Liberalism and Orthodoxy.
by Rabbi Dr. Sigfrid Behrens (Göttingen).
Partial translation: The time of religious struggle, whose center was the Breslau congregation, seems to be over, having given way to preoccupation with the difficulties of the present time. In public Jewish life, there is rarely friction between liberals and the orthodox. The worries over Jewish existence, the need to defend ourselves, and common humanitarian work have neutralized partisanship. We avoid religious questions, which is leading to some stagnation in our spiritual, religious life. We have reached a phase of disinterest. However, smaller orthodox groups and the Zionists have more energy, are ready to sacrifice, and have set lofty goals. Liberalism has receded into the background. Is it lacking the eagerness and motivation of the smaller groups? Liberalism simply doesn’t function by means of the slogan or sensationalism. Mysticism and the pain caused by every break with tradition are foreign to it because it addresses the thinking person. Judaism has room for all forms; it relies on all parties to achieve its goals. We guard against a majority rule and one-sidedness that would make us ignore the wishes and needs of the smaller groups. We are devoted to the Jewish religion, its instruction and its practice. The Hebrew language is just as holy and essential as the love of the land of our forefathers. We are not just interested in an academic profession of faith—we aim to develop the whole person.
We must find time to reconnect with ourselves, to be prepared to make sacrifices for our choice of liberal Judaism. We must find the deeper meaning of Sabbath, holy days, religious observations and customs. All this would be for naught if we did not inspire the youth for they are the future of Judaism, as all groups and parties recognize. I do not think I am mistaken about the gravity of the present hour.
Every movement needs a spiritual intensity, needs personalities who serve as models, who motivate, and who can lead the way to the promised land. The liberal communities are honor bound to support their clergy and administrators financially, especially the wealthier ones. Hic Rhodus, hic salta! Show us what you can do!
On the National-German Jew.
[An exchange of letters among the chief editor of the “Kölnische Zeitung,” Mrs. H. Vorreuter (Dortmund), and Dr. Max Naumann, author of an essay on the national-German Jew.] Vorreuter is critical of Naumann’s attempt to enlighten the Germans, a partially barbaric and anti-Semitic people, about Jewish thought. Germany’s enemies would like nothing more than to justify the maltreatment of the Germans. She argues that it’s not race, but religion and a shared history of suffering that ties Jews together. Whosoever sees blood as the anchor of identity is just as much of a materialist as the anti-Semites. On speaks of animals in terms of race; of people one should speak of their intellectual makeup. Perhaps Naumann does not realize that the 250,000 Jews in the Central Association are regarded as “assimilators” by Zionists. National-German Jews want to deny their origins. German liberal Jews however want to keep their ethical-religious individuality, the sense of family, and the Jewish concept of charitable work.
Vorreuter questions both concepts of race and nationality. She points out the Germans who are not deluded by racial theories understand that Germans are a mixture of peoples, including Jews. Jews are part of the unified German group within the greater white race. It is painful to see how anti-Semitism is nurtured, even among intellectuals. She cites Adolf von Harnack http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_von_Harnack as justified in noting that a follower of Jesus would do far better to follow the Talmud or Jewish ethical writings which are closer to Jesus than the Germanic, Aryan Christian theologians.
As Jews, one must identify with the Eastern Jews, even with the Bolshevik Jews, even though they are “asocial” elements. Indeed, not just Polish Jews, but Polish Catholics and Protestants are not as culturally developed [as Germans].
She concludes that there is no middle ground, as Naumann argues, but only a sharp delineation between the national Jew and the Jewish German. Naumann’s reponse to her includes his opposition to the importation of people from the East, be they Jewish or Slavic. He defends the right of Jews to flee their deplorable conditions, but he cannot condone the mass immigration to Germany because of the harm it can do to the country. In her subsequent letter, Vorreuter reminds Naumann that the Versailles Treaty is to blame for the mass immigration and that Germany should respond with humanity. She also notes that many of the Easterners now in Germany had been forcibly brought to work in factories to allow German men to become soldiers. And that the French forced 10,000 Alsatian Jews to move to Germany. The remainder of her response decries the anti-Semitism that in her eyes is defaming the nation of enlightenment and humanity that freed their ancestors from the ghetto. She ends her letter by quoting a verse from Heinrich Heine’s “Nachtgedanken”:
it is a heartily healthy country!
With its oaks, its linden trees
I will always find it again.
[“If I think of Germany in the night,” translation by Sedulia Scott, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.]
