The Book of the People – The ArtScroll Siddur at 25

Assuming I must have missed something — something that would be hard to miss, but stranger things have happened — I did a Google search before I wrote this article:



For all practical purposes, at least as far as I can tell, the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the Artscroll Siddur has gone unremarked.

In a way, this is of a piece with the fundamentally restrained, dignified style of Mesorah Publications. It is also consistent with the central theme of their incredible endeavor, a perspective from which 25 years is, in the scheme of things, pretty small potatoes, and in which the publishers and authors of the Artscroll “series” (really an undertaking far greater than a “series”) see themselves as conduits of something far greater than themselves.

But we can do it for them, and not only because 25 years is, in our individual lives, a very significant amount of time, but because the publication of the Artscroll Siddur in 1984 literally turned a page in the history of the Jewish people.

In a time when more Jews were more ignorant of their heritage than ever before, and more in danger of disappearing from the nation of Israel as identifying Jews in no small part because of the inaccessibility, mystery and intimidation of the tradition, Artscroll fulfilled the dictum in Pirkei Avos, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” A man was needed; more than one, in fact; but fundamentally two — Rabbis Meir Zolotowitz and Nosson Scherman — stepped forward and took the responsibility to do the work.

For all the sweat, heart and brain that was poured into the Artscroll Siddur by these men and those who worked with them, I cannot believe that they could have had an inkling of just how phenomenal this work would be, and how much it would mean to people such as you and me.
Of course they must have realized that never before had the traditional Jewish liturgy — including the full range of responsibilities of a Jew besides “merely” understanding the words of prayer found in any bilingual siddur — become so completely accessible to so many seeking access. They knew that, even if it was not perfect, no more comprehensive, approachable siddur had ever been published in the vernacular for non-scholarly use in the home and synagogue. And they cannot have been unaware of at least the possible “political” impact this assertive broadside from the once-quiescent English-speaking community of strictly orthodox or “yeshiva” Jews would have on the course of Jewish communal and religious life for a generation.

But they could not have realized what it would mean to us to find out that, yes, there is one — there is a book — a siddur — there is one work you can buy that will tell you how to do it: How to go about being really Jewish in prayer and, in no small measure, throughout the day. When to stand in shul; when to sit; what to answer; when to bow, and in which direction — all those mysteries that, observed in our peripheral vision, kept so many of us, too self-conscious or proud to look like complete dorks in an orthodox shul or to require the embarrassing personal tutelage of an insider to even consider stepping through that door.

Now we could learn how to do it, and to some degree why we were doing it, and how much more we had to do, at our own pace; in private; and on an adult level.

This was a gift of freedom that I can hardly imagine Rabbis Zlotowitz and Scherman could have understood they were giving so many of us.

The Artscroll Siddur turned 25 last August, quietly. But the voices it enabled, empowered and amplified — hundreds, no, thousands of Jewish spirits — have not only filled the Heavens with a magnificent raash gadol [great noise] for 25 years, but have unleashed an eternity of song for which so many of us and our descendants will always be grateful.

Thank you, Artscroll.

50 comments on “The Book of the People – The ArtScroll Siddur at 25

  1. Judy Resnick wrote in part:

    “The people in Lakewood, New Jersey, despite their admiration for Brisker Torah, do not discuss Yeshiva University, nor does the RIETS school at YU acknowledge these college-hating rabbis across the Hudson River. Nobody else exists in the Orthodox Jewish world except each one’s own little circle. And we haven’t even included the great numbers of other Chassidim (Bobov, Belz, Satmar, Pupa, Amshinov, Gerrer, etc. etc. etc.)’

    WADR, if one were to access many of the shiurim at YuTorah, one would easily encounter RIETS RY mentioning the Torah of other yeshivos, including Lakewood, as well as the Divrei Torah of the Chasidishe world. May I suggest that you take a look at the sefarim of R Baruch Simon (Imrei Baruch on Breishis, Shmos, Vayikra and Eruvin) if you need verification on a first hand basis?

  2. After catching up on this heated thread, I feel it’s important to say this in Artscroll’s favor:
    While it’s obvious that Artscroll, as a publishing house isn’t into promoting the Rav (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik z”tl) it also interesting to note that they have yet to produce biographies of either Rav Yaakov Ruderman z”tl (founder/Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel) or Rav Yitchok Hutner z”tl (Rosh Yeshiva of Chaim Berlin)- two major players within the “yeshiva” (with a lower case “y”) world.
    In fact, Ner Israel produced several memebers of the Agudath Israel leadership.

  3. Judy,

    Is it possible that living in separate worlds sometimes reduces the level of conflict?

