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05 July 2021

Reform or Consensus? Choral Synagogues in the Russian Empire

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Reform or Consensus? Choral Synagogues in the Russian Empire

Many scholars view the choral synagogues in the Russian Empire as Reform synagogues, influenced by the German Reform movement. This article analyzes the features characteristic of Reform synagogues in central and Western Europe, and demonstrates that only a small number of these features were implemented in the choral synagogues of Russia. The article describes the history, architecture, and reception of choral synagogues in different geographical areas of the Russian Empire, from the first maskilic synagogues of the 1820s—1840s to the revolution of 1917. The majority of changes, this article argues, introduced in choral synagogues were of an aesthetic nature. The changes concerned decorum, not the religious meaning or essence of the prayer service. The initial wave of choral synagogues were established by maskilim, and modernized Jews became a catalyst for the adoption of the choral rite by other groups. Eventually, the choral synagogue became the “sectorial” synagogue of the modernized elite. It did not have special religious significance, but it did offer social prestige and architectural prominence.

Source: Levin V. (2020) Reform or Consensus? Choral Synagogues in the Russian Empire. Arts. 9(2): 72

Source web-site: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0752/9/2/72

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