(On his one-hundredth birthday)
Partial translation: Lewandoski was born 100 years ago on April 3, in Wreschen, Posen [now Września, Poland], becoming one of the most significant reformers of synagogal music. He followed in the footsteps of Vienna’s great synagogal composer, Salomon Sulzer, who had been active two decades earlier than Lewandowski and whose greatest contribution was the monumental “Schir Zion.”
Both of Lewandoski’s parents came from rabbinical families, though their present circumstances were such that young Louis and his four brothers had to earn a living early on. All served as assistant cantors, though it was Louis’s talent that stood out. Aged twelve, he left home for Berlin where he attended high school and was sponsored by Dr. Baruch Auerbach. He also became a soloist in the Old Synagogue where he drew the attention of Alexander Mendelssohn, grandson of Moses Mendelssohn. After hearing Louis play violin and piano, Alexander convinced him to dedicate himself to music. He studied music theory and acoustics at the University of Berlin, but his real wish was to attend the Hochschule for Music, which at the time did not allow Jews. He insisted however on taking the entrance exam, and through Mendelssohn’s support was able to break through the racial barrier and become the first Jewish student to enroll. He was well accepted by his instructors, and won prizes for his compositions. In 1856 he made his first public appearance as conductor for the Kroll opera theater. After a long illness, he turned from secular music to religious song. His congregation sent him to Vienna to study under Sulzer. It was under Sulzer’s influence that he composed his significant work, “Kol riunats und T’sillah.” On his 25th anniversary, he said of the essence of Jewish synagogal song: “The musical expression of our Geberweise is a sacred inheritance, created without musical education, without critical study; it is only the outpouring of the holiest inspiration. And even if we have forgotten the language of our fathers, we can regain our understanding of their and our magnificent tones and continue to maintain and cultivate them. Who cannot fail but to find in them the history of our people!”
Lewandowski understood the significance of prayer in the service, so he focused on the recitative, which is a challenging art form when performed without instrumental accompaniment. He also limited his choral arrangements to two voices, also without accompaniment. These minimalist forms saw his greatest accomplishments.
In 1866 Lewandowski was called to the New Synagogue where he composed his second great work, a four-part chorale with organ, “Todah w’simro.” Originally composed for the Old Synagogue, he now added the organ and worked in the traditional melodies of the Kol Nidre, the “Kaddish “ for “Tal and Geschem” (the prayer for dewfall and rain), without losing the singing’s individuality. Lewandowski’s songs that are so intertwined with the Hebrew text will always hold their value, but so will his countless German psalms keep their deep religious spirit. Eighteen of these were printed and dedicated to King Ludwig II of Bavaria. His arrangements of old Hebrew melodies for chorus, song, and organ are masterful inventions and stand out for their deep religious sensibility and great simplicity. Of special note is his opus 34, “Schapsodie hebraique for piano” that he dedicated to the important Russian pianist and composer, Arthur Rubenstein. He died on February 3, 1894 shortly after retiring. –Nannie Stern.[The article lists other significant works and describes the honors he received at his 50th anniversary, which included receiving the honorary title “Professor of Music” to acknowledge his contribution as teacher, with many students active as musical directors for important congregations.]
The Plight of Students and Anti-Semitism.
by Counselor and Notary Foerder (Breslau)
Synopsis: Foerder responds to the letters published in the previous issue (March 24, 1921) on the topic of providing financial support for students in light of their anti-Semitism. He points out that the faculty does not hesitate to ask Jews to contribute funds to this cause, but is far too quiet when it comes to opposing anti-Semitism at the university.
Aus dem Reich.
Berlin. The “Vossische Zeitung” reported on a conference held by Sir Herbert Samuel in Palestine to elect rabbinical leadership and religious court (beth din).
Berlin. The well-known human-rights activist, Dr. Wehberg, who opposed the anti-Semitic stance of the Eisenach Resolutions was expelled from his fraternity, the “Marchia.”
Halle. The anti-Semitic “Hallesche Zeitung” blamed Jews for the recent regionalinsurrection by communists.
From the Province.
Völkisch Youth Formation.
Suhrau, Silesia. A student named Knobel founded a youth organization called “Jungsturm” whose symbol is the swastika. One of their outings led them by the Jewish cemetery where their leaders instructed them to spit three times. As a result, the organization was banned as was wearing a swastika.