  4. Let me point out, in response to Steve Brizel, that Touro College actually does offer a pre-med curriculum. TC takes great pride in advertising each year how many grads get accepted to which medical schools (alas, no report on how many are rejected from med school). Touro College is in fact trying to open up its own medical school. Of course, just as Cardozo Law School is rated far ahead of Touro College Law School, and the undergraduate program at YU is rated far ahead of TC, it should be expected that Einstein will rank far ahead of any proposed Touro College Medical School, even if TC takes over the independent New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York.

    I respect highly the mission of Yeshiva University in educating Orthodox Jewish leaders and professionals, and I am happy to hear from Steve Brizel that RIETS is still well regarded in the Charedi media.

    I suspect that part of the problem is the extreme compartmentalization of American Orthodoxy today. For instance, one reads through the entire Chabad-Lubavitch website about amazing Chabad-Lubavitch accomplishments (and there are many) but no word at all about any other Orthodox Jewish group. Similarly, as pointed out previously on this thread, Rabbi Moshe Sherer of Agudath Israel of America was described in a recent book as the “voice of Torah Jewry for more than half a century” but I think that would be surprising news to the people at 770 Eastern Parkway. Agudah does not recognize that Chabad exists, Chabad does not recognize that Agudah exists.

    The people in Lakewood, New Jersey, despite their admiration for Brisker Torah, do not discuss Yeshiva University, nor does the RIETS school at YU acknowledge these college-hating rabbis across the Hudson River. Nobody else exists in the Orthodox Jewish world except each one’s own little circle. And we haven’t even included the great numbers of other Chassidim (Bobov, Belz, Satmar, Pupa, Amshinov, Gerrer, etc. etc. etc.)

    I know this has gone far afield from the original posting about the 25th anniversary of ArtScroll’s siddur. I think it’s because anniversaries involve taking stock of the good and the bad, and especially in analyzing what role ArtScroll Publications and its English language translations played in the growth of Orthodox Judaism in the late 20th century.

  5. Charles, I too actually put a lot of time in early on using the Metsudah, which of course was great for learning the vocabulary of Jewish prayer. But the Artscroll was still the gateway for me.

  6. Judy Resnick’s interesting analysis would make more sense IMO, if it displayed some familiarity with the facts on the ground. YU and RIETS are not marginalized because of what Ms. Resnick perceives as enrollment problems or what she describes as a refusal to dilute its product, but rather because of the following factors:
    1) urban myths and stereotypes that refuse to die and which actively discourage potential students with a yeshivishe bend from enrolling
    2) the admittedly high cost of YU tuition ( except for RIETS, which IIRC, charges no tuition for the study of Torah).

    RIETS today, as testified to by none other than R Aharon Lichtenstein,is a far better yeshiva than it was even and especially during RYBS’s heyday.Anyone familiar with RIETS knows that there is a new generation of RIETS and RIETS Kollelim trained RY who are the yeshiva’s best recruiters and who are responsible for the impressive attendance at a night seder after morning seder, shiur and college classes. Today’s RIETS RY are accorded far more respect in the Charedi media as Talmidei Chachamim than in the secular Jewish media. Thus, based on the facts on the ground, as opposed to the urban myths and stereotypes, RIETS will and is projecting its influence for decades to come.

    Where YU and RIETS IMO need to focus their efforts is in the community kollel sphere, which presently are dominated by the Charedi yeshiva world. While YU and RIETS have begun a few such kollelim, they need to establish the same in the “boondocks” of the American Jewish community, if it is serious on projecting a committed MO to the American Jewish public as an alternative to the Charedi way of life. One cannnot deny that community kollelim not only are great sources of Harbatzas Torah LRabim, and aiding in Kiruv and Chizuk-they serve as means of identifying new donors.

    As far as Touro College is concerned, Ms. Resnick correctly describes its mission, but even YU reacted to the challenge of TC by openning a business school, which would have been unheard of when I attended YU, which was then blindly devoted to the mantra of Torah and the liberal arts a.k.a Torah UMada.If Touro ever saw itself in direct competition with YU, it would be offering the equivalent of a pre med curriculum in its undergraduate curriculums, as opposed to the noteworthy accomplishments of its pre law graduates.

  7. In my humble opinion, I believe that the perceived marginalization of Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary came about, ironically, because YU and RIETS correctly refused to dilute the quality of their product by accepting more students and enlarging their school. The Orthodox Jewish community has grown exponentially, due to a high right-wing birth rate. If you’re now talking about a community of 400,000 people instead of a community of 40,000 people, then the cohort of rabbis produced each year by RIETS will naturally have 1/10 the impact it had before.

