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.
consideration than it has been credited for thus
far. The changes in religious policy should be attributed, I argue, more
to changes in the lay leadership than changes in the Chief Rabbinate
itself. I suggest that there were important changes in the religious complexion of the community, but the Chief Rabbis were beneﬁciaries of
that change, rather than part of it – that is, they did not become inclined
to greater stringency, but rather it became possible to implement the
stringencies they favoured.
I begin my study with NathanMarcusAdler, Chief Rabbi from
asking for tolerance and
equal rights, but it seemed that they did not practise toleration themselves. This would have profound implications for the ﬁrst of the Chief
Rabbis we will consider in detail, NathanMarcusAdler.
Hirschell died on 31 October 1842.49 The lay leaders who sought his
replacement were informed by the changes in the community and
by the West London affair. An acculturated community searching for
acceptance and Emancipation would not ﬁnd a rabbi of the mould of
Moses Sofer satisfactory. They looked for a new type of rabbi – with
Jewish learning, but