Songs That Young Gershom Scholem May Have Heard: Jacob Beimel's Jüdische Melodieen, Jung Juda, and Jewish Musical Predicaments in Early Twentieth-Century Berlin
- Jewish Quarterly Review
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 110, Number 1, Winter 2020
- pp. 64-101
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Published in Berlin in 1911 and edited by the Eastern European cantor-composer-musicologist Jacob Beimel (1875–1944), JüdischeMelodieen [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 JüdischeMelodieen 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. JüdischeMelodieen 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.