I received an email today asking about siddurim for Hillels. I’ve anonymous-ized the email here:
I’ve followed your blog for a while–love it, by the way!–and read your post about Mishkan T’filah for Travelers. Right now, I’m working for the Hillel at the [University of XYZ], and this is one of the siddurim we’re thinking about ordering for students.
I was wondering, after reading your post, what you think about using Mishkan T’filah in a Hillel setting. I like it because it’s smaller and paperback, plus cheaper. Plus I think MT allows for great flexibility for each service leader to do what s/he wants.
But I would welcome feedback! Also, if you have any other suggestions for a Hillel siddur, that would be amazing!
There are plenty of reasons that Mishkan T’filah is the wrong choice and that the choice, in particular, of the travelers edition is a bad idea. And there are even more reasons to use another siddur in particular, which I’ll get to in a bit
If you order use MT in a Hillel setting, you’ll turn a lot of people off. Anyone who looks down their nose at Reform liturgy–and there are many–will not be enthused to see it in use. It’s true that it allows for great flexibility and it’s easy for an inexperienced service leader to use it, but MT’s lack of commentary explaining services are the way they are encourages service leaders with relatively little knowledge of liturgy to make bad decisions.
The travelers edition is a bad idea in particular because it is so flimsy. Unlike most siddurim of similar size–such as small versions of Koren Sacks, Artscroll and Sim Shalom–MT for Travelers is not made with a sturdy back for repeated use. It is made with a cheap cover of thick, glossy paper that will not last long. It may seem cheaper now, but you’ll waste money replacing them in a few years.
Luckily, there is Siddur Eit Ratzon, the creation of Rutgers math professor Joe Rosenstein. Eit Ratzon has a liberal mindset that will satisfy Reform students and a table of contents that will please students who prefer Conservative services. It is harder to use for leaders than MT, but it has such wonderful articles on prayer in the introduction and such an informative commentary, that a little bit of reading in Eit Ratzon will catch an inexperienced leader up in no time. It is fully translated and transliterated and it have the best commentary available on any liberal siddur anywhere.
The 2003 edition, with a yellow cover, is a Shabbat morning-only siddur. The 2006 edition adds services for other occasions, including Friday night. Hillels generally have much more going on on Friday night that Saturday morning, so the yellow version may be of limited use. But if you want it, Joe told me he will sell copies of the yellow Shabbat morning edition for cheap to Hillels and military groups. He also sends test copies out for people to try out.
Eit Ratzon‘s website is here and you can contact Joe at joer[at]dimacs[dot]rutgers[dot]edu.