    The growth of Touro College over the past 35 years has also had an impact on the effect of YU on American Orthodoxy. Touro College has since its founding made it clear that its sole reason for being is to train people to earn a living. It did not set out to build a whole new philosophy of Torah Im Derech Eretz or Torah U’Mada or “Bringing Wisdom to Life.” Touro College may want one day to become Touro University, but it does not want to become the central hashkafic authority for a new branch of American Orthodoxy. Yeshiva University may very well and correctly believe that it is qualitatively as distant from Touro College as Yale University is from Connecticut College, and that its rabbinical school is far superior to Lakewood.

    But by 2020, Yeshiva University graduates will find themselves outnumbered by Touro alumni and rabbis without university degrees. The ideals and teachings of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zatzal, will be cherished and remembered only by a small part of the Orthodox Jewish world. YU is going to be seen as just another university; an elite one, no doubt; a selective and highly regarded one; no doubt; but no more of an influence on the thinking of the Orthodox Jewish world than Brandeis or Columbia.

  8. I agree with Nathan and Judy regarding the Metsudah. I have more understanding and kavanah with the Metsudah than any siddur I’ve tried. Just the fact that the breaks in the text are at natural points makes a huge difference. I love Lord Rabbi Sacks’ commentary, but I still pray better with the Metsudah.

    And I may be a minority of one, but I’ve found the Artscroll siddur hard to use: The italic English is annoying, the translation, while pretty literal, is not elevating, and the page layout is hard to follow.

  9. Ron-No problem! My point was that noone should think that there is no room for disagreement on issues of this nature, where it is evident that Gdolim prior to RAK and RYBS disagreed on the issue and that one should be able to present an argument without engaging in factually inaccurate comments that are posed as if they are factually correct. It is unfortunate that the author used rhetoric that diminished the stature of a Gadol BYisrael and ascribed accomplishments and a status to one organization and movement as if the accomplishment of other groups within Orthodoxy either were non existent or simply did not warrant a compariosn-all of which IMO were factually inaccurate. All of our children learned a ditty about “Midvar Sheker Tirchak”. It is a tragedy when a biography about a major Torah leader has to include facts and assertions that were simply wrong and inaccurate.

  10. Yeah, Steve, it is indeed complicated. I hope you don’t feel that I shot at you. I was just having some late night fun with a guy I know can take it. I meant it when I said you’re both serious and formidable. Nu, okay, so you’re also wrong — you’re in good company! ;-)

    I wasn’t offended by the Ken-L Ration ditty. I wasn’t too amused either but I understand some people don’t “get” having well developed points of view that are worthy of defending vigorously.

  11. Back to the topic, sort of:

    Each Orthodox faction is able to publish its own books and periodicals to its own liking. One faction’s criticism of another’s style, content, nuance, lack of nuance…is not all that important to most people.

  12. Ron Coleman-Resorting to tactics that IMO are redolent of bullying or belittling the style of an intellectual opponent merely indicate a willingness to “shoot the messenger” as opposed to engage in an intellecually honest discussion as to the merits of one’s POV. Unfortunately, both the Charedi and MO worlds are filled with such individuals who can;t and won’t see beyond their hashkafic blinders.

    In response to your query, I would suggest that part of the problem is that MO could and should have emphasized respect for the Gdolei Talmidie Chachamim within RIETS as much as it does respect for the successful professional or business leader within its midst. One can argue that RZ, which previously had and still has some hashkafic influence within MO circles, was once a bridge of sorts between the Torah world and the secular world. However, after 1967 and especially post 1973, RZ became so enwrapped with the Land of Israel that it seemingly forgot about the Nation of Israel. MO, outside of the OU’s critically important and historic support of NCSY and NJOP, has never really been confident in itself in terms of its Halachic and Hashkafic goals to be engaged in kiruv, but increasingly seems content to be shoring up its own communities.

    RJR, being a U of Chicago and Yale LS grad, is a great advocate, a very entertaining speaker and wonderful thinker who knows to write and is always willing to tell anyone, including myself that like, many Charedim,he has great respect for RYBS’s Torah, RIETS and its RY. I respect RJR’s many cogent insights into the Charedi world. However, IMO, his writings, as is the case of many Charedim, assume that MO is monolithic, when it is obvious and evident that, as is the case within the Charedi world, that there is a LW, a center and RW. Unfortunately, RJR’s writings, IMO, other than an occasional reference to RSRH’s writings and to RYBS as a leader of MO show little evidence of my thesis-namely that MO and the Charedi worlds have much to appreciate from the other without engaging in what I consider the useless pilpul of recognition of whose vision is more “authentic” and that there is a committed MO world that has no use for the issues or ideologues of LW MO and views them as persons whose POV would never be consulted on any issue of halacha, important or seemingly minor, let alone issues of Hashkafa or Minhagim. I refer you to my prior posts on where IMO the LW of MO has ered in its obsession with gender related issues and its bemoaning the swing to the right, which has rendered the LW of MO largely irrelevant except to those LW MO who define themselves by their thinking and writing on such issues.

