Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in by Saskia Coenen Snyder

By Saskia Coenen Snyder

Nineteenth-century Europe observed an unparalleled upward thrust within the variety of synagogues. Building a Public Judaism considers what their structure and the conditions surrounding their building show concerning the social development of contemporary ecu Jews. synagogues in 4 vital facilities of Jewish life—London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Berlin—Saskia Coenen Snyder argues that the method of saying a Jewish area in eu towns was once a marker of acculturation yet now not of complete popularity. no matter if modest or surprising, those new edifices mostly published the boundaries of eu Jewish integration.

Debates over construction tasks supply Coenen Snyder with a motor vehicle for gauging how Jews approached questions of self-representation in predominantly Christian societies and the way public manifestations in their identification have been bought. Synagogues fused the basics of faith with the existing cultural codes particularly locales and served as aesthetic barometers for ecu Jewry’s measure of modernization. Coenen Snyder reveals that the dialogues surrounding synagogue development various considerably in line with urban. whereas the bigger tale is one in all expanding self-agency within the public lifetime of eu Jews, it additionally highlights this agency’s obstacles, accurately in these locations the place Jews have been regarded as so much acculturated, particularly in France and Germany.

Building a Public Judaism can provide the peculiarities of position higher authority than they've been given in shaping the ecu Jewish adventure. while, its place-specific description of tensions over spiritual tolerance maintains to echo in debates concerning the public presence of non secular minorities in modern Europe.

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1–3 (1979): 106 I n 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.

This tone suited French Jewish leadership and the small Jewish bourgeoisie well. The tribulations of the lost Franco-Prussian war of 1870–1871, of the Commune, and of “red peril” activism—all of which reverberated most intensely in Paris—made public flamboyance and self-assurance on the part of any religious minority unwise. But as we shall see in Chapter 4, this aesthetic reticence was not always self-chosen. It was the municipal authorities who appointed state-licensed architects, inspectors, and underinspectors, approved or rejected proposals and budgets, and made final decisions on the location of religious edifices.

Drawing public attention by means of a conspicuous building in a bold Oriental design countered the approaches to synagogue building seen in London, Amsterdam, and Paris. Why and for what purpose Berlin Jewry erected a spectacular Moorish structure in the old city center, then, are legitimate questions to which our contributor to the AZdJ found only partial answers. To him the incentives for monumental synagogue architecture lay in “the pleasure of building itself,” even if this meant the Jewish community would shoulder a heavy debt.

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