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JEWISH MUSIC RESEARCH - Edwin Seroussi (Jerusalem) - An Unexpected Musical Encounter: Spanish-Portuguese Liturgical Music in German Synagogue

Jewish Music Research - International conference at the University of Music Hamburg

From the Music of the Portuguese synagogue in the 19th
to the Rolf Lieberman Era in the 20th century
The presence of Jewish Culture in Europe is going back to the times of the Roman Empire. In 2021 Germany has celebrated 1700 years of Jewish live and culture. The city of Hamburg decided in 2020 to rebuild the large synagogue on Bornplatz, which had been destroyed 1938 during the Reichskristallnacht. On this occasion, the University of Music in Hamburg initiates an international conference on Jewish music in Hamburg past and present.

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Edwin Seroussi (Jerusalem)


An Unexpected Musical Encounter: Spanish- Portuguese Liturgical Music in German Synagogues

Jewish liturgical music in German-speaking lands underwent dra- matic transformations since the late 18th century as the winds of haskala and reform generated waves of musical experimentation in houses of prayer in large urban centres as well as in small villages. The reshaping of the German synagogue soundscape was a major enterprise of this unprecedented civic, social and religious renewal of Judaism. Abrupt and bold moves of the reform-minded leaders- hip to distance itself from the soundtrack of the synagogues of “old” reminds us of similar radical shifts in religious music history, not the least of which is the Lutheran Reformation. The Hamburg Temple, the pioneer centre of Reform Judaism established in 1818, experimented in a unique fashion. Neighbouring the quarters of the local Spani- sh-Portuguese congregation, a very small and yet prominent encla- ve of descendants of converted Jews from the Iberian Peninsula who returned to Judaism, the leaders of the Hamburg Temple decided

to hire a cantor of Portuguese Jewish pedigree. This decision un- chained one of the most peculiar and under-researched chapters in the history of German Jewish modernity.

Edwin Seroussi is Director of the Jewish Music Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Visiting Scholar in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the 2018 Israel Prize laureate in the field of Musicology. He founded and edits Yuval Music Series and is editor of the CD series Anthology of Music Traditions in Israel of the Jewish Music Research Centre.

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