    As far as the belittling of RYBS within the Charedi world, this is a matter of historical record that goes back to the 1950s and which has continued unabated in many sectors within the Charedi world.

    Shades of Gray-The books that you referenced sound quite interesting. However, my critique of the hagiography genre and its most recent example stands. It is wrong to minimize a Gadol as a head of a political movement. It is wrong to call the Agudah the center for Torah Judaism in the US and to assume that it is singularly responsible for all of the positive growth of Torah Judaism in the US.

  13. PL

    Do you think your last comment was a personal attack?

    My comment about Steve and Ron was not intended as a personal attack and no way was that implied in my ditty. Where do you see the inference of a personal attack???

    But the argument which has come up many many times before between the different camps of RWMO (Steve) and LWUO (Ron) is which derech is better. I personally find that argument tiresome, divisive and non productive and instead of expressing it in a more forceful way, I tried to express in humorously as a ditty.

    Sorry if the ditty offended you but as you see there are different ways to express disagreement without a personal attack.

    Was that a personal attack?

  14. Hmmm,

    I actually thought it was quite respectful and measured, despite the differences. These are two dignified individuals who know how to strongly express their differences without devolving into personal attacks.

    Please don’t lower the respectful tone of this site by disrespectful “ditties”.

  15. The discussion/food-fight between Steve and Ron reminds of this old ditty:

    My derech is better than your derech
    My derech is better than yooooouurrrrrs
    My derech is better because we don’t eat Kennel Ration
    My derech is better than yours

  16. One more thought:

    Even if you try to identify a trend, one obviously can’t predict the future. There is such a thing as hashgacha, Divine intervention, which can affect the trend.

    For example, on the question of intellectual and cultural openness before the Nazi era, R. Shimon Schwab writes how he thought TIDE was only a horaas shaah(then changed his mind; see also “TIDE in the Shadow of Hitler” in the TUM Journal). A generation before, RSRH obvioulsy had no clue of this(R. Schwab discusses this).

    No one predicted the rise of yeshivos since the Holocaust. No one predicted, either, current factors such as the effect of the Syrian or Spinka scandal on working for a living, or threats to the security of Jews or in EY. Hopefully, there is no need for hashgacha in negative events.

  17. Let me aim for an in-between view.

    First, I was in a Seforim store today on 13th Avenue, Brooklyn, which caters to the Chasidish world, and saw there R. Sherer’s biography. To say it’s a hagiography, you would have to show that there was some sort of revisonism, or doesn’t present issues with nuance. I didn’t read it yet, but Jonathan Rosenblum usually does a nuanced job on biographies, even if you say it’s through Charedie lenses.

    I also leafed through the newly published “Eye of the Storm” by R. Aharon Feldman(it’s published by a non-name publisher, and it contains a collection of old, well-written essays on such diverse topics and issues such as Zionism, Chabad Messianism, Slifkin issue, and homosexuality). Also, I leafed through the interesting “Tzniyus Diaries” which aims for a somewhat open, honest, discussion of young people’s views on the topic.

    The above books illustrate that books of a community reflect responses to changing times and trends; therefore, a more open presentation of people’s thoughts on tzniyus may be a reflection of the times, which brings me to my point.

    I am not a navi, but forces and trends change and impact the Orthodox world. R. Yaakov Newberger, interewied in the recent Kol Hamvesar noted that YU world and RW have come closer together. Similarly, while he did not note this, the “Orthoprax” article in the same issue is a similar phenomenon, in that it impacts *all* of the Torah community, not only this or that group.

    What all of this means, perhaps, is not that Artscroll will become less Charedi, or more like Ktav. It means that different causes, whether the Slifkin ban or other causes, have solidied a larger group in between, which has a interest impacted by the world at large(read R. Adlerstein’s interview on this blog that “many of the people around them not only had nothing to say about these issues, but they were completely unaware of them, and when informed about them did not deal with them with any great insight – Torah or otherwise”).

    To what extent Artscroll specifically can respond to changes is one question, but the point is that you have people in the RW and MO, in the same boat, who really are interested in the same topics, so the community, as a whole, will respond in some way, IMO.

    The old Artscroll issues mentioned by R. JJ Shacter in “Facing the Truths in History” are no longer so much of an issue(though Marc Shapiro is writing a book on it), as the Torah community on a whole is facing other challenges. Artscroll may continue to have it’s focus and bent, which people can debate back and forth, but it’s no loger so relevant or au currant, in my opinion.

