How Do Jewish Men Pray?

I think that it is fair to say that men navigate the world differently than do women. We relearn that lesson each day here at Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) as we promote our women’s programs (such as The Mothers Circle and Empowering Ruth) and our men’s programs (such as How Should I Know? and Answering Your Jewish Children), all of which are available for anyone who wants to implement them or participate in them. Just contact us.

As difficult as it may be to recruit for our women’s programs (made a lot easier if you follow our recommendations on outreach best practices), it is even more difficult to recruit for the men’s programs. Truth be told, men really aren’t any more elusive than women—and certainly no more elusive than the 20-30-year-old population—they are just different and have to be reached differently.

I admit that all generalizations fall short, but we do know some things about men and programming. We are problem solvers who are guided by rules and regulations. Perhaps that is why rabbis (prior to the modern era, all men) were so comfortable with Judaism, a religion that is built on setting boundaries and then managing them. The entire tractate of the Talmud named Eruvim (currently under study for those who follow the daf yomi calendar of—literally, daily Talmud study, which I do) is devoted to such boundaries. It is also probably why traditional Jewish study of the Torah began with Leviticus (filled with rules and regulations) and certainly not Genesis (which is a book primarily about relationships).

Since I have been involved in men’s programming, I have written/edited some men’s articles and books; the most recent is Jewish Men Pray (Jewish Lights Publishing). There are those who would argue, “The traditional siddur/prayer book is male. Why do you need a book of prayers for or by men?” The answer: As men are grappling with spirituality, we need guidance. We need materials that speak directly to us, some new, some emerging from the tradition, that use a male lens to help us connect with the Divine and see our path in life more clearly.

My hope is that this new book will reach all Jewish men, especially those who have perhaps stepped away from a discipline of daily spiritual practice, as well as those looking to revitalize the practice in which they currently engage.

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