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Looking Backward - Looking Forward. Presidential Address

Gustave Tuck

<plain_text><page sequence="1"></page><page sequence="2">looking backward?looking forward. 253 Looking Backward?Looking Forward. The Mocatta Library and Museum. By Gustave Tuck. Presidential Address delivered December 16, 1929. The first note struck by the President of a Society such as ours, on an occasion such as this, must be one of gratification ; no man can stand before the members of the Jewish Historical Society of England as the elected President without attempting to express his sense of pride in the honour. The joy of the exalted office to which you have elevated me is something difficult to express in words ; but the memory of your confidence and kindness is something that will abide with me as long as the power of memory will last. It is now a quarter of a century since my association with the Society first began ; these twenty-five years have been full of the happiest and most fruitful memories ; friendship and intimate contact with some of the greatest minds in Jewry have enabled me to realise the advantages that come to men who engage in the work for which we stand. My own particular work has not been literary ; as the Treasurer my task has been and is important; it has never been easy, for the years have seen steady growth in the work and ramifications of the Society, and finance has had to play its necessary part. But when the office of Treasurer brings its occupant in close association with literary men of eminence within and outside our own community, the labour, however great, is surrounded by a halo of pleasure and satisfaction which I am glad to recall. The place of the scholar is paramount in the life of this Society ; but the man of affairs has his function. The scholar conceives the idea ; he formulates the plan ; he projects the literary undertakings. If ideas and finance always moved on parallel lines the work of the</page><page sequence="3">254 LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. Treasurer would be simple ; it is the attempt to hold the balance justly that creates the problem. Anglo-Jewish history is a vast field, much of which still remains uncultivated. With all the work that has been done by the Society, the extent of the ground still to be investigated is very wide. Who knows what labourers may yet arise and what harvest may be garnered ? I have kept this before me in thinking of the subject of my Presidential Address. You will not expect from me a learned address on some abstruse subject, following the lines of my distinguished predecessors in this office. I cannot appear as a Lucien Wolf Tucked in my own literary garb ; the disguise would be detected. When I remember the names in the long roll of men, Jews and non-Jews, who have delivered Presidential Addresses, I prefer to tell of some of my experiences of the work of the Society, to put into words my knowledge of what it has achieved, and my faith in what it can still achieve. I call my subject: " The Jewish Historical Society?Looking Backward?Looking Forward/' Ours is the one learned Society in Anglo-Jewry with membership open to everybody, and with unlimited potentiality. For a trifling sum members have the advantages of public lectures, literature in permanent form, and the additional satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to promote research. The recognition of this last point by the community is worthy of emphasis. We are thirty-six years old, for the Jewish Historical Society of England actually came into existence in 1893. Its birth, however, was heralded as early as 1887, the year of the great Anglo-Jewish Exhibition at the Albert Hall, which gave such a stimulus to English Jews to investigate their history. Scholars and laymen alike contributed to this unique exhibition of Jewish genius ; art in all its forms was represented, while literature found its place in a remarkable series of addresses delivered by English and foreign scholars. Most of the promoters of that movement have passed beyond the veil; the names of the late Joseph Jacobs, Israel Abrahams, Frederick Mocatta, and Isidore Spielmann will always be gratefully remembered for their pioneer work and their ultimate success in effecting the creation of our Society. Of the stalwarts of those days Lucien Wolf, the real father of the Society, the Nestor of</page><page sequence="4">looking backward?looking forward. 255 its scholars, and its oft-repeated President, stands alone as a pioneer and a consistent worker throughout the years. The actual date of the foundation of the Jewish Historical Society was 1893. It had two primary objects : To discharge a duty to Anglo Jewry, who had the right to know its own history ; and to demonstrate to England the part played by Jews in her history. It is unnecessary to enumerate the various publications which we have issued. The area covered by the researches extends from the Norman Period to modern times. Our Society is not the exclusive province of a few scholars and experts, but the consulting-room of the newest recruit who seeks admission to the realm of scholarship. Our Transactions now number a dozen volumes ; we have sponsored the works of Lucien Wolf in connection with the Mission of Manasseh ben Israel, his Diplomatic History of the Jewish Question, and others ; we have published the labours of the late Mr. Henriques ; Mr. Rigg's Exchequer of the Jews ; and many other books. In addition to these there are famous works which owe their appearance to the Society ; books by Israel Abrahams, Dr. Hirsch, Nina Davis?to mention only some of those who are no longer with us. Living writers, too, figure in our publications. This is an important side of the activities of the Society. Among our authors are many non-Jews. In the work of un? ravelling the tangled skein of Anglo-Jewish history eminent specialists like Mr. Rigg, Canon Stokes, Mr. Trice Martin, and Mr. Hilary Jenkinson have done their share. While much of this literature is the peculiar province of the student, the Society has been mindful of its duty to the general public. The specialist has his place and his work ; scarcely less important is the populariser, the medium between research and the ordinary lay mind. We have tried to be " popular " in the best sense. True to its ideals the Society has striven to disseminate a knowledge of Jewish history amongst our own people and outside ; it has co-operated with London University in the promotion of courses of Extension Lectures ; at Toynbee Hall and in other places it has demonstrated the need and the value of such courses. And in this connection the Arthur Davis Lectures deserve to be mentioned. Here is the union of the learned and the popular. Since the establishment of this Foundation, scholars of the highest rank within and outside Jewry, and men of</page><page sequence="5">256 LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. distinction in various walks of life, have filled the office of lecturer or chairman. It is alike a tribute to the scholarship of Arthur Davis and a proof of the interest in Jewish learning when presented in attractive form. One of these gatherings I love to recall. It was in a true sense an historic occasion. The lecturer was Philip Guedalla; the chairman, Israel Zangwill ; the scene, the large hall of University College. It was in May 1925, when Mr. Lloyd George was still at the height of his popularity. It was announced that this distinguished statesman would come from the House of Commons to attend the meeting. An enormous crowd had assembled in eager anticipation. The brilliance of the lecturer and the scintillating quips of the chairman were memor? able enough ; but the real moment was when Mr. Lloyd George paid his remarkable tribute to the zeal and loyalty of Dr. Weizmann. He has on several occasions referred in public to the part played by the inventive genius of the great Zionist leader in promoting the success of the war ; but then for the first time did he reveal something of the inner history. He spoke of the selflessness of Dr. Weizmann and of his refusal to accept any payment for his services. One thing alone he asked?" A Home for his