  18. Heh. Steve, we don’t need Rabbi Adlerstein to make such an admission. It’s self evident. In fact, well, I think it more or less is what I said!

    As a skilled polemicist and a gifted thinker, you demonstrate the value of framing a debate for purposes of determining how its merits will be perceived by those not as familiar with its contours as the debaters.

    Here you have done well to touch upon many or perhaps all of the relevant issues, but of course you have subtly — well, the modern-day word is “spun,” or characterized them all in such a way as to all but assure the reaction of the “reasonable man.” Well done. I for one do not have the former robustness that may once have powered a quixotic attempt to at least blunt your effect, at least not since the BBT admins stopped my monthly retainer.

    Besides, I believe we both agree that the issues here are far bigger than the narrow confines this valentine to the Artscroll Siddur could hope to contain, if not justify.

    I will just make two points, as plainly as I can; one general, and once specific.

    The general one is that WADR, if you don’t stop holding forth in this sort of nuvo-judo-neo-scholasticist patois that counts for “academic style” in certain Jewishly-affiliated institutions of higher education — and which you seem, really, to have raised to true heights — you may have to resign yourself only to posting on sites mainly read by the YU alumni who can follow it. Which would be our loss, here.

    The specific one is, if I can make another stab at plain speaking: Well, yuh-huh. Your very complaint contains its riposte within it, to wit:

    How can it be that the overwhelmingly dominant rabbinical seminary in orthodoxy through most of the last century — in many measures, including the percentage of pulpit rabbis produced and placed — as well as the philosophical and cultural movement associated with it, is within a generation reduced to standing at the sidelines and decrying its own marginalization by a mere cabal of un-degreed, which is not to say semi-literate, Lakewood and Torah Vodaath batlanim (along with the “BT ringer,” the redoubtable RJR), who spit out such transparently agenda-driven, hagiographic, revanchist, academically suspect merchandise?

    Wags may suggest that this question is perhaps more than a little related to the first, “general” criticism I made above, but I think it is not a matter of style at all. I cannot begin to articulate the essential solution to this puzzle (not at this hour).

    But it is hard not to wonder if that answer may be found in the fact that the legacy of RYBS, for all his brilliance, originality and influence, has — not as a matter of what one publishing house in Brooklyn says or does not say, but as the very historical reality unfolding right before our eyes that pains you so — been so profoundly and swiftly marginalized, or as you say “minimized writ large,” in no small measure as a result of the efforts of what can only be seen by the community of Rabbi-Doctors as a gang of sad amateurs.

    It is easy to “blame” Artscroll (from your POV) for this cultural shift, but almost impossible to explain how so many hearts and minds have been swayed by so little. Where is the gravity that should have kept American orthodoxy in its former notionally Zionist, centrist orbit?

    As I said, though, I can’t even begin to address your points. Just my POV, WADR, OK? ;-)

  19. Ron Coleman-I have always wondered why authors write letters in which they claim that a reviewer missed the point of their book or possibily didn’t read the book.

    WADR to your quoted passages from R Adlerstein and my comments, I stand by my prior posts re the well documented Hashkafic problems with the ArtScroll Siddur and Machzor and other ArtScroll publications, especially the hagiographical works that are treated as biographies.

    Notwithstanding those previously stated objections and reservations, for the reasons stated previously,I continue and will continue to use the all Hebrew ArtScroll Siddur for Shabbos and weekdays and the ArtScroll Machzorim for the Shalosh Regalim. OTOH, at least from my POV, the Mesoras HaRav Machzorim have rendered the ArtScroll Machzorim spiritually obsolete for me.

    Like it or not, there is a long Mesorah going back to a statement of the Perush HaMishnayos of the Rambam as well as any study of the classical Mfarshim on Chumash that hashkafic disputes are not susceptible to a resolution in the same manner as Psak Halacha as a question in SA:OC or YD simply by resorting to the principle of Acharei Rabim LHatos. However, ArtScroll , by determining the hashkafic POV that it presents and the Gdolim that it quotes and promotes, especially in the Schottenstein Talmud as I cited , by such as usage as the “MHK Ritva” and its hagiographies of Gdolim that it deems worthy of presenting as biographical works, presumes that such a principle is extant.

