Silverman, Morris

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SILVERMAN, MORRIS (1894–1972), U.S. rabbi, scholar, and liturgist. Born in Newburgh, n.y., Silverman was ordained rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1922.

From 1923 to 1961 he served as rabbi of the Emanuel Synagogue in Hartford, Conn., and was a leader in virtually every aspect of Jewish life, prominently active in civic affairs, civil rights, interfaith activities, and Zionist work. He built the synagogue into one of the dominant congregations of New England and served with Hartford colleagues who also enjoyed long and distinguished tenures in the rabbinate.

His greatest influence on North American Jewry was through his role as a liturgical innovator and editor. Silverman began creating preliminary and experimental editions of various prayer books and booklets in the early 1930s. He eventually produced nationally distributed editions of twelve liturgical works, most published by the Prayer Book Press, which was established in Hartford to encourage dissemination of his work.

His High Holiday Prayer Book (1939 and 1953) combined the traditional Hebrew liturgy with new readings and notes, and introduced interpretive translations in "responsive reading" formats, which sought to encourage participation by worshipers of diverse backgrounds. It was eventually adopted by more than one thousand institutions, and was still in active distribution in 2005.

Silverman's Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book (1946) produced under the auspices of the Rabbinical Assembly, was adopted by most Conservative congregations; and, like his Maḥzor, has influenced subsequent publications in various sectors of Jewish life. For four decades it was synonymous with the liturgy of a Conservative Congregation.

His Prayers of Consolation (1953) introduced a new genre of worship texts for special occasions, combining traditional worship with selections from classical texts and 20th-century sources. Silverman's Passover Haggadah (1959) featured explanatory notes and interpretive readings, and pioneered the inclusion of commemorative material on both the Holocaust and the recently-created State of Israel, within the seder liturgy.

Between 1933 and 1961 Silverman also edited and coedited liturgical and instructional texts for young people. His son Hillel also became a rabbi and his grandson Jonathan is a prominent American actor.

[Walter Stern (2nd ed.)]