I’ve just returned from Italy and Budapest. Budapest is my new favorite. I want to go back. While my mother and I were in Europe, I had some wonderful opportunities to grow my siddur collection.
First up, my Siddur Derech Haim, the siddur of the oldest and most active Reform congregation in Italy, Milan’s Lev Chadash.
SDH is absolutely unique amongst Reform siddurim, as far as I know. Generally, when we talk about Reform, we’re talking about a Reform of the Ashkenazi rite. This nusach Ashkenaz experienced the enlightenment to a greater extent than the practitioners of any other rite, so this is what Reform comes from. However, the rabbi of Lev Chadash, Rabbi Haim Fabrizio Cipriani has other ideas.
LC was founded by Brits living in Milan, though the group we encountered included Italians, Americans and some French. In its early days, the group used the British Liberal siddur, Lev Chadash. When Cipriani arrived at LC, he set about creating a new siddur. Cipriani, much to my surprise, did not go to either of the European Progressive rabbinical schools. He attended the only remaining traditional Italian rite yeshiva that grants smicha.
So the siddur he created is not a reformation of nusach Ashkenaz, but of the old, much rarer, Italian rite. He told me, if you’re gonna have a Reform in Italy, have it be Italian Reform. I couldn’t agree more.
During services, I was repeatedly jarred by remarkably different blocks of Hebrew. But I have some questions, as you’ll see with the next set of siddurim I acquired in Italy.
These two are published by and for what I can only assume are traditional Italian rite synagogues, Siddur Bene Romi and Siddur Bene Romi: Il Mio Siddur. The second is a children’s siddur.
When I got Siddur Derech Haim, I assumed that the vast pieces of unfamiliar text were because of the Italian rite. Indeed, Cipriani told me that he made only minor changes to the Italian rite text, such as imahot. However, Siddur Bene Romi is much closer to the Ashkenazi text.
I purchased SBR at the Jewish museum in the Venetia ghetto, where I also learned that Italy has very old Ashkenazi communities. If that’s the case, perhaps this reflects the rite of those communitites? This page has shed some light on the subject, I’m still not sure what’s going on. Anyone have any light to shed on this?