    In the post that you quoted, R Adlerstein practically admitted that ArtScroll is afraid to alienate large sectors of its market, even if there are strong hashkafic arguments to the contrary and especially if ArtScroll contributes to the marginalization of RYBS, RAYHK and other Gdolei Torah whose views on Zionism were clearly not those of the Moetzes Gdoleim Torah. The issue is not whether one says a Tefilah either for the State of Israel or the IDF, or even Tehilim for the residents of Sderot, but rather one’s perspective on the return of Jewish sovereignty to the Land of Israel, an issue which the Charedi world is still wrestling with 51 years after the founding of the State of Israel, except when it decries the cutting of funds to its educational institutions.

    WADR, the history of American Orthodoxy and its Gdolim neither begins with nor can be defined by who ArtScroll and its market view as Gdolim. Viewing RYBS solely as the leader of Mizrachi or viewing Agudah as the central address for all of “Torah Jewry” in the US, as is the case, in the newly published hagiography of R M Sherer ZL, is simply yet another example of the process of minimization writ large.

  20. Let me say from the start that Artscroll’s presentation of Zionism is really not one of my hot-button issues; as R. Slifkin recently quoted from a Charedi Rav on his website, “it’s okay for a person to have one or two radical views, but why [does one] have to have so many?”. I therefore pick my hot-button issues with care, and don’t want to use up my quota :)

    However, being that it’s a rather quiet Erev Thanksgiving, and it’s also releavant to the discussion, I would just like note an objection from an old Cross Current thread, by one Steve Brizel(Comment # 35):

    “…If you want to see how this affected the Schottenstein Shas–look at the treatment of the sugya of the three oaths in Ksuvos — the entire “elucidation” has a frame of reference that leaves the reader thinking that we are living in pre WW1 Europe in some shettl. The Enclyclopedia Talmudis presents the sugya in light of those Achronim such as the Ohr Sameach and others who viewed them as non-obligatory as a result of the Balfour Declaration and others who viewed them as inapplicable altogether. Of course, the claim voiced posthumously only by ArtScroll without a source that R Zevin ZTL retreated from a positive view towards the founding of the State of Israel has been discussed by many others as well.”

    Commenting on the above comment, R. Adlerstein wrote in the thread, linked below,

    “At the same time, virtually everyone I’ve met in the Artscroll orbit displays far more intellectual openness than you generally encounter in our community. The people I know enjoy a good thought from Rav Kook, or from Rav Soloveichik. They know all about the treatment of the Three Oaths by the Avnei Nezer, the Meshech Chochmah and others (see comment #35). Their view of the Shoah is nuanced and well-considered.”

    “Why are their personal views and openness often not seen on the printed page? I firmly believe that the Artscroll market won’t permit it. Artscroll can not afford to alienate large groups of its patrons. While some people grumble about what they – rightly or wrongly – regard as editorial transgressions, Artscroll enjoys readership in both centrist and right of center communities. I strongly suspect that the latter is the larger cohort, and far more important financially. In any event, most people in the centrist community will continue to use Artscroll in spite of reservations”

    As I said, this is just for the record, and if Steve or Rabbi Adlerstein have since changed their assessment of Artcroll’s target market since 2006(FWIW, the OU has since starting publishing, and hired R. Gil Student of Hirhurim fame), I will stand corrected.

  21. I don’t know what “cogent hashkafic objection” means except that you agree with him, Steve. But it’s not as if the Artscroll editors “didn’t get” something here.

    I guess it’s necessary to say this for those who cannot read between the lines of discussion: The people at Artscroll not only share but espouse and in fact affirmatively stand for the hashkafa [outlook, philosophy] of what you would call the RW yeshiva world, which, like the chassidish world, does not share this objection or consider it the least bit cogent. And by the way, let’s not forget it wasn’t that long ago that a number of militantly Zionist orthodox congregations stopped saying these prayers because they no longer considered the government of the State of Israel sufficiently, uh, Zionist.

    Indeed, just as members of the RW community typically do not feel comfortable in a shul where these Zionist (if you will) insertions are utilized, they would in fact object if these modern-day innovations, which are the topic of considerable halachic controversy, had actually been included. In fact I know one shul Rov in a town where I do not live whose nose was pretty bent out of shape over just this point regarding the RCA edition of the Siddur, which does include these bits.

    We’re Jews; can’t possibly please everyone.

  22. “A CONSTRUCTIVE comparative review of siddurim should be conducted elsewhere. When doing so, it would be good to remember the name of another book by Rabbi Sacks: “The Dignity of Difference.”

    The latter, though, whose (original edition) was banned :)

    On the topic, I agree with Shades of Grey(with an “E”, no relation ; comment #9), above, that the Artcroll siddur is a pleasure to use.

