Cantors, Controversy, & Compassion: Searching for God in Musical Complexity

Date: Apr 15, 2021 - Apr 15, 2021

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Sponsor: The Library

Location: Online

Category: Library Events


An online discussion with Cantor Matthew Austerklein

Thursday, April 15, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. ET

This series is co-sponsored by The JTS Library and the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

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What are the spiritual possibilities of music? Five-hundred years ago, rabbis, cantors and Jewish musicians began to explore this question in dramatic new ways. Extended niggunim, orchestras to welcome the Sabbath bride, meshorerim (musical assistants to the cantor), new Hebrew treatises on music, and the borrowing of European musical technique and style contributed to this experimental climate in the synagogues of early modern Europe. But these changes also incited concern and anger from traditionalists, who worried that musical complexity would compromise the halachic and spiritual integrity of authentic prayer.

Cantor Matthew Austerklein will discuss these early Jewish worship wars. He will examine the fiery critics of cantorial practice, emerging music theologians, and experimental cantors alike, as well as uncover illustrations, manuscripts, and musical notation from this momentous era of cantorial innovation. Many of these sources are held in the Rare Book Room of The JTS Library.


Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS, will serve as moderator.

About Cantor Matthew Austerklein

JTS alum Cantor Matthew Austerklein (CS) is the Hazzan of Beth El Congregation in Akron, Ohio. He is a PhD Candidate in Jewish Studies at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (Halle, GER).