Loving the page layout of our siddur

Mishkan T'filah coverI’ve been preparing the program for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, to provide some orientation for the people who have never or rarely been to a Jewish service.  The prayer book (tziddur) can be particularly confounding without some explanation. There’s been plenty of controversy over the 2006 Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah (“dwelling place for prayer”)—what should have been left in or left out, how much it weighs, accuracy of translation, gender-inclusive language that is too disruptive for some, etc. All that aside, I love the information design. The layout facilitates a more accessible service than its predecessor, using navigational cues and transliteration and translation for most prayers. It invites sinking in to each prayer through generous white space across a full two-page spread.

Page Layout

The spread below is my re-do of the Union for Reform Judaism’s introductory materials. (The changes are minor: darker text, a few wording changes, and alignment of the brackets.)

Mishkan T'filah Page Spread

Hebrew has right-to-left orientation, so the right-hand page comes first.

  1. Type of service
  2. Prayer in Hebrew
  3. Name of current prayer
  4. Hebrew “Navigation bar” (location of prayer in current section of service)
  5. Chatimah (prayer ending)
  6. Prayer in transliteration
  7. Literal English translation
  8. Chatimah (prayer ending)
  9. Sources for the prayer
  10. Transliterated “Navigation bar” (location of prayer in current section of service)
  11. Name of current prayer
  12. Chatimah (prayer ending)
  13. Contemporary related readings
  14. Chatimah (prayer ending)
  15. Contemporary commentary and/or traditional sources

Granted the layout does not address the choreography of when to stand, and which lines are repeated multiple times. There’s still some observation and experience needed. I love that the prayer ending is repeated in print after each version of the prayer. At least a few times each service I use the ‘navigation bars’ as I try to locate a prayer in the book.

Now I need to give someone the job of asking people who attend the service to describe their experience using the siddur. I think I’ll be a little busy.

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