The Jewish creative orientation of composer and organist Herman Berlinski (1910-2001) represents a fertile synthesis. His Jewish roots were fundamentally eastern European, but he also acquired and adopted the cultural perspectives—and especially musical affinities—of German Jewry; his Paris studies added 20th-century French as well as international influences; and eventually he emerged as a thoroughly American composer and an ardent advocate of artistic innovations in the American Synagogue.
Berlinski came to the US in 1941, and his first fruitful contact was Moshe Rudinov, cantor of the nationally prestigious Reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El in New York. Soon he was deeply involved with an influential group of Jewish musicians. Joseph Yasser, the acclaimed musicologist was also a synagogue organist, suggested that he study organ and offered to teach him. Thus Berlinski, soon to establish an international reputation as a classical organist, began his study of the instrument as late as 1951. He eventually became a virtuoso performer and an active member of the American Guild of Organists. He commenced graduate studies in Jewish music at the Jewish Theological Seminary in the early 1950s. In 1963 he became music director of the prestigious Washington Hebrew Congregation, where it became a center for the finest Jewish sacred music. .
Berlinski was a prolific composer, and there is always some "stamp of his Jewish existence" in his music. His synagogue works, no matter how bold or progressive the harmonic language or general approach, are all skillfully crafted around nuclei of traditional liturgical melos. And despite his penchant for a kind of post-Bartók chromaticism, the flowing freedom as well as modality of cantorial chant is usually discernible.