Nusach Ashkenaz

Nusach Ashkenaz is a style of Jewish religious service conducted by Ashkenazi Jews, originating from Central and Western Europe.

It is primarily a way to order and include prayers, and differs from Nusach Sefard (as used by the Hasidim), and still more from the Sephardic rite proper, in the placement and presence of certain prayers.[1]


Nusach Ashkenaz may be subdivided into the German or Western branch ("Minhag Ashkenaz"), used in Western and Central Europe, and the Polish/Lithuanian or Eastern branch ("Minhag Polin"), used in Eastern Europe, the United States and by some Israeli Ashkenazim, particularly those who identify as "Lithuanian". There are a number of minor differences between the Israeli and American Ashkenazi practice, in that the Israeli practice follows some practices of the Vilna Gaon.

In strictness, the term "Minhag Ashkenaz" applied only to the usages of German Jews south and west of the Elbe, such as the community of Frankfurt am Main. North-Eastern German communities such as Hamburg regarded themselves as following "Minhag Polin", though their musical tradition and pronunciation of Hebrew, and some of the traditions about the prayers included, were more reminiscent of the western communities than of Poland proper.

The ritual of the United Kingdom ("Minhag Anglia") is based on that of Hamburg and presents the same hybrid character.[2] See Singer's Siddur.


Leopold Zunz claimed that the Ashkenazi rite is descended from the ancient rite of Eretz Yisrael, while the Sephardi rite is descended from Babylonia.[3] Haham Moses Gaster, in his introduction to the prayer book of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews,[4] made exactly the opposite claim. To put the matter into perspective it must be emphasized that all Jewish liturgies in use in the world today are in substance Babylonian, with a small number of Palestinian usages surviving the process of standardization: in a list of differences preserved from the time of the Geonim, most of the usages recorded as Palestinian are now obsolete.[5]

The community of Byzantine Jews of southern Italy produced such prominent works like the Sefer Yosippon, the Sefer Ahimaaz of Ahimaaz ben Paltiel, the Sefer Hachmoni of Shabbethai Donnolo, the Aggadath Bereshit and many Piyyutim.[6][7][8][9][10] The liturgical writings of these Romaniote Jews, especially the piyyut were eminent for the development of the Ashkenazi Mahzor, as they found their way through Italy to Ashkenaz and are preserved to this day in the most ashkenazi mahzorim.[11]

The earliest recorded form of the Ashkenazi rite, in the broadest sense, may be found in an early medieval prayer book called Machzor Vitry. This however, like the Siddur Rashi of a century later, records the Old French rite rather than the Ashkenazi (German) rite proper, though the differences are small: the Old French rite survives today only in the form of certain usages of the Appam community of North-West Italy. Both the Old French and the Ashkenazi rites have a loose family resemblance to other ancient European rites such as the Italian, Romaniote and Provençal rites, and to a lesser extent to the Catalonian and Old Spanish rites: the current Sephardic rite has since been standardized to conform with the rulings of the Geonim, thereby showing some degree of convergence with the Babylonian and North African rites.

Medieval Ashkenazi scholars stated that the Ashkenazi rite is largely derived from the Seder Rav Amram Gaon and minor Talmudic tractate Massechet Soferim. This may be true, but does not support a claim of Babylonian origin as argued by Haham Gaster: as pointed out by Louis Ginzberg[12] the Seder Rav Amram Gaon had itself been heavily edited to reflect the Old Spanish rite. The Ashkenazi rite also contains a quantity of early liturgical poetry from Eretz Yisrael that has been eliminated from other rites, and this fact was the main support for Zunz's theory.

Ashkenazi usages

See also


  1. Lowenstein, Steven M. (2000). The Jewish cultural tapestry: international Jewish folk traditions. Oxford University Press. p. 270. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  2. Prager, The Early Years of London’s Ashkenazi Community
  3. Leopold Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, historisch entwickelt, Frankfurt am Main 1892
  4. Preface to the Book of Prayer of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London, 1901: reprinted in 1965 and subsequent editions.
  5. Lewin, B. M., Otzar Ḥilluf Minhagim.
  6. Magdalino, P. and Mavroudi, M. "The Occult Sciences in Byzantium", p. 293, 2006
  7. Kohen, E. "History of the Byzantine Jews: A Microcosmos in the Thousand Year Empire", p. 91, 2007
  8. Dönitz, S. "Historiography among Byzantine Jews: The case of Sefer Yosippon",
  9. Bowman, S. Jewish Responses to Byzantine Polemics from the Ninth through the Eleventh Centuries, 2010
  10. Howell, H. and Rogers, Z. A Companion to Josephus, 2016
  11. Bowman, S. "Jews of Byzantium", p. 153 Cf. Hebrew Studies by Yonah David, Shirei Zebadiah (Jerusalem 1972), Shirei Amitai (Jerusalem, 1975) and Shirei Elya bar Schemaya (New York and Jerusalem 1977); and the material in the Chronicle of Ahima'az.
  12. Geonica.


External links

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