthought, it is written by someone fluent and in command of the nuances and beauty of both languages. Rather than being stilted, it flows and it soars.

    What a joy to read a translation of davening that is of a quality commensurate with its subject.

    If you just have a few minutes in a bookstore with the siddur, check out the translation to shir hakavod. The rhyming (!!) English retains and clarifies the true meaning of the Hebrew while keeping the meter and imagery of the poetry.

    It’s a siddur for people who think in English, appreciate well-written English, and who might like to read the left hand side of the page sometimes, rather than have it available only for the occasional word translation.

    (At our Modern Orthodox shul, we use the RCA – black cover – Artscroll siddur, which has the prayer for the State of Israel, with the “reishit smichat ge’ulatainu”.)

  • Chris_B May 19, 2009, 9:05 AM

    Juggling Frogs,

    Now that is a clear review! I’ll try and look for it when I’m Stateside next week.

  • Raphael Freeman May 20, 2009, 6:14 AM

    Juggling Frogs: I think you mean the kamatz katan which is enlarged (confusing eh, but the katan refers to the grammatical status of the kamatz not the size).

    Dave UK: The Koren Siddur puts in the official prayer for the State of Israel including reishit tzmichat geulatenu, however, the language has been adjusted for chutz laaretz, ie “our dispersion” as opposed to “their dispersion” as is said in Israel.

  • Juggling Frogs May 20, 2009, 5:40 PM

    Raphael: Thank you! Whatever it is, having it makes reading text that was long-ago committed to memory so much easier to read and/or scan.

  • Juggling Frogs May 20, 2009, 5:41 PM

    oops – that should read “reading *even* text that….”

  • someone June 4, 2009, 6:28 PM

    interview with R’ Jonathon Sacks about the new siddur http://www.algemeiner.com/generic.asp?ID=5463

  • someone June 4, 2009, 6:30 PM

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