  23. Although Arthur has posted a very cogent hashkafic objection vis a vis the ArtScroll Siddur and Machzor, IMO, the RCA edition of the ArtScroll Siddur answers that question. When the new Koren Siddur was rolled out this year, we discussed its pluses and minuses extensively at Hirhurim and I see no need to reiterate my problems with what I perceived as a detachment and disconnect of Minhagei Tefilah from the Halachos and Kiyum of the Mitzvah of Tefilah as presently extant in the Koren Siddur.

    FWIW, I use the ArtScroll Machzorim for the Shalosh Regalim. However, for the Yamim Noraim , I use the Machorim Mesoras HaRav based on the teachings of RYBS. For my purposes, it has the best of borth worlds-the ArtScroll “font” ,excellent halachic directions and the Divrei Torah of RYBS. This Machzor has really enhanced my Tefilos for the Yamim Noraim to the point that I daven exclusively from it on the Yamim Noraim.

    As of the present, I have been using the all Hebrew ArtScroll Siddur for Shabbos and weekdays despite the aforementioned Hashkafic issue simply because it provides me ( and many other Mispallelim) a Siddur that enables one to have the maximal fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Tefilah. AFAIK, no other Siddur or Machzor prior to ArtScroll ever pointed out that saying HaMelech HaKadosh was absolutely required during the Yamim Noraim or ever provided the Mispallel with Halachic instructions or Minhagim re Tefilah and the particular Yom Tov.

  24. Indeed I have plenty of opinions about plenty of things about the Artscroll Siddur, seen through the eyes of my present-day self, and I could hardly doubt that the DK would, on cue, respond to this red meat by bounding out of the woods to snarl, drool and demonstrate his characteristic charm. I suppose it’s also not a surprise that someone divides the house by decrying the “divisive” effect of something he just doesn’t like about the siddur.

    But of course these were not the point of my post, which was well encapsulated in a number of comments here: Whatever we think now, however better or more pleasing to our individual or political sensibilities other, later works might be, what the Artscroll Siddur offered to BT’s, when it offered it, was simply groundbreaking.

  25. Wow! I didn’t realize this topic would turn so heated.

    I, like Neil, have a 1985 Artscroll (paperback, pocket size) siddur due to my involvement in NCSY. I had no idea what else was available, and probably didn’t have the cash on hand for anything larger or fancier. I’m just glad I was born in an era when such things were readily available.

  26. David,

    Most MO shuls previously used the Birnbaum editions from Hebrew Publishing Company. His translations were pretty good (less word-for-word than ArtScroll’s), but the contents, notes, and instructions were not nearly as complete as ArtScroll’s. I did like his typeface much better than ArtScroll’s. Birnbaum also made a few minor emendations to the Hebrew text which were debatable.

  27. In my teshuvah experience, while the majority of shuls have been warm and welcoming, I have not had much help in the tefillah (very few even announce page #s) I might have given up without ArtScroll.

    I am currently learning Mishna Berura (aleph) and the Artscroll siddur is a great reference to help make what I am learing come alive.

  28. A CONSTRUCTIVE comparative review of siddurim should be conducted elsewhere. When doing so, it would be good to remember the name of another book by Rabbi Sacks: “The Dignity of Difference.”

  29. Arthur, the RCA edition of the Artscroll Siddur has Prayer for the State of Israel and the Misheberach for the Soldiers and Defenders of the State of Israel.

  30. Arthur, have you ever used the black-cover edition published by ArtScroll which meets your main objections?

  31. In a time when more Jews were more ignorant of their heritage than ever before, and more in danger of disappearing from the nation of Israel as identifying Jews in no small part because of the inaccessibility, mystery and intimidation of the tradition

    How sad that the artscroll siddur continues through today to make no mention of the Prayer for the State of Israel, the Misheberach for the Soldiers and Defenders of the State of Israel, and as well no mention of the misheberach for the captive and missing soldiers.

    a book that tried to join so many has instead become itself an agent of division!

  32. You all speak as though Artscroll somehow saved Torah Judaism. I’d say it’s come close to burying it. Too bad there’s no Artscroll Hilchos Lashon Hara. Because then you might have read it and realized that you should mute all the glowing adulations. In my experience, Artscroll is just a crutch for a generation of mental cripples. Along with Moshiach, let’s pray for the day when we all decide to start learning Torah again instead of having it learnt for us, and all the Artscrolls are tossed in the geniza where they belong.

  33. This is a great opportunity to acknowledge one very special publishing house that has helped so many of us. I would like to suggest that we make this post a testimonial to Artscroll, and leave it at that!

  34. I would cast a vote along with Nathan for the Metsudah series. I love the Metsudah Tehillim (it’s as if the author is speaking directly to the reader), and I also like using the Metsudah siddurim and machzorim. (I was not aware that there was a Metsudah Chumash with Rashi). Metsudah uses a same-page English and Hebrew format (Ivrit on the right side, English on the left) that’s extremely easy on the eyes. However, I agree with the commenters that Ron Coleman did a valuable service by pointing out the 25th anniversary of the Artscroll Siddur. I found the 30th anniversary of Artscroll in 2006 more meaningful because I was married at the same time that their very first volume, Esther, was published. The big joke to my kids is that Great Beginnings of 1976 include Artscroll Publications, Hatzalah Emergency Rescue, Eichler’s Bookstore, Glatt Mart on Avenue M (Brooklyn)…and the marriage of Ira and Judy Resnick. Incidentally, let’s give Kehot Publications of Chabad-Lubavitch credit for English-language and Russian-language siddurim, machzorim and Chumashim. Also, before Artscroll came out with its Machzorim, there was the Birnbaum Machzor (quite readable). I would salute Artscroll Publications most of all for its tremendous accomplishment in translating the entire Talmud.

  35. I believe that the ArtScroll Siddur is used even by the Jewish believers in J____.

    For me personally, the Metsudah Siddur and Metsudah Tehillim and Metsudah Chumash with Rashi were more important than the ArtScroll.

  36. Rabbis Zlotowitz and Scherman are to be commended for allowing the Artscroll layout to be used for Machzor Harav, compiled by Arnold Lustiger.

  37. Aside from all the other virtues of the Artscroll siddur listed here, it has also presented the clearest, most readable text of any siddur I’ve seen. Most every other siddur (both Hebrew only and Hebrew-English) published before Artscroll features a non-crisp font and cramped paragraphs to make the most of the space on a page. It’s always been a pleasure to have such an easy-to-read format and clean text.

  38. Ron,

    Great post. My prayers are much more meaningful since purchasing an Artscroll Siddur.

    DK, I don’t think foaming at the mouth does the nice Sacks Siddur justice.

  39. It’s clear that the ArtScroll siddur transformed and continues to transform the prayer experience for many.

    The existence of other siddurim will never diminish the magnitude of this pioneering work.

    Thanks Art Scroll for the thousands of davening experiences on which you have assisted.

    And thanks Ron for marking this milestone.

  40. New and better siddurim are out and are coming out that better service Jews interested in traditional prayers but not specifically through a black-hatter viewpoint. This is exciting, of course, and hopefully, Jews to the Left of Big Aish will be able to have more appropriate siddurim.

    I’m at my family’s house (early) for Thanksgiving (we are a pre-war family, and do not pay any attention at all to the post-war opinions on such matters) and I just gave my father a copy of Rabbi Sack’s siddur, and I know he is he is so thrilled to be able to dump the Artscroll, at least for non-holiday use.

    It really is wonderful to see so many getting shelving their haredi siddur as soon as there is a viable alternative.

    Oh, the font and the beautiful layout of the Koren siddur is also a real plus.

    By the way, if anyone has a copy of Rabbi Sacks’ siddur that they don’t want because it isn’t considered as frum as the Artscroll, I have an old Artscroll that I will trade for it. In fact, I will throw in $5 because it so isn’t an even trade, but you don’t want your friends thinking you are too Modern, right?

    Ron, do you have a Sacks’ siddur you would like a(nother) artscroll for?

  41. Great post, Ron. I first saw the siddur when I was in 9th grade in 1985 on an NCSY Shabbaton and bought one right away. It’s universal appeal came home to me when, just three weeks ago I davened Mincha from the Artscroll/RCA edition at the “traditional shul” where I grew up in…in Wichita,KS.

    The siddur and it’s vast commentary opened me up to a whole new world.

  42. I remember going through the davening with a Hebrew-English dictionary in one hand, and the Artscroll Siddur in the other, to better learn what I was saying. And where would I be without their Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Machzorim? All those flaming seraphim and other obtuse/complex imagery – do even FFB’s understand all that stuff without the translation?

  43. We go back a ways with ArtScroll, starting with our colorful ArtScroll fill-in-the-blanks kesubah bought in 1976. I first saw their compelte siddur around the time the first edition came out. A member of our shul in Allentown had bought an early copy and it was amazing.

    On the whole, this siddur has done a lot of good through its completeness, detailed instructions, and explanations. The translation, while not the most elegant, gets the essential ideas across. The Hebrew typeface could have been better chosen, but it can be read clearly. The earliest bindings were weak, but a good heavy-duty binding was later made available for shuls, etc.

    Those who feel its style could be better or that it should include more Zionist material have always had the option to develop alternatives. The recent Koren Sacks siddur meets the needs of this group.

    One size doesn’t fit all, but the ArtScroll siddur in its various versions fits many.

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