Songs that young Gershom Scholem may have heard: Jacob Beimel's Jüdische Melodieen, Jung Juda, and Jewish musical predicaments in early twentieth-century Berlin

Edwin Seroussi, Meir Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Published in Berlin in 1911 and edited by the Eastern European cantor-composer-musicologist Jacob Beimel (1875–1944), Jüdische Melodieen [sic] is a songster containing music for forty-five songs in German, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Hungarian by a diverse array of composers and poets. It was intended as a musical companion to the Vereinsliederbuchfür Jung-Juda (first published in 1901 without music), the songster of the Zionist-leaning youth movement Jung Juda with which Gershom Scholem sympathized for a period in his early youth. Taking Jüdische Melodieen both as a product of modern Jewish agency and as a reflection of how Jewish identities were performed in late Wilhelmine Germany, this essay explores a complex web of existential questioning regarding the past, present, and future of the Jews through a deep analysis of the songs and the human network they entailed. Jüdische Melodieen contains the earliest musical evidence of the momentous encounter between German and Eastern European Jewish songs with the repertoire stemming from the incipient Jewish settlement in Palestine. As such, it evinces a rooted Jewish identification with German values, aesthetics, and education, destabilized by growing antisemitism and forced alienation leading to the adoption of alternative models of Jewish modernity. The Eastern European option of a more authentic Jewishness and, more forcefully, Jewish nationalism and Hebraism emerges from the musical selections in JüdischeMelodieen as alternatives to the German Jewish social construct that was still prevalent in Berlin in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-101
Number of pages38
JournalThe Jewish Quarterly Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1798/12). Dr. Meir Stern was born in Berlin in 1923 and immigrated to Israel in 1938. An engineer by profession, he began a new career as a musicologist after his retirement, graduating with a Ph.D. in musicology from the Hebrew University in 2010 at the age of eighty-seven. His family was connected to the social circles and events studied in this essay, and he graciously agreed to assist me in the reading of the German texts, the identification of some figures mentioned in the essay, and musical analyses. I am also grateful to Prof. Paul Mendes-Flohr for reading an early version of this article and providing useful insights.

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Beimel, Jacob -- 1880-1944
  • Scholem, Gershom -- 1897-1982
  • Jung Juda (Prague)
  • Jews -- Germany -- Music
  • Jews -- Europe, Eastern -- Music
  • Zionism -- Songs and music -- History and criticism
  • Youth movements, Jewish
  • Germany -- History -- 1888-1918 -- Sources


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