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Siddur on the Hill for Friday Night, by Ḥavurah on the Hill at the Vilna Shul, Boston (trans. Rabbi Sam Seicol, 2010)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=8760 Siddur on the Hill for Friday Night, by Ḥavurah on the Hill at the Vilna Shul, Boston (trans. Rabbi Sam Seicol, 2010) 2014-03-30 08:21:27 We are grateful to the <a href="http://www.vilnashul.org">Vilna Shul</a> in Boston and their <a href="http://www.vilnashul.org/about/havurah_on_the_hill">Ḥavurah on the Hill</a> program for preparing "Siddur on the Hill," (2011) a beautiful siddur for Shabbat Friday night services and sharing it with <a href="http://freedomdefined.org/definition">free-culture</a> compatible, <a href="http://opendefinition.org/">open content</a> licensing. The siddur includes original translations in English from Rabbi Sam Seicol, interpretive writings by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, and illustrations by Georgi Vogel Rosen, as well as contributions from numerous others. Thank you for sharing your siddur, <a href="http://www.opensource.org/docs/osd">open source</a>! Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Rabbi Sam Seicol https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (transcription) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ Shabbat Siddurim Boston Minhag Poland 21st century C.E. 58th century A.M. Siddurim for Shabbat Indie Minyanim Nusaḥ Ashkenaz Needing Decompilation

We are grateful to the Vilna Shul in Boston and their Ḥavurah on the Hill program for preparing “Siddur on the Hill,” (2011) a siddur for Shabbat Friday night services and sharing it with free-culture compatible, open content licensing. The siddur includes original translations in English from Rabbi Sam Seicol, interpretive writings by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, and illustrations by Georgi Vogel Rosen, as well as contributions from numerous others.



Ḥavurah on the Hill (HOH) is an important part of young adult Jewish life in Boston. Hundreds of young adults and the young-at-heart come together one Friday night each month for a Kabbalat Shabbat service—the Jewish service that welcomes the Shabbat—and for other Jewish holiday services and celebrations. In spring 2010, the Ḥavurah on the Hill Council announced an exciting opportunity to create a new prayer book, or Siddur, thanks to a generous grant from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

A small group of dedicated people heard the call and formed the HOH Prayer Book Committee. Quickly we learned how this group represented one of HOH’s greatest strengths: its diversity. Each of us had different backgrounds in Jewish education, levels of Hebrew comprehension, traditions, belief structures, and motivations for joining the committee.

We all wanted to be a part of this project because the community at HOH is welcoming and inclusive, but the old prayerbooks were not. We wanted this prayerbook to reflect HOH’s idea of a learner’s minyan. We think anyone who is Jewish or even curious about Judaism should be able to enter our Kabbalat Shabbat service and use our siddur as a resource to follow along. This requires accurate English translations, thorough transliterations, and thoughtful explanations about materials included in the service. By also including inspirational and interpretive reading, even members of our community who have been studying Judaism for many years will still be able to gain new ideas and fresh insights.

What we all agreed upon was that we wanted to create a siddur that would provide a meaningful prayer experience not only for each of us, but for all of the members of the HOH community. How we would achieve this goal was no easy task. There were almost too many requirements: a prayerbook grounded in traditional structure and language but reflecting a pluralistic community; translations that are at once reasonably close, fresh, familiar, and gender inclusive; an easy-to-read and use format; and something grounded in the rich history of Vilna Shul and Ḥavurah on the Hill. On a practical level, we wanted to update and include translations, transliterations and corrections of some Hebrew text that were in the old siddur.

Through months of hard work and dedication, meetings, and consultation with rabbis, Jewish educators and others, we developed the pages that you see before you. We hope that this siddur will inspire you to reflect on your own Jewish practice, will make you feel at home regardless of whether you go to services weekly or once a year, and will provide you with new learnings that enrich your experience at the Vilna Shul.


The Vilner Congregation, thus named because its members hailed from Vilnius (Vilna), Lithuania, began meeting in members’ homes in 1893. The congregation purchased its first permanent structure, the former Twelfth Baptist Church on Phillips Street in Beacon Hill, in 1906. Ten years later, they were displaced when the City of Boston took the property by eminent domain to expand a neighboring school.

