Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Building a Public Judaism

Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 330
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Building a Public Judaism
    Book Description:

    Coenen Snyder considers what the architecture and construction of nineteenth-century European synagogues reveal about the social progress of modern European Jews. The process of claiming a Jewish space was a marker of acculturation but not full acceptance, she argues. The new edifices, even if spectacular, revealed the limits of Jewish integration.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06749-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[ix])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    When the New West End synagogue in London was inaugurated in the spring of 1879, members of the congregation as well as guests invited for the day’s festivities received a small token of remembrance. “Each visitor,” reported the Jewish Chronicle, “was presented with a cabinet-sized photograph of the interior,” which could be framed at home or sent to curious friends or relatives living elsewhere.¹ The photograph depicted an imposing prayer room marked by galleries on the northern and southern walls, tall pillars and pointed arches, and a dignified ark crowned by a bulbous dome and illuminated by a rose window...

  4. CHAPTER ONE An Architecture of Emancipation or an Architecture of Separatism? Berlin
    (pp. 25-85)

    In the summer of 1865, a full year before the completion of the Oranienburgerstraße synagogue in the center of Berlin, an anonymous letter appeared in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums (AZdJ), the most widely read Jewish periodical in the German-speaking lands. Its author acknowledged the beauty of the new building emerging before everyone’s eyes and the “good taste” of those involved in the production of this magnificent synagogue (Prachttempel). Berlin, after all, he said somewhat snootily, “did not yet possess any religious buildings worth seeing” and this synagogue truly was an ornament to the Prussian capital. The author, however, questioned...

  5. CHAPTER TWO “There Should Be Sermons in Stone” Victorian London
    (pp. 87-150)

    In the summer of 1868, the Jewish Chronicle, the most widely read Jewish newspaper in Great Britain, featured an article on music and singing in the synagogue. In this article the author, who referred to himself as “H.,” made a passionate appeal for a more decorous religious service, one in which Jewish worshippers would adopt the Christian ritual of a boys’ choir, the “silvery voices” of whom would uplift the prayers of the Jewish faith and render the service more in tune with contemporary cultural codes.¹ Although wary of promoting an organ—“Human voices worship,” he maintained, “manufactured instruments do...

  6. CHAPTER THREE From Café Chantant to Jewish House of Worship Amsterdam
    (pp. 151-205)

    On December 10, 1880, a Dutch Jew named S. Rose sent an angry letter to the Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad (NIW, New Jewish Weekly), in which he commented on the “abnormality” that the Amsterdam Jewish community had not witnessed the building of any new synagogues during the nineteenth century. “It is without precedent in the history of the Jews,” stated Rose, “that in one and the same place a hundred and fifty years have passed without the emergence of a new synagogue. Only here, in the famous Amsterdam orthodox community, where the number of Jews has doubled, does this abnormality exist…....

  7. CHAPTER FOUR “We Want a Synagogue; the Jews of Paris Are Ready to Pay for It” Paris
    (pp. 207-252)

    In Paris, synagogue building took on a very different dimension than in other northern European capitals. Whereas in London the Jewish community initiated and completed building plans more or less autonomously, and in Berlin the city authorities were involved only to the extent of requesting and receiving permits, in Paris the local Jewish community, the Central and Paris consistories, the Ministry of the Interior, the prefecture, the Travaux de la Ville de Paris, and other government agencies played important roles in practically the entire decision-making process. The French government made substantial financial contributions and donated city property that added up...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 253-270)

    Synagogues are great storytellers. While their brick-and-mortar exteriors appear silent, if one is willing to listen they tell lively tales about themselves, their audience, and their surroundings. The size, architectural style, location, and interior design of purpose-built synagogues reflect the economic status, aesthetic preferences, and sociopolitical ambitions of the local congregation. Likewise, the activities taking place inside synagogues disclose the variety of purposes for which these buildings were used, be it religious observance, marriage ceremonies for the well-to-do, or the propagation of political and ideological views. And last, the presence or absence of new interior features—such as an organ,...

  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. 271-272)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 273-336)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 337-340)
  12. Index
    (pp. 341-350)