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Pulling Out the Stops

The rise and fall of the synagogue organ

Laura Starecheski
November 29, 2005

Have you ever walked into a synagogue and heard an organ, and wondered what it’s doing there? Organs moved into temples in Germany in the 19th century as part of the Reform movement. And there were huge fights over the organ: Some German Jews thought it was a sign of being modern and enlightened. Others thought it was too close to Christianity and a betrayal of Judaism. The organ followed Reform Jews from Germany to the United States.

Tina Frühauf is a professional organist and the author of The Organ and Organ Music in German-Jewish Culture, which is now out in German and is due out in an English translation in 2006. A Catholic from Germany, Frühauf went on a scholarly odyssey into a world of music that was silenced by the rise of Nazism and largely forgotten. Hear her explain what attracted her to Jewish organ music, and the work of composers Louis Lewandowski and Yohanan Samuel.

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