Menachem Mendel

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Synagogue Regulations from the Early Reform Movement

Steven M. Lowenstein, previously mentioned in this post, has examined the Synagogue Regulations, Synagogenordnungen, of the early Reform Movement in 19th century Germany. He has compared collections of 13 regulations from different synagogues, spanning the years 1810-1848. Lowenstein writes that,

A study of the concrete innovations introduced into German-Jewish communities during the 1840’s and earlier show that, despite the increase in Reform activity and the increased radicalization of both word and practice, the Reformers were still far from imposing their program on most communities. The most widespread innovations before 1850 were regular German sermons, confirmations, and choirs.

Another interesting note is that according to Heinrich Graetz, he was the one who gave Samson Raphael Hirsch the ideal to abolish Kol Nidre. Much of Lowenstein’s research is based upon what was published in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums which can be found here.

There are dozens of regulations, many relating to issues of decorum and what were considered to be folk beliefs and superstitions, and below are some of them.

1. No children under a certain age allowed in the synagogue-All of the regulations contain some age under which children shouldn’t be brought into the synagogue. The ages range from 4-9 years old. This seems to be related to an attempt to maintain a certain level of order in the synagogue.
2. No noisemaking during the reading of Megillat Esther-This was in most of the regulations, although primarily in the earlier ones.
3. No LOUD kissing of the tzizit-This was absent in all of those before 1838, and found in most of them hereafter.
4. Only the rabbi can correct mistakes in Torah reading-Found in most of the post-1838 regulations.
5. Only the cantor may lead services-Found in most of the post-1838 regulations.
6. Shir ha-Yihud not said on weekdays-Found in most of the post-1838 regulations.
7. Ba-me Madlikin not said-Absent from all of the pre-1838 regulations.
8. Women must have covered heads-Found only in the Munich regulations of 1826.
9. Choir instituted-Found in every regulation from 1838 onwards.
10. Unmarried girls permitted in synagogue-This is found in 4 of the 13 regulations. Does it mean that unmarried girls usually weren’t found, or maybe even permitted in the synagogue otherwise?


Steven M. Lowenstein, “The 1840s and the Creation of the German-Jewish Religious Reform Movement”, in The Mechanics of Change: Essays in the Social History of German Jewry, 1992. Also see Jacob Petuchowski’s Prayerbook Reform in Europe.

One Response to “Synagogue Regulations from the Early Reform Movement”

  1. 1
    Menachem Mendel:

    Uh-oh. I agree with all of the above except for the choir. I guess in those days it must have been quite a thrill.
    andy | 07.13.07 – 3:29 pm | #

    indeed, andy, i always wondered whether some of teh reform ideas acutally received approval from Orthodox rabbis. There is a passage in Minhas Kenaos by Maharatz Chajes where he praises teh Reform custom of reciting mourners kaddish in unison.
    Anonymous | 07.19.07 – 10:08 pm | #




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