Congregation Keneseth Israel of Philadelphia was established in March 1847 by a group of German Jewish immigrants who had seceded from the city’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom. While at first traditional in its orientation, the synagogue slowly introduced a number of changes into the ritual, including the regular preaching of sermons, the use of the famous Hamburg Temple’s prayer book, and the musical accompaniment of the services by an organ. By the mid-1850s, under the stewardship of Rev. Louis Naumburg (1813-1902), it had formally affiliated with the Reform movement, becoming the first synagogue in Philadelphia to do so.
The present lot is a small German-language hymnal, published by the synagogue (the congregation would only begin transitioning to English in 1887), containing songs to be sung on various occasions, including holidays like Rosh Hashanah (pp. 10-13), Yom Kippur (pp. 13-15), Sukkot (pp. 15-16), Shemini Atseret (pp. 16-17), Passover (pp. 17-18), Shavuot (pp. 18-19), and the Sabbath (pp. 20-21), as well as at lifecycle events like weddings (p. 26) and confirmation ceremonies (p. 27). A number of psalms (or extracts from them) have also been translated into (generally rhymed) German poetry: 92 (pp. 21-22), 16 (pp. 22-23), 24 (pp. 23-24), 34 (pp. 24-25), 67 (p. 25), and 90 and 102 (pp. 25-26). These are supplemented by hymns on themes like religion (pp. 3-4), praise of God (pp. 4-5), honesty (pp. 5-6), trust in God (p. 6), and so on.
The text for this volume, one of the earliest Jewish hymnals published in the United States, seems to have been culled from previous sources, particularly the work of Joseph Johlson (1777-1851), a Reform Jewish teacher, theologian, and translator. The present copy appears to be one of only a small number that have survived to the present day.
Joseph Johlson, Shirei yeshurun = Israelitisches Gesangbuch: zur Andacht und zum Religionsunterricht (Frankfurt am Main: Andreäische Buchhandlung, 1829).
Kerry M. Olitzky, The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), 310-311.
Jakob J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe: The Liturgy of European Liberal and Reform Judaism (New York: World Union for Progressive Judaism, 1968), 2.
Robert Singerman, Judaica Americana: A Bibliography of Publications to 1900, vol. 1 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 274-275 (no. 1456).
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