The meeting opened with a remembrance of the recently deceased Rabbi Dr. Rosenthal. In a three-hour session the representatives addressed 28 proposals and one urgent request. They addressed the upkeep of graves, donations to synagogues, social welfare, and the convalescent hospital. They increased the amount set aside for matzoh, discussed fees paid for weddings and the voting rights of the congregations’ employees. The topic that met with the most interest was the increase of salaries, which would now amount to over 100,000 marks. The assembly approved joining the Central Organization of German Jews. 1,000 marks were given to the Jewish labor board and 1,000 marks earmarked for helping to feed Jewish refugees from the east.
On Sunday, March 27, girls’ confirmation was held in the New Synagogue. The lovely, impressive ceremony was uplifting; every place in the synagogue was taken. After introductory organ music, Rabbi Dr. Sänger gave a sermon that touched the heart in which he reminded the six girls of their duties to their faith community. Then the girls professed their faith and received a prayer book from Dr. Sänger. The ceremony concluded with the hymn, “Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre.“ [„Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur” by Ludwig van Beethoven]
Jettka Finkenstein celebrated her fortieth jubilee as a performer and singing teacher on April 3, 1921. Her last public performance was in 1906. Since then she has dedicated her time and energy to teaching singing. The article describes how she studied piano, much against her parents’ wishes. After a particularly fine rendition of a Mendelssohn Lied, she gained entrance to the royal high school for music where she began her training as a mezzosoprano under Frau Professor Schultzen von Asten, Professor Gustav Engel, and Professor Joachim. She sang in the Darmstadt area for 9 years and even performed for Queen Victoria. She worked in London, Paris, and Berlin, finally settling in Breslau when she married the pianist and composer, Benno Pulvermacher, and where they founded a singing school.
A Max Heinzel Evening.
The Breslau reciter, Thekla Eisner, staged an evening of Max Heinzel’s Silesian poetry and songs to benefit his daughter. Heinzel’s work was complemented by songs by Paul Mittmann and Franz Wagner and poems by Philo vom Walde and Hermann Bach. Thekla Eisner recited poetry in Silesian dialect and High German. The songs were sung by Margarete Hoffmann and Hans Hielscher and accompanied by Lotte Hansen.
Synopsis: Die Schöpfung. A review of the Breslau orchestra’s performance of Haydn’s work, conducted by Professor Dohrn. Soloists were Mrs. Hirt, Mr. Abendroth, and Mr. Depser. The pianist was Herr Czerny.
Associations and Assemblies.
Association for Jewish History and Literature.
On March 22, Rabbi Dr. Kober (Cologne) spoke about “The Rhine in Jewish History.” Jewish history on the Rhine began in 321 A.D. with a reference to the respected Jewish community of Cologne in an edict by Emperor Constantine. Other cities along the Rhine such as Worms, Mainz, Trier, and Speyer had Jewish citizens in the third century. Up until the 10th century Jewish life played itself out in the background until the arrival of Messianism from the east that inspired many to undertake pilgrimages to Palestine.
Until the crusades, Jewish rights were uncontested. In fact, Bishop Rüdiger Huozmann of Speyer could think of no better way to improve his city’s status than by offering Jews residences and privileges. Emperor Heinrich IV confirmed Jewish rights and privileges. However, the crusades brought difficult times to the Rhine’s Jewish communities. The years 1348-1350 saw terrible persecutions and for decades afterwards, Jews were expelled from the large cities to the smaller ones. After 400 years the French revolution brought citizenship and freedom to the Jews but they struggled for equal rights for most of the 19th century.
Dr. Kober concluded his talk with an interesting account of a Rhine wedding in the 15th century.
Bar mitzvahs at the Old Synagogue on April 2, 1921:
Günther Geβler, father Max G., Alsenstraβe 14; Heinz Roland Fränkel, father Leopold F., Lessingstraβe 12; Walther Nathan Lewy, father Dentist Georg L., Gartenstraβe 51.
Urgent Request for Help!
The serious situation in which our association finds itself forces us to issue this public call for help. The growing unemployment in Germany on the one hand and on the other the peace treaty between Poland and Russia are causing a large emigration of Eastern Jews that had fled to Germany. Their route through Upper Siliesa, the main border crossing between Germany and Poland, is currently closed. The only open passage is through Breslau. Countless emigrants, who are without any resources, must be cared for and helped along by us on a daily basis. And now Passover is at hand. Last Passover our association had a Passover table for over 200 refugees. This year this number will be significantly larger. These activities require great sums of money. The resources available to us are far from sufficient to cover these great tasks.
That is why we turn to all Jews who are moved by the great misery of the fleeing and returning Eastern Jews with an urgent request to support us with generous donations. -–The Association of Eastern Jews.