Simo Muir's paper at the 'Magnified and sanctified: music of Jewish prayer' conference in Leeds, 2016
|Date||18th June 2015|
The Jewish community of Finland has histrorically been one of the “new” formations as a result of the army recruitment policy of Imperial Russia. The Jews came mostly from the north-eastern provinces of the Pale of Settlement and brought with them their language and customs which by time in many ways formed into a unique Finnish-Jewish tradition. This tradition was able to continue without disruption, as the Jewish community of Finland is one of the few Eastern-European communities that survived intact during the Second World War. There are a growing number of studies of political, economic, social and cultural history of the Jewish community of Finland but by now no one has paid any attention to the liturgical traditions in the Jewish communities.
During a fieldwork trip to Finland in March 2015 I interviewed members of the Helsinki and Jewish community about their memories of the religious and liturgical practices in their congregations. Besides this, I collected documents related to cantors from Finnish Jewish Archives at the National Archives of Finland.
The aim of this paper is to draw an outline of the liturgical traditions in the two Jewish communities in the country based on the memories and perception of the informants. The emphasis is also on how the practices and melodies have changed with time especially with growing immigration from Israel. The study attempts to answer the question: can we talk about a specific Finnish Jewish liturgical tradition and what are its characteristics? The observations in the paper will serve as a starting point and basis for later fieldwork and recording of liturgical melodies in Finland.
Image: Picture of the bimah in the synagogue of Helsinki (Finnish Jewish Archives, National Archives of Finland).