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When chanting Birkat Hamazon, I always thought it started Chaverai n'varech, but I have recently attended a Conservadox Bar Mitzvah, where they used Rabotai n'varech. Here are some images; I found the top one on a Reform website, the bottom on an Orthodox one.

ReformOrthodox

What is the difference between these two words, and why is it different between denominations?

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    The Zimmun formulation begins "Nevarekh SheAchalnu MiShelo". Many are accustomed to before that introduce the Zimmun with a generic "Let's Bentch" in some language, generally Hebrew. That's what you're hearing variants of, and it's not a halachic issue, but just a stylistic preference. – Double AA Nov 12 '16 at 22:54
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    Very similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/7818 – msh210 Nov 13 '16 at 8:30
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Chaveirai means "my friends"; Rabotai means "gentlemen".

I'm not too familiar with Reform customs, but do they include women in the zimun? If so, calling to the people around you with "gentlemen" is inappropriate. The Orthodox do not do a mixed zimun, so men will say Rabotai.

(FTR, some Orthodox women will do a women-only zimun, and they will then say chaveirai.)

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    re: your last point - that'd probably be חברותי. – Rish Nov 12 '16 at 20:28
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    Chaveray is no less masculine than rabosay is. Rabosay doesn't mean "gentlemen": it means "my masters" or "my leaders" or something like that. – msh210 Nov 12 '16 at 20:49
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    @Scimonster, I dunno… I've heard modern-Hebrew speakers say (to a mixed-sex crowd) "moray v'rabosay". – msh210 Nov 12 '16 at 22:27
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    It should be noted that there are absolutely no rules to the formulation used. Saying gentleman or friends or guys or people (in various languages) is just a matter of style. I think this answer is greatly missing the point by tying gender into an issue where it doesn't belong. – Double AA Nov 12 '16 at 22:51
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    The Reform movement in recent decades has worked to remove gendered language wherever possible. While rabotai might not be technically gendered in modern Hebrew, I strongly suspect that (a) it carries that implication to non-native speakers and (b) this is why the Reform movement changed it. I can't find anything authoritative on the subject; this is my impression based on years of close observation of Reform practices. – Monica Cellio Nov 13 '16 at 3:32
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The word chaveirai was introduced by early religious Zionists who had been introduced to communism and we're trying to integrate communism with Judiasm. Chaveirai was the Hebrew way of saying "comrades" and equalizing everyone as per their communist ideals.

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    How do you know this? – Double AA Jan 11 '17 at 23:41

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