A. J. Davis was the organist at Temple Emanu-El in New York during the 1880s, preceding Max Spicker. Like many organists in Reform synagogues, Davis became motivated to add to the repertoire by composing settings of his own. In 1887 he and Rabbi Dr. Gustav Gottheil (1827–1903), the rabbi at Temple Emanu-El from 1875 until 1899, jointly published a new hymnal, Music to Hymns and Anthems for Jewish Worship (Part I). This was intended to supplement the hymnal Rabbi Gottheil had prepared for Emanu-El a year earlier, for which Davis had been the music editor as well. The 1886 collection featured many hymn adaptations with serious literary texts, translations, or paraphrases—such as those by Emma Lazarus—and was especially geared to school use. The 1887 joint publication had a preponderance of hymns drawn from tunes by such Christian composers as Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wesley, Hopkins, Davies, and Barnby. Simon Hecht, who served a synagogue pulpit in Evansville, Indiana (and edited a hymnal of his own), was one of the few Jewish composers represented. In 1898 Davis published his Evening Service for the Synagogue According to the Union Prayer Book.
By: Neil W. Levin