Samson Raphael Hirsch removed Kol Nidre from the Yom Kippur service one year, in hopes of minimizing anti-semitic rhetoric surrounding the prayer and the belief that it authorized Jews to behave immorally in business. He immediately decided this was a mistake and brought it back the following year, but it's fascinating to me what the boundaries of 'reform' were in the mid 19th century and how they're different from what contemporary Orthodoxy considers legitimate as topic of potential halachic reform. It's unthinkable that an Orthodox figure today would contemplate removing such a central prayer from the Yom Kippur liturgy. On the other hand, there are things we do today in a Modern Orthodox synagogue in terms of approach to texts and scholarship, not to mention womens' involvement, that Rav Hirsch would have found unthinkable.
Even more striking is the story of early 19th century Saxe-Weimar, which sought to encourage Reform Judaism for various political reasons. For a fifteen year period from the late 1830s to about 1850, they forbid prayer in Hebrew- to the delight of the most radical Jewish reformers and the agony of the rest of the Jewish community. Which reads to me as the Chanukah story in miniature. I think I mentioned in my last post on the book that Meyer's position seems to be that the story of the rise of Reform Judaism is inextricable from the story of Jewish emancipation in Western Europe, and large parts of Western European Jewry existed in a sort of suspended half-emancipated state in the early 19th century where religious reforms were newly possible, but they represented an actual zero-sum game because they were dependent on state support. Berlin had a single synagogue for its 3000 Jews, and it was actually illegal to have an alternate house of worship, so when the traditionalists were ascendant the reformers had to have secret illegal prayer services and when the reformers were ascendant the same was true for the traditionalists. And mind you, both were competing against the third option- Jews who didn't care about religion either way and if it got too hard would happily convert to Christianity for the economic benefits, which of course was the state's plan all along. It seems like after the 1848's pan-European upheaval, political conditions improved enough that Orthodoxy and Reform could uneasily coexist, and that's when the denominational split as we know it today more or less began.
I've read before more social-history-oriented accounts of the battles between Orthodox and Reform, but they tended to be at such a localized level that I hadn't understood the consequences of these battles in their greater context. Still, I find myself wishing for more of the social history kind of stuff than Meyer is interested in providing. He discusses polemics back and forth about decorum during prayer services- typically the Reformers favored a more orderly, Christian-style prayer service and the Orthodox a more unruly, chaotic prayer, or so I'm given to understand, but he doesn't supply a lot in the way of details about the actual experiential differences. A contemporary Orthodox shul is more likely to have a lay chazan, and to have different people praying at different volumes and different paces at the same time as the chazan, but it does not strike me as the kind of chaos that would spur the Reformers' outrage- I can't tell if this is because I am used to it, or if it's because contemporary Orthodox prayers have also gotten more orderly as a response to popular preference in the past two centuries.