Music, Spirit & Scholarship: The Legacy of Eduard Birnbaum - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

Music, Spirit & Scholarship: The Legacy of Eduard Birnbaum

Main Content
Monday, November 2, 1998

Music, Spirit & Scholarship: 
The Legacy of Eduard Birnbaum


November 22-23, 1998 - New York City

HUC-JIR to Award Newly-Established Honorary Doctorates to Distinguished Cantorial Alumni


Conference Schedule

Scholars, Presenters, and Composers

Registration Form



Music, Spirit & Scholarship: The Legacy of Eduard Birnbaum represents the first academic conference on new and ongoing research based on the rare primary documents in The Eduard Birnbaum Manuscripts Collection in Jewish Music. The Collection is preserved by Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion and is housed at HUC-JIR's Klau Library in Cincinnati, Ohio. The College-Institute is sponsoring this conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of its School of Sacred Music (SSM).

The musical and archival collection of musicologist, cantor, and collector Eduard Birnbaum (1855-1920) is a vast assemblage of original documentation of destroyed and almost forgotten traditions. The Birnbaum Collection preserves European synagogue music of the pre-Enlightenment, 19th and early 20th centuries, and reflects the secular and Christian liturgical music environments in which it developed. More than 65 percent of all extant documents related to Jewish liturgical music prior to 1850 can be found in the Collection.

This conference promotes new scholarly inquiry. New areas of research based on materials in the Collection, as well as the larger musical, intellectual, and historical context, will be presented. In addition, the contents of the Collection will be of interest to scholars in musicology, European history, and Judaic Studies. No recordings of the pre-1850 materials exist; therefore, live performances by School of Sacred Music students, alumni, and the Collegium Musicum of New York University will illustrate musically conference papers and bring this cultural heritage to life.

Academic papers presented at the conference will explore the early years of the Enlightenment and the historical context for the music Birnbaum collected; liturgical music of the era as an expression of cultural synthesis; and findings of new research and means of accessing unexplored primary documents. The legacy of the European based cantorial tradition will be discussed by scholars and practitioners in order to assess and understand the role of the cantor today. The conference will conclude with presentations that focus on the contributions of the SSM and its faculty. the school of sacred music

Located at the College-Institute's New York School, the School of Sacred Music is the oldest institution in America dedicated to educating cantors leaders of Jewish congregational prayer, composers of liturgical poetry and song, teachers, and communal leaders. Founded in 1948, the SSM preserves Jewish musical traditions nearly lost in the Holocaust and promotes the Jewish musical creativity that has flowered in the decades after World War II. The School of Sacred Music is the preeminent institution worldwide for educating cantors for the Reform Jewish community.





Academic conference, lecture-recitals, and concert of music from The Eduard Birnbaum Manuscripts Collection in Jewish Music

Concert premiere of new works

Colloquium on the role of the cantor today

Survey of the historical, academic, and musical contributions of the School of Sacred Music

Lectures by leading scholars for a general audience on the history of Jewish music

Exhibition of rare and illuminated manuscripts from The Birnbaum Collection (November 22, 1998 February 26, 1999)


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.