The Congregation bought land down the street, and in 1920 began holding services in their new building, the current Vilna Shul. In subsequent decades, the community began to decline in numbers because of federal immigration quotas, urban renewal, and suburban exodus. In 1985, the Vilner Congregation was the last of the seven West End immigrant-built synagogues to close. The property remained vacant for ten years until the Boston Center for Jewish Heritage was granted possession.

After acquiring the property in 1995, the Center stabilized and began work to restore the 1920s-era building. Today the synagogue is again filled with life as it hosts community programs, Jewish life cycle events, exhibits exploring Boston’s Jewish history, and Havurah on the Hill.

Guests in the main sanctuary still sit on the original wooden benches, moved from the Vilner Congregation’s original home in the Twelfth Baptist Church. Dating from the mid-19th century, the benches once seated the African American church’s members, including former slaves and volunteers in the Massachusetts 54th Regiment that fought in the Civil War.

The Murals of the Vilna Shul

Prior to World War II, a rich history of painted synagogues dated back hundreds of years in Eastern Europe. Seemingly plain wooden synagogues revealed interiors ornately painted with exuberant, colorful scenes. This rich cultural heritage was almost completely obliterated by the Nazi regime.

However, recent restoration work at the Vilna Shul has revealed a living vestige of this lost tradition here in Boston. Historians and conservators were shocked to uncover three distinct layers of Eastern European-style murals under an old coat of beige paint on the walls of the building. This discovery dramatically altered the previous assumptions that historians had made about Jewish immigrant style in Boston—namely that Jewish Boston, in an attempt to acculturate, would have mimicked the more austere design of traditional New England meetinghouses. In fact, members of the Vilna Shul had opted for traditional Eastern European Jewish designs in bright pastels in their new synagogue.

Since then, Ḥavurah on the Hill has continued to breath life into the Vilna Shul. In return, the Vilna Shul has fostered new friendships, community, and in some very special cases, marriages and children. As a natural progression, Ḥavurah on the Hill became the young-adult extension of the Vilna Shul Board, a non-profit organization that owns and operates the Vilna Shul. Together, Havurah on the Hill and the Vilna Shul Board work as one to restore and revive the Vilna Shul and to ensure that it will continue to exist for future generations of Boston Jews.

In 2009, a grant from Partners in Preservation, a joint program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, provided funding to uncover the oldest mural (circa 1923) decorating the back wall of the women’s section in the main sanctuary. Images from this newly uncovered mural, and portions of other murals uncovered throughout the synagogue, adorn the pages of Siddur on the Hill.

History of Ḥavurah on the Hill

Ḥavurah on the Hill formed in the spring of 2001 when five friends: David Gerzof, Aaron Mandell, Andrew Perlman, Marc Rubenfeld, and Jesse Sage were inspired to start a community-led service for young adults and the young-at-heart in the beautiful Vilna Shul sanctuary. In Hebrew, havurah means a community of friends.

Their original concept was to bring together four key components that the founders felt would bring life back into the Vilna Shul and serve as a catalyst for connecting Boston’s Jewish young adult community: Spirit & Tradition (the service), Learning (guest speakers), Community and Connectivity (sharing a kosher meal), and History (our presence and connection with The Vilna Shul).


A couple weeks after we were engaged, we joined the Havurah on the Hill siddur committee to help create the very book you are holding. A month later, we decided to hold our wedding at the Vilna Shul—we both loved the history of the building and felt at home in the Havurah community. Getting married is an intense experience as it is, and it meant so much to both of us to be able to raise our chuppah within these beautiful walls that hold so much history. Every time we come here now, we remember our wedding day again! (Michal and Dallas Kennedy, HOH volunteers and contributors to the “Siddur on the Hill”)

Ḥavurah on the Hill and Vilna Shul are special to me because it is where I had three important firsts since my arrival to the USA. Vilna Shul is the first synagogue I visited in Boston. I read publicly from the Torah for the first time at HOH. And on Vilna’s bima, I led a Friday night Maariv service for the first time. This last first was possible because HOH is a dynamic place of learning where leaders and participants share together their love for Judaism and the community. I find HOH to be a welcoming environment to deepen engagement in Jewish life. I know that many other firsts are still waiting for me at HOH. This place can open many doors and inspires many firsts for others too. (Carmith Shai, HOH service leader and volunteer)

