Bet Tfila
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Dissertations at the Bet Tfila – Research Unit

Dissertations are supervised by the heads of the Bet Tfila – Research Unit. The following have been finished in recent years:


Katrin Keßler: "Rituelle Voraussetzungen für den Bau neuzeitlicher Synagogen in Zentraleuropa" [Ritual Premises for Early Modern Synagogue Design in Central Europe]

Religious services in Judaism differ not only from other religious communities, but also within the Jewish communities themselves. During the Diaspora the various cultures of the many host nations influenced the ancient Jewish liturgy leading to a differentiation in the forms of Jewish liturgy. The two main branches, the Ashkenazim and Sephardim, clearly reveal this differentiation. Sephardic , (Sefarad: meaning Spanish in Hebrew), refers to those Jews originating from the Iberian Peninsula or those who follow their rites. Ashkenazic, (Aschkenas: meaning German in Hebrew), refers to Jews of French and German extraction, many of whom were to immigrate to parts of eastern, middle and western Europe. Ashkenazic and Sephardic religious services differ, for example, in their manner of Prayer or order of the liturgical rites which, in turn, reflect upon the interiors of the Synagogues. The goal of this dissertation will be to document those differences and to research their influence upon the architectonic form.

The dissertation is published as vol. 2 of Bet Tfila's Publications at the Michael Imhof Verlag.



Ulrich Knufinke: "Bauwerke jüdischer Friedhöfe in Deutschland. Lösungen einer Bauaufgabe zwischen Historismus und Moderne" [Buildings on Jewish Cemeteries in Germany. Architectural Designs Between Historicism and Modernity]

Neither have Jewish cemetery buildings in Germany been systematically documented nor has their historical and cultural significance been researched. These buildings are often all that remains of the Jewish communities after the radical destruction or alteration of the German synagogues after 1938. The buildings also reflect the alternatives for architectural expression open to the Jewish community within an often hostile environment. The remarkable design solutions, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, resulted from the ritual and hygienic requirements of the community, combined with their representational wishes as clients and the design ideas of the architect. It is their development, beginning in the 18th century, that will be documented, and illustrated in a catalogue of all the Jewish cemetery buildings in Germany. The relationship between the development of the architectural styles of the period and the search for an architectural expression specific to the Jewish community, a much discussed position at that time, will be assessed in an analysis of significant buildings.

The dissertation is published as vol. 2 of Bet Tfila's Publications at theMichael Imhof Verlag.



Simon Paulus: "Mittelalterliche Synagogen der Aschkenasim – Typologie und Verbreitung" [Medieval Ashkenazi Synagogues – Typology and Dissemination]

Proceeding from Richard Krautheimers fundamental work "Mittelalterliche Synagogen" (Berlin 1926), this research project will be devoted to the first comprehensive documentation, research, and cataloguing of all verifiable Medieval Ashkenazic synagogues. These buildings will be placed within the context of Romanesque and Gothic and of sacral and secular architecture. The regions to which this research will be limited are the settlements of the Ashkenazic Jews which correspond to the complete Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its neighbouring regions to the east. The time period covered will start with the earliest evidence of Jewish Medieval culture in those central areas of Ashkenazic settlement, namely the Roman Colonial settlements along the Rhine through to the limitations upon their cultural advancement brought about by the waves of persecution during the late Middle Ages and early Modern Times. Besides the documentation and cataloguing of synagogues, the research will focus on formulating a typology for synagogues. This is especially important for the typology of single and double naved hall synagogues and will aid in placing synagogues within the body of Gothic and Romanesque architecture in general. Thus this research will result in a thorough survey of synagogues within the Medieval Ashkenzic tradition in Europe which will serve to illustrate a typology resulting from the varied internal and external restrictions that lead to an extremely interesting branch of Medieval architecture.

The dissertation is published as vol. 2 of Bet Tfila's Publications at the Michael Imhof Verlag.



Tobias Lamey: "Die Steinsynagogen in Polen-Litauen im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert – Architekturen jüdischer Versammlungen" [Masonry Synagogues in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th and 17th Centuries – Jewish Congregational Architecture]

From the 16th to the early 17th Century an exceptionally varied and new architectural programme for synagogues developed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This architectural programme resulted in diverse building types in terms of size, structural characteristics and interior organisation. In reaction to the building codes of the state and the requirements of the church, Christian architects and Jewish patrons developed and erected "Jewish Congregational Houses" called 'beth ha-knesseth'. When compared to other countries, the generous political autonomy that the Jews within the area of Poland and Lithuania enjoyed influenced the general climate, becoming then the most important cultural centre in the Diaspora besides Safed in Palestine. This dissertation will explore the development of selected examples of architecture. On the one hand, the architectural elements and characteristics of these structures will be examined in order to illustrate their development. The results will then be set within the historical context of architecture. On the other hand, the general historical and religious background will be studied in order to compare the patron's viewpoint with the actual architecture. The hypothesis put forward is that here, for the first time, Jewish clients exerted a high degree of influence upon the architectural design. This touches, in particular, the development of the interior with its so-called central four-pier tabernacle.

This dissertation is available online at the Digital Library of the Braunschweig University Library.



Heidi Vormann: "Synagogen in Mecklenburg – Eine baupflegerische Untersuchung" [Synagogues in Mecklenburg – A Survey in the Field of Preservation of Monuments]

The Jewish ritual life in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was once lived in the synagogues and prayer halls of the small rural townscapes of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern. Of the synagogues and prayer halls that existed in many provincial settlements here before 1933, only some 13 are preserved today. They are situated in the towns of Boizenburg, Bützow , Crivitz, Dargun, Demmin , Goldberg, Hagenow, Krakow am See, Neubukow, Plau am See, Röbel, Stavenhagen, and Tessin. Some of the former synagogues are used as dwellings today or serve Christian communities as place of worship, others are lying in ruins or are deliberatly negleted.

Asking today's posessors for permission to document the former synagogue buildings and their basic fabrics, the author obtained permission to work on nine of them. In the course of the documentation work, over 70 architectural plans have been drawn up, which describe the actual state of the buildings. It needs to be mentioned that more than the half of the former synagogues are presently in use in profane way and could only be documented nondestructively, i.e. without sections, boreholes, excavations, etc.

For better comparison, the author chose the synagogues in Boizenburg, Dargun, Hagenow, Krakow am See, Plau am See, and Stavenhagen for her dissertation.The Jewish community buildings, the mikva'ot, as well as the Jewish cemeteries were also documented where preserved.

This dissertation is availableonline at the Digital Library of the Braunschweig University Library.