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Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity: Continuity and Fragmentation

Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity: Continuity and Fragmentation



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"Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity is a must for anyone who wants to more closely examine the relationship between culture, religion, and its music."
--Midwest Book Review

"Cantor Sharlin possesses a remarkable understanding of the Jewish musical tradition. He is a thinker and an intellectual whose insights will help shape your vision of what was, and what can still yet be.
--Cantor Nathan Lam Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles, and Dean of the Cantorial School, Academy for Jewish Religion, CA

"This fine book is most welcomed. William Sharlin is a living legend in the American Jewish community."
--Judy Aronson, Professor of Jewish Education, Academy for Jewish Religion, Los Angeles, CA

Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity explores complex issues of religious pluralism and the preservation of Jewish identity in the context of American culture today, drawing on the perspective of the Cantor’s office. Featured among other entries are the collected writings of Cantor William Sharlin, well-known and influential scholar, cantor, composer of synagogue music, and former professor at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles. Now cantor emeritus at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where he has served since 1954, Cantor Sharlin is a link between the traditions of the past and the transformations of the present, and a long-time observer of music’s role as both preserver and innovator of Jewish worship. The essays presented here are sure to engage readers interested in the place of music in religion, and those concerned with the state of religion in the post-modern world.

That which has been written about Jewish sacred music is primarily descriptive, largely unconcerned with the impact of the changing nature of synagogue song on Jewish religion and identity. Indeed, for all that has been written about the Americanization of Judaism—from ritual changes to the emphasis on social ethics—critical analysis of developments in synagogue music has been largely ignored. This volume presents a much-needed social-theoretical approach to Jewish sacred music in the post-modern synagogue, and concludes that music, far more than an aid to ritual, is a prime indicator of the state of American Judaism today, and will play a crucial role in its future transformation.

Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity will appeal to Jewish professionals—cantors, rabbis, and educators—as well as those interested in the broader fields of Jewish studies, contemporary religion, musicology, and American religious diversity. This book is a useful text in courses on Judaism, American religion, and sacred music. It provides a unique perspective on the state of American Judaism through the eyes of the cantorate. Rather than a historical survey of Jewish sacred music in America—a topic discussed in other volumes—this book presents the insights and personal philosophies of cantors working in the contemporary synagogue. In addition, its substantial glossary amounts to a primer in Judaism, making this book useful even for those unfamiliar with the Jewish religion.

Can Music Be Understood as a “Signal of Transcendence”?

Part I
Jewish Sacred Music
Chapter 1
A Philosophy of Jewish Sacred Music
Chapter 2
Congregational Singing Past and Present

Part II
Cantor William Sharlin: The Making of a Cantorial Mind
Chapter 3
An Autobiographical Sketch
Chapter 4
A Conversation with Cantor William Sharlin

Part III
A Symphony of Cantorial Life: The Notes and Reflections of Cantor William Sharlin
Chapter 5
Set One: Continuity and Fragmentation
Chapter 6
Set Two: Preservation and Innovation
Chapter 7
Set Three: Sacred and Secular
Chapter 8
Set Four: Past and Future