Like many people who started attending HOH in the winter of 2004, I first came because of an article in the New York Times. I had recently moved to Boston and my mother, having read the aforementioned article, had mentioned umpteen times that I should check out this “new up and coming place on Beacon Hill for young people like you.” I had no way of anticipating the reaction I would have to that that first experience praying in The Vilna Shul. Standing in the sanctuary I felt awed, moved by a sense of warmth as the history of my surroundings enveloped and carried me. Though the building was in significant disrepair as compared to how it stands today, I saw such great potential in my surroundings and could feel the building urging us and thanking us for having a real and active future — not just to be used a source for looking at the past. That night I approached members of the steering committee and offered to volunteer. After 5 years, I have retired from the steering committee, but I still get that incredible feeling whenever I stand near the bimah, open a prayer book, and look around. (Shoshana [Sham] Fagen, former member of the HOH Council)

My first Friday night attending HOH services, Carmel Dibner (a former HOH volunteer) asked me to lead ha’Motzi, the blessing over the bread. “No problem,” I thought, “I can handle that.” (Afterall, I’d been doing ha’Motzi since I was in Kindergarten.) So, my name was announced, I got up, recited ha’Motzi—no brain freeze, no problem. Phew. I went back to my seat. “Yashar koach,” Carmel smiled at me, “want to lead Kabbalat Shabbat next month?” Moral of the story: all ye newcomers be forewarned, at Havurah on the Hill, hamotzi is a gateway. (Malka Benjamin, HOH service leader, volunteer, and contributor to “Siddur on the Hill”)

When [Vilna Shul Executive Director] Steven Greenberg and I got word in the winter of 2009 that the Vilna Shul had been selected as one of 25 sites in Boston to compete for a share of $1 million for mural restoration as part of the American Express Partners in Preservation program from the National Trust, we were excited of course at the opportunity. The challenge, particularly for me, was keeping the whole competition a secret until the spring while still making sure everything was ready to go as soon as the competition went public. And that was how a profession I was certain would keep me comfortably rooted in history, launched me unexpectedly into the social media maze of the 21st century. First came the viral videos, with the help of a very patient and creative Emerson film student who ran around Boston Common with me making people pass around silly signs. Then came the in-gathering of facebook friends. And finally, the twittering lessons from some of the Vilna Shul’s favorite social media junkies. By the time April came around and it was time to get things seriously underway, our troops were ready – every HoH participant, Board member and friend of the Vilna Shul was determined to get the word out about the Vilna Shul murals. Votes came in from Albania to Australia, Israel to Italy, and all across the USA, but the most important ones came from the people who have stood by our building all along even when the spotlight wasn’t shining, who woke up every morning and voted first thing, forwarded emails and videos to everyone they knew (and some they didn’t). Although my eyes hurt from a month of staring at the computer, I’ll never forget how happy I was to hear HOH participants stand up and say, “We have to vote everyday—the Vilna Shul is our home!” The murals uncovered in 2010 will for me always be a testament to the hundreds of people who became our partners in the Vilna’s preservation. (Rachel Cylus, former Program Coordinator at the Vilna Shul)

I came to the Vilna Shul for the first time and loved it. So the next month I gathered up a group of eight friends to come with me to experience the Vilna magic. But on Friday afternoon they each backed out one by one – leaving me faced with the dilemma of whether to go alone or stay home. After much uncertainty, I walked hesitantly into the Shul and found a seat in the back row. A few hundred other strangers filled the room. Then during lecha dodi – as we rose to greet the Shabbat bride—I suddenly saw a striking young woman enter through the back. I decided I had to meet her and found my way to her after the service. Now, several years later, we are married with beautiful children. So I always tell people at Vilna to go up and talk to people you don’t know, even if you’ve come to services alone. You never know what might happen. (Anonymous)


