Was Max Steiner a Jew?


  • Jonathan L. Friedmann Academy for Jewish Religion California




anti-Semitism, philo-Semitism, Holocaust, Jewish identity


Max Steiner is regularly identified as a “Jewish composer” despite his protests to the contrary. Others claim he had a crisis of Jewish identity: although he did not explicitly embrace his Jewish lineage, his allegiance was expressed through charitable giving and his score for A Symphony of Six Million (1932). Both assumptions deny Steiner the agency of self-definition. This paper seeks to differentiate between the passive category “Jew” and the active adjective “Jewish,” and between the social climates of Vienna and Hollywood, which informed Steiner’s self-understanding.

Author Biography

Jonathan L. Friedmann, Academy for Jewish Religion California

Jonathan L. Friedmann, Ph.D., is Professor of Jewish Music History and Associate Dean of the Master of Jewish Studies Program at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, Extraordinary Associate Professor of Theology at North-West University (NWU), South Africa, and a Research Fellow at NWU in Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications. He is also President of the Western States Jewish History Association, Director of the Jewish Museum of the American West, and the author or editor of twenty books, including Jews, Music and the American West: Portraits of Pioneers (2016) and A City Haphazard: Jewish Musicians in Los Angeles, 1887-–1927 (2017).


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How to Cite

Friedmann, J. L. . (2022). Was Max Steiner a Jew?. Journal of Film Music, 9(1-2), 94–106. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.20942

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