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

Chapter 10 The religious character of the Chief Rabbis and of Anglo-Jewry UR ANALYSIS OF the Chief Rabbis’ theologies and religious policies advances the understanding of the religious history of traditional Jewry in the modern period in two ways. First, we can make specific revisions to the current historiography on the Chief Rabbis, and on some other Jewish communities and their religious leaders. More importantly, our study allows us to help in the construction of a general typology of the Jewish religious response to modernity, which a number of scholars

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

Chapter 1 Introduction autobiography Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi 1967–91, described a visit he made to Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz, when Jakobovits was minister of the Brondesbury Synagogue. Jakobovits was experiencing difficulties and went to Hertz for advice. Hertz responded: ‘If you multiply your tsores [troubles] by a hundred, you will know what I am going through’.1 Jakobovits came to know exactly what Hertz meant, when he became Chief Rabbi himself, although whether Hertz’s reply was of much help at the time is a different matter. This anecdote highlights

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

Chapter 3 Jewish religious responses to modernity: a typology HIS 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, some of which I have already mentioned. I will sketch out a possible typology of those responses, so that we can place the Chief Rabbis in that context. This typology does not presume to be a final scheme, nor does it seek to deny the massive variety of responses, many of which it does not include explicitly. It merely

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

conditions of the time without compromising what they regarded as essential religious principle, an approach which created traditional communities that were larger but less intense.8 Britain’s Chief Rabbis were also attempting to respond to this new religious climate, and deployed a variety of tactics to achieve their aims. To bring this more sharply into focus we should turn to the unique context of English Jewry. The first Jews probably came to England with William the Conqueror. Over the next two centuries the community grew into a minor, if not wholly obscure, outpost

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

his religious integrity intact and where he had to stand firm. Before we examine particular instances we should restate a general point about the freedom of action available to Hertz and to the other Chief Rabbis since Nathan Adler. They operated in a post-Enlightenment and post-Emancipation context, where Jews could only be persuaded to affiliate; the age of religious coercion was over. As Hertz said himself, the only means of enforcing his will was ‘moral influence’ which could be either accepted or rejected.2 Hertz used various methods to pursue his agenda. First

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

Chapter 4 Intellectual context: theology and theologians that the Chief Rabbis were members of the acknowledgement school, which contained a number of different theological currents: romantic, scientific, aesthetic and nostalgic. The Chief Rabbis were primarily members of the scientific stream, although – as they took conservative positions on certain matters, particularly the authorship of the Pentateuch – they were members of its traditional wing. However, the Chief Rabbis also adopted ideas from the romantic stream and thereby inhabited theological ground

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

Chapter 9 From the Second World War to the Jacobs Affair in this book of the Chief Rabbis’ thought and policies from 1880 until 1945 enables us now to consider developments after that date in their proper context. Scholars have argued that there was a significant shift in the religious character of Anglo-Jewry between 1945 and about 1970, and we can examine whether that was indeed the case. The most significant event in Anglo-Jewish religious history in that period was the Jacobs Affair. It is around that controversy that most discussion is based, and I therefore

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

Chapter 6 The religious policy of Hermann Adler Adler’s theological position in theory, but we can only achieve a proper understanding of his religious position by examining how he operated as an active religious leader, dealing with the day-to-day management of a community. From the age of 25 until his death 48 years later Adler served the Jewish community: as Principal of Jews’ College (1864–65), minister of the Bayswater Synagogue (1865– 91), Delegate Chief Rabbi (1879–91) or Chief Rabbi (1891–1911). Adler attempted to uphold his principles in the face of

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

Chapter 5 The theology of Hermann Adler URING HIS TIME as Chief Rabbi, Hermann Adler significantly raised the status of his office among the non-Jewish public. He was the first Chief Rabbi to become a national figure, well known to the nonJewish as well as the Jewish community and the first to be honoured by the state and leading institutions.1 Yet since his death he has receded from both popular and scholarly attention. Those historians who make some mention of him generally take a poor view of the man and his achievements; for example, Geoffrey Alderman wrote of

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