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Demarcation and Cooperation: Jewish Cantors in Shanghai Exile

November 16, 2022 @ 6:00 pm EST

Dr. Sophie Fetthauer is a scholar of musicology from the University of Hamburg, Germany, who has researched and authored numerous publications on music and musical life in the Third Reich with a special focus on Jewish musicians in exile in Shanghai during World War II.


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As part of the University of Delaware’s Shanghai Sonatas Educational Residency, Dr. Fetthauer will share her research through a series of multimedia presentations in November 2022 that will highlight various aspects of life in the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto through the lens of music. The lectures, which will be supplemented by illustrations and musical examples, will each last 60 minutes, plus 30 minutes of discussion. Topics will include options of integration for popular musicians in Shanghai Exile; the Jewish refugees’ relationship to “Chinese Music;” and Jewish Cantors in Shanghai.

On Wednesday, November 16, at 6:00 P.M., The Delaware Historical Society will host Demarcation and Cooperation: Jewish Cantors in Shanghai Exile. In this presentation, Dr. Fetthauer will focus on the unique situation encountered by Jewish cantors exiled in Shanghai as clergymen and musicians alike. Since relatively many cantors – almost 40 – had fled to Shanghai, competition among them was relatively high. There was also the problem that they mostly belonged to the Liberal or Conservative direction of Judaism, while the long-established Baghdadi-Sephardic or Russian-Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Shanghai were more orthodox in orientation. Thus, there were few opportunities for integration. What no one had foreseen, however, was that the Jewish refugee community itself would provide job opportunities for the cantors. The lecture will focus on the role of the cantors in building a new community life and how they organized themselves in their professional organization, the Association of Jewish Precentors, which functioned in part as a professional cooperative. The focus thus is on strategies of demarcation rather than on adaptation to the conditions, which can also be seen in the musical repertoires of the cantors in synagogue and concert.


Delaware History Museum and Mitchell Center for African American Heritage
504 N Market Street
Wilmington, DE 19801 United States
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(302) 655-7161


Delaware Historical Society
University of Delaware