This is kind of a music question, and kind of a Judaism question. Several years ago, when I was assistant director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, I sang with a men's chorus on the Arnold Schoenberg work A Survivor From Warsaw. Part of my responsibility (apart from learning a very difficult 18 bars of music) was teaching this completely Gentile choir the pronunciation of the Shema (I am not Jewish, but the task fell on me anyway). The thing is, Schoenberg specifically indicates in the score that it should be pronounced with Ashkenazic Hebrew, rather than Sephardic Hebrew. So, even though some of us had sung some Hebrew before, we had to re-learn it for this piece. Why do you suppose Schoenberg specified Ashkenazic pronunciation? (The piece was written and premiered in America, where Sephardic pronunciation seems to be dominant.)


  • Welcome to MiYodeya Cory. Interesting question but I'm not sure it is in scope of this site, which is about Judaism. Why a composer chose a certain accent is more of a music question than a Jewish question. Hope to see you around no matter what ! – mbloch Feb 24 '18 at 16:40
  • Some of context (summary of the play) or a link thereto may help people answer the question. – msh210 Feb 24 '18 at 18:33

Mr. Shoenberg most likely specified Ashkenazic pronunciation of the Hebrew because until the Holocaust, Poland/Lithuania/Eastern Europe was the center of the Ashkenazim Jewish population, and he wanted accuracy in that detail. There's lots more info in the Jewish Virtual Library's and Wikipedia's entries on Ashkenazi Jews.

  • Oh, of course! That makes sense. Jews in the concentration camps (which is what the work describes) would likely have recited the Shema in Ashkenazic Hebrew. I didn't think of that, as I should have! – Cory Howell Feb 25 '18 at 0:20

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