Historical context
in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
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Britain's Chief Rabbis were attempting to respond to the new religious climate, and deployed a variety of tactics to achieve their aims. To bring this more sharply into focus this chapter concentrates on the unique context of English Jewry. Rabbis could no longer expect automatic obedience; indeed, the bans they imposed upon the leaders of the Jewish Enlightenment, the maskilim, were ignored. In the view of historians, such as Todd M. Endelman, J. Frankel and S. J. Zipperstein, the source of the changes can be found in socio-economic developments, which might be grouped together under the term 'modernisation'. In the pre-modern era, and for a while after, rabbis saw themselves and were seen as the heirs of the rabbinic tradition, whose role first and foremost was to rule on matters of religious law.

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