A diverse group of Jewish leaders presents new commentaries and innovative alternatives for the haftarah cycle, revitalizing and reimagining its connection to modern Jewish life.
New York, NY – FEBRUARY 2023 – CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is honored to announce the publication of Prophetic Voices: Renewing and Reimagining Haftarah. Edited by Rabbi Barbara AB Symons of Temple David in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the anthology brings together close to 180 Jewish leaders—from across denominations and professions—inviting readers to rethink the haftarah canon, with novel alternative haftarah readings and commentaries for each Shabbat and holiday.
The traditional haftarah cycle, read on Shabbat and holidays during the Torah service, contains a wealth of prophetic wisdom, yet is often forgotten or ignored. Prophetic Voices gives new life to this aspect of Jewish practice, with short commentaries on each traditional haftarah to demonstrate their continued relevance to the present. Going beyond the traditional passages, the book offers novel alternative haftarah readings and accompanying commentaries drawn from Jewish sources ranging from biblical to contemporary, including the work of Emma Lazarus, Yehuda Amichai, Leonard Cohen, Marge Piercy, and many more.
In addition to new haftarot for each Shabbat and holiday, Prophetic Voices contains haftarot for the Jewish American calendar. Holidays include Tu Bi’Shvat, Pride Month, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Equal Pay Day, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The haftarot are enhanced by scholarly essays that place the Prophets in historical context and examine the role of prophecy in Reform Judaism. Complementing these works are newly written blessings for the haftarah reading.
“I have always loved the promise of Prophetic Judaism, yet realized that often the prophets’ voices, if heard at all, were not even translated, let alone interpreted,” said Rabbi Symons. “Trying to fill this silence led to this scholarly, soulful, empathic look at the traditional haftarah cycle and beyond, complemented with alternative prophet-like voices spanning the canon of Jewish literacy. It is a celebration of the diversity of the Jewish people as we are called to action.”
The anthology brings together close to 180 Jewish leaders from across denominations and professions. Among them are Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who penned the book’s foreword; Rabbi Gary Phillip Zola, executive director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA); Rabbi Naamah Kelman, the first woman rabbi ordained in Israel and the dean of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) Jerusalem campus; Rabbi Elliot Kukla, a chaplain, author, artist and activist who was the first openly transgender rabbi ordained by a mainstream denomination; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Abigail Pogrebin, a journalist, podcaster, producer, community leader, and the author of My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew; and Cantor David Fair, the first Black cantor ordained by HUC-JIR and current cantor-educator for the United Jewish School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Like water in the desert, this anthology offers fresh, new ways to make haftarot not only relevant but essential,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. “For too long many have dreaded haftarah readings because they lacked connection to our lives, but no longer. With Prophetic Voices, I can foresee these texts commanding our full attention as we reclaim and reimagine Jewish life.”
“Prophetic Voices provides the motivation and the means to delve into the Prophets with a new appreciation for these texts and their potential to enrich the lives of contemporary readers,” said Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, PhD, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost of HUC-JIR. “The book gathers together an eclectic group of authors who offer informative background essays and insightful commentary on the traditional haftarah readings, along with an array of new texts to inspire us and challenge us. I look forward to bringing this terrific volume to services as my Shabbat morning companion.”
“What a delight this book is! The prophetic passion for God’s justice is foundational to Judaism and to all the Abrahamic faiths; reclaiming these haftarah portions for use in the synagogue is a worthy goal, worthily realized in this text,” says Rev. Dr. Steven S. Tuell, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Old Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and coauthor of The Prophets: Introducing Israel’s Prophetic Writings. “I hope that Christian churches and Muslim mosques will also be inspired to explore their ancient roots and rediscover their prophetic passion.”
Prophetic Voices: Renewing and Reimagining Haftarah is available at propheticvoices.ccarpress.org
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