Spiritual Community Life- Music

  • Women's Choir at The Emanuel Synagogue, 1950s

  • Cantor rehearsal at The Emanuel Synagogue, 1940s

  • Men's Choir at Ados Israel, 1914

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol cantor program

Religious observance in the life of synagogue congregations has taken several forms, among them Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. These disciplines have each maintained different practices regarding issues such as appropriate dress, whether to use Hebrew or English for liturgical services, whether and how segregated seating is determined during synagogue services, or the ways in which distinctive forms of music are cultivated and used for inspiration and worship in religious life. While Jewish music, including klezmer, cantorial, and other styles, has its definitive roots in the synagogue, debates over how music is to be incorporated into the synagogue setting have been a feature of American Judaism since at least the beginning of the nineteenth century. Such debates historically have typically involved matters concerning the character of the music as a form of ritual worship (i.e. whether synagogue music creates performance-oriented worship or participatory-worship) and whether or not music in synagogues should include instrumental accompaniment. Accordingly, the presence and appropriation of music in the synagogue setting in America has been a reflection of developments in Jewish social life, particularly with respect to the relationship between Jews and the surrounding non-Jewish culture, and the tension between mystical and non-mystical approaches within