4 Comments

  1. I remember you wrote a post about your stay in Budapest – I did not have the time to comment on it then and I can’t find it now 🙂 You were wondering about the organ in the Dohány street synagogue as “not really Jewish” – it is true in a way but this tradition actually comes from Salomon Sulzer, the chazzan of the Stadttempel in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century. He and the synagogue’s Rabbi at the time, Isaak Mannheimer were rather progressive in several ways and Sulzer (who was a musician and was part of the Viennese music scene himself) made a point of promoting the use of the organ. He even donated one to the Jewish community of his hometown in Hohenems.

    The Dohány street synagogue was originally built for the progressive, “neolog” Jews – so the presence of organ is rather natural. There are some other synagogues in Hungary with organs too. For a long time the organists were Gentiles but it has also changed since. The organ you can see in the Dohány street now is a new instrument, not the original one.

    And don’t forget: at the time the synagogue was built, Hungary was still part of the Habsburg Empire. There was a lot of cultural exchange between the two nations. And of course, since Vienna was the capitol city, the Kaiserstadt, it set the trends – not only in female fashion but also in the Jewish liturgy 😉

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    • Thanks. The original article is here on the Quillcards Blog. Thank you for the extra information and the names. I will do some reading.

      I have a tendency, perhaps the fault of looking at Europe from too great a distance, of lumping Germany and Austria together and giving them a common experience. I am reading Germany’s Stepchildren at the moment, about Heine, Auerbach, and now in the chapter I am on, about Moses Hess. Later chapters discuss Herzl, Rathenau, and others.

      In the article on the Quillcards blog I mentioned that I was reminded of the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He cautioned against assimilation when Heine, Auerbach and others were asking why they could not be fully accepted as Germans. Of course, it is easy for me in the comfort of today to see it, but to the people at the time – as you say – they believed they were being progressive.

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  2. Yes, thanks, so that’s why I did not find it. I just remembered that you wrote it but missed that it was on another blog.

    In fact, Germany and Austria are very different entities – you may consider Austria and Hungary during the time of the Monarchy as “the same” (but take care to not do this if there are any Hungarians present, haha).

    Assimilation was a big theme in the 19th century – I’m speaking of Hungary, but it was of course a Europe-wide trend. I remember reading a collection of Jewish religious poems written in the late 19th c. about ten-fifteen years ago. I was astonished how their main theme was being grateful to be Hungarian and praising Hungary’s beauty. Sadly this wish to assimilate was never reciprocated by the non-Jewish Hungarians – to this day it isn’t.

    I tried to look up the book you mentioned – it has to be interesting. Btw, Herzl Tivadar was also Hungarian. His cousin, Heltai Jenő was a famous author during the pre WWII era.

    I hope your wife is doing better! If she is interested in Liszt Ferenc, in his book “The Gipsy in Music” there is a whole chapter about Jewish culture/music, where Liszt describes his visit to the Vienna Stadttempel where he went to listen to Salomon Sulzer. It is a very interesting description, Sulzer must have been a great performer/cantor. Liszt’s dubious/antisemitic views is a much discussed topic in musicology circles, but whatever his views were, he undoubtedly admired Sulzer’s talent and gave him credit.

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    • I just started to read about the Austro-Prussian War. The impression I have it that i was a fight for dominance within a family, and I think of Austria and Germany today as brothers separated by a border. For example, the Anschluss. I would like to get your perspective on how they are different – not just different countries, but different beyond that.

      I got my copy of Germany’s Stepchildren secondhand – It’s by Solomon Liptzin. I probably got it online from AbeBooks (part of Amazon) – The original publication date is 1944 and my copy by Meridian Books is from 1961.

      I read Herzl’s biography by Amos Elon. Have you read it? I remember looking at the drawing of the street where Herzl’s family lived and how it was next to or near the synagogue. I was really struck with surprise when we were at the Dohány Street Synagogue and the guide said that Herzl lived next door. It was like I brushed up against him for a moment.

      I just told my wife what you wrote about Liszt. Thank you.

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