Hallel v’Zimra: Jewish Liturgical Music, Present and Future

The University of Chicago Divinity School, The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood,  and The Mervis Chair in Jewish Culture at Indiana University are pleased to announce the conference "Hallel v’Zimra: Jewish Liturgical Music, Present and Future," to be held at The University of Chicago on Sunday and Monday, March 10-11, 2019. 

Music and liturgy hold a rich and often complex relationship in Jewish life.

Each seeks to reflect the values and needs of contemporary Jewish religious communities.  Each relies on the other to deepen its own connection to ideas of tradition.  Each has developed its own specialists and fields of study.   And each stands at the center of debates about enriching the Jewish present and preserving the Jewish future.

Music faces its own set of opportunities and challenges in this relationship as an active mediator of prayer, a source of emotional connection, and a reflection of community.  The music we choose for prayer, and the reasons for choosing it, can reflect different priorities, stages of life, schools of thought, and ideas about community.

This conference will bring together scholars, cantors, and other prayer leaders and musicians who explore and/or perform Jewish liturgical music, combining academic inquiry with professional and personal experience.

Formats can include panel discussions, demonstrations, workshops, and different types of break-out sessions.  We will focus on North America and Israel, and on the musical “conversations” that take place (or might productively take place) between them.


Call for Papers

We are seeking papers and/or workshop proposals on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • How can we frame the relationship of music to liturgy and ritual?
  • How does music define the boundaries of liturgy, and conversely, how does liturgy define the boundaries of what we can call music?
  • What do we exclude when discussing Jewish liturgical music?
  • Many congregations are experimenting by adding instrumental music, or using non-traditional musical forms or styles, in the hope that this will make worship more compelling, impactful, and attractive.  Are such experiments succeeding?  What criteria should we apply in evaluating the success or failure of these experiments?
  • How can we move between models of diverse Jewish liturgical musical practice and claims of Jewish liturgical music “tradition”?
  • What new methods can we use for collecting and analyzing data regarding, and thinking about, contemporary liturgical music?

Formal academic papers are not required.  Proposals should be rich in content but accessible to a lay audience.  Interested scholars should submit a 400-word abstract and CV to eric.caplan@mcgill.ca by November 15, 2018. 

Presenters will receive a modest honorarium and will have their travel costs covered and lodging provided.  For additional information, please contact Dan Cedarbaum (dan@kaplancenter.org).

Persons with a disability who need an accomodation to attend a Divinity School event, please call Sandra Peppers in advance: 773-702-8219.