On behalf of Ḥavurah on the Hill, we would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who made the creation and publication of this siddur possible. A special thanks to the Combined Jewish Philanthopies for its generous Young Adult Community grant; Rabbi Sam Seicol for his time, expertise, and assistance with translations; Rabbi Rachel Silverman for sharing her knowledge, siddur collection, and home with us; Rabbis Joe Alter, Ariel Berger, Michelle Fisher, Jane Kanarek, and Judy Weiss, as well as Miriam Rosenblum and Davida Manon for their constructive feedback and advice; Steven Greenberg for his enthusiasm, unyielding support and many late nights; Rachel Cylus for writing the CJP grant application; Mark Nystedt for his assistance in compiling the history of the Vilna Shul; David Gerzof and Jesse Sage for their help in retelling the story of Ḥavurah on the Hill; Rabbi Moshe Waldocks for his assistance with assembling our previous prayerbook; Rabbi Rami Shapiro for allowing us to incorporate his beautiful English interpretive writings; and the many other wonderful members of the Ḥavurah on the Hill community who have assisted with the creation of this siddur, including but certainly not limited to: Rebecca Barron, Aaron Beckman, Nick Burka, David Cohen, Carmel Dibner, Shani Fagen, Bella Freytis, Scott Gerwin, Seth Izen, Dan Mazor, Sarah Perron, Roneat Rish, Carmith Shai, Howard Simpson, and Dena Zigun. We could not have put this siddur together without your thoughtful input and support. Additionally, we would like to thank the Vilna Shul Board of Directors for their support of Ḥavurah on the Hill. Thank you.

-The “Siddur on the Hill” Committee
Malka Benjamin, Sue Gilbert, Dallas Kennedy, Michal Kennedy, Chelley Leveillee, Deborah Melkin, Robyn Ross, Atara Schimmel, Morris A. Singer (Co-Chair), and Georgi Vogel Rosen (Co-Chair)

The following sources were utilized during the research for this siddur:

  • Havurah on the Hill Kabbalat Shabbat Program siddur (2002)
  • Rabbi Sam Seicol, [translations, see below — attribution]
  • David Biale, ed., Cultures of the Jews: A New History, Schocken, 2002
  • Reuven Hammer, Entering Jewish Prayer, Schocken, 1995
  • Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, ed., My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, Vols. 1-9, Jewish Lights, 2002
  • Barry W. Holtz, ed., Back To The Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, Simon & Schuster, 1986
  • A. Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy and Its Development, Dover, 1995, reprint of 1932 edition
  • Edwin Krupp, Echoes of the Ancient Skies: The Astronomy of Lost Civilizations, Oxford University Press, 1994
  • Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, Princeton University Press, 1994
  • Max Margolis et al., eds., The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1917
  • and Wikipedia articles on Kaddish, Aleinu, etc., accessed August – November 2010.

Page layout by Michal Kennedy and Morris A. Singer. Cover design and graphics by Georgi Vogel Rosen, inspired by photographs of the Vilna Shul taken by Morris A. Singer and Kathleen Kennedy.

Copyright and License

This book is a joint work of the following people and is under the copyright (2011) of: Malka Benjamin, Sue Gilbert, Dallas Kennedy, Michal Kennedy, Chelley Leveillee, Deborah Melkin, Robyn Ross, Atara Schimmel, Morris A. Singer, and Georgi Vogel Rosen. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License. No claim is made to any Hebrew text, nor any other work included herein that is used under license, as noted below.

Interpretive readings are used under license.

Translations to the following prayers are under the copyright of Rabbi Sam Secol and are used under license: Ana Bakoakh, Barkhu, Maariv Aravim, Ahavat Olam, Shma Yisrael, Ve’ahavta, Vayomer, Ehmeht ve’Ehmuna, Mi Khamokha, Hashkivehnu le’Shalom, ve’Shamru et ha’Shabbat, Tefilat ha’Amidah (holiday sections), Tefilat Ha’Amidah – Shalom, Yihyu Leratzon, Elohei Netzar, Vayikhulu, Al Kehn Nekaveh, Shalom Alekhem, and Ḳiddush. Rabbi Secol has licensed these translations under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License.

Translations to the following prayers are derived from works under the copyright of Wikipedia and are used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License: Lekha Dodi, Kaddish, Tefilat ha’Amidah, Magehn Avot, Alehnu Leshabeh’akh, Adon Olam, and Yigdal.

The Vilna Shul by Georgi Vogel Rosen (Vilna Shul, Boston) license: CC-BY

Georgi Vogel Rosen for Havurah on the Hill – Siddur on the Hill for Friday Night (Vilna Shul, Boston) license: CC-BY.



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