Do we need transliteration in our siddur? Why do we need transliteration? What is transliteration?
We are putting together the Shabbat morning siddur for our temple. There are many interesting decisions to make in a Reform temple. The editors have posed a question of whether we need to have transliteration. Most of our service is in Hebrew but we provide translations. Do we also need transliterations?
Why do we need them? What do you with a population where more than half of the people cannot read Hebrew? Some argue that they should learn. That is nice but not realistic. Just getting people to come on a non-holiday is a challenge. Making the service unattainable would not help.
So what does the transliteration do? Taking the Hebrew words and writing them with Latin characters allows an English reader to participate in the Hebrew prayers. No this does not help them lead the service but it does help for following along. For those who are learning Hebrew it is helpful for when it is too difficult to keep up with the speed of some of the prayers.
Transliteration is great for beginners and non-Hebrew readers to feel like they can participate in the prayers. Hopefully as people come more often the words will become ingrained and following along in Hebrew will become easier. Providing the tools for each person where they are allows them to pray with the community as they can.