Britain's Chief Rabbis were attempting to respond to the new religious climate, and deployed a variety of tactics to achieve their aims. This book presents a radical new interpretation of Britain's Chief Rabbis from Nathan Adler to Immanuel Jakobovits. It examines the theologies of the Chief Rabbis and seeks to reveal and explain their impact on the religious life of Anglo-Jewry. The book begins with the study of Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi from 1845, and it then explores how in 1880 Hermann Adler became Delegate Chief Rabbi on his father's semi-retirement to Brighton. 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. The book argues that the Chief Rabbis' response to modernity should be viewed in the context of Jewish religious responses that emerged following the Enlightenment and Emancipation. It sketches out a possible typology of those responses, so that Chief Rabbis can be placed in that context. Chief Rabbis were members of the acknowledgement school, which contained a number of different theological currents: romantic, scientific, aesthetic and nostalgic. Hermann Adler was the Chief Rabbi during his time, and his religious policies were to a great extent motivated by his religious ideas. Joseph Herman Hertz's theology placed him in the traditional group within the acknowledgement school, although he was influenced by its scientific, romantic and aesthetic branches.

Benjamin J. Elton

Hermann Adler operated in a post-Enlightenment and post-Emancipation context, in which affiliation to the Jewish community was voluntary. This chapter examines the new methods Adler had to employ to achieve his aims. He used his powers as ecclesiastical authority for the United Synagogue to impose discipline, and worked to extend and deepen his religious authority, as part of a policy of religious centralism that has come to be known as Adlerism. Michael Friedlander was a typical traditionalist Wissenschaft scholar. He was thus, like Adler, best understood as part of the scientific branch of the acknowledgement school. When the Jewish Religious Union began to hold services, which Adler regarded as unacceptable, he condemned them in a sermon entitled The old paths. This continued Nathan Adler's policy. The French rabbinate officially enjoyed significant authority but in practice was severely constrained, and therefore conceded more than Adler did in Britain.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Benjamin J. Elton

The most significant event in Anglo-Jewish religious history in between 1945 and about 1970 was the Louis Jacobs Affair. This chapter argues that the idea of a move away from a period of tolerance and civility in Anglo-Jewish religious affairs was an invention of the Jewish Chronicle in the context of the Jacobs Affair. Todd M. Endelman argues that this tolerance and civility was indeed abandoned as 'the religious atmosphere shifted rightwards' because 'Anglo-Jewry's leaders were increasingly self-made businessmen of East European background. After the Second World War, Jacobs became assistant rabbi at the Golders Green Beth Hamedrash. This synagogue's ideology fits within the romantic wing of the acknowledgement school. Geoffrey Alderman argues that Jacobs' New London Synagogue is identical to pre-war United Synagogues, but that the United Synagogue's 'relentless move to the right' meant that Jacobs' brand of Judaism was out of place by the 1960s.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Abstract only
Benjamin J. Elton

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.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
A typology
Benjamin J. Elton

This chapter sketches out a typology of the Jewish religious responses, for placing the Chief Rabbis in that context. Peter Berger constructed a typology of general religious responses to modernity in the 1960s, based around two ideal types: 'accommodators', who believed that peace could be made between tradition and modernity, and 'resistors' who rejected modernity as wholly negative. For many years most Jewish communities lacked rabbis, which made rabbinic control difficult to impose when rabbis did arrive; hence the failure to establish a successful Chief Rabbi of New York in the late nineteenth century. In France and Britain, traditional religious leadership enjoyed the institutional allegiance of most Jews. The scientific group embraced Wissenschaft des Judentums as the best way to understand Jewish tradition and they sought to incorporate its methods and findings in their modes of study.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Benjamin J. Elton

Joseph Herman Hertz put his theology into practice in his communal religious policy, which was mostly concerned with halakhah and its implementation. Hertz's commitment to the world outside the Jewish community is evident from his appointment as professor of philosophy at the University of the Transvaal, and his anti-Boer political activity, which led briefly to his expulsion from the country. If Jews were seen to be enjoying the rights of citizenship without fulfilling their responsibilities to the state, the general population would come to resent them. The Chief Rabbis saw it as part of their responsibility to exhort their co-religionists to work for the benefit of wider society, and show the non-Jewish community that Jews were making a valuable contribution, and Hertz fulfilled this function. Hertz's powers came not only from the United Synagogue but also from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Abstract only
Benjamin J. Elton

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book presents an analysis of Britain's Chief Rabbis over the ninety years between 1880 and 1970, and the impact they made upon Anglo-Jewry's religious character. It begins with the study of Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi from 1845, and it then explores how in 1880 Hermann Adler became Delegate Chief Rabbi on his father's semi-retirement to Brighton. The book further examines the second Chief Rabbi, Joseph Herman Hertz, appointed in 1913, who held the office until he died in 1946. It also explores what Hertz meant by 'progressive conservatism' and assesses what Hertz's policies implied about his theology. The book finally examines Louis Jacobs Affair, and the election of Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi 1967-1991, and his early years in office.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Theology and theologians
Benjamin J. Elton

The Jewish Theological Seminary was on the traditional wing of the acknowledgement school with a special attachment to its scientific branch. It was founded by graduates of Breslau and Berlin, but there was a significant intellectual debt to Frankfurt. In practice, Chief Rabbis ideologies were a synthesis of the approach of the Wissenschaft des Judentums scholar Zachariah Frankel; the more traditional exponent of Wissenschaft, Esriel Hildesheimer, and the romantic, Torah im derekh erets philosophy of S.R. Hirsch. For Leopold Zunz, Wissenschaft des Judentums was a branch of the Classics, as he wrote: 'Wissenschaft needs first of all to emancipate itself from the theologians and raise itself to the level of historical understanding.' The social context of traditionalism became important, for traditionalist members of the acknowledgement were accepted as being traditional and as authentic representatives of Judaism by those who rejected as much of modernity as they could.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Benjamin J. Elton

This chapter argues that Hermann Adler's religious policies were motivated by his religious ideas. It utilizes the material to discern Adler's attitudes to the essential issues of Jewish belief, notably the Torah, Written and Oral, and the authority of Jewish Law (halakhah). The chapter looks at issues which were of great importance to Adler as a leader of emancipated Jewry in western Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The issues are the relationship between Jews and non-Jews and religions other than Judaism, the role of secular learning and modern methods in Jewish learning, and Zionism. Adler's theology was a fusion of highly traditional beliefs and scholarly methods, and a more modernised approach that included openness to non-Jewish culture, Wissenschaft des Judenums, and a Westernised aesthetic. Adler argued that British Jews were loyal only to Britain, thus disproving Goldwin Smith's contention and protecting the position of British Jews.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970
Benjamin J. Elton

Joseph Herman Hertz's theology placed him in the traditional group within the acknowledgement school although he was influenced by its scientific, romantic and aesthetic branches. This chapter examines Hertz's position on secular learning, non-Jews and non-Jewish religious movements, and on Jews and Jewish movements. It looks at how Zionism fitted into Hertz's theological outlook. The chapter establishes Hertz's religious attitudes, traces their origins, and identifies Hertz's religious and intellectual inspirations. It compares Hertz's views with those of Jewish religious leaders with different attitudes and also looks at how Hertz's approach can be seen as a reaction to those attitudes and as interventions in an ongoing debate within Judaism. The chapter argues that Hertz was a member of the group of traditionalists who wished to acknowledge what they considered to be the valuable aspects of modernity.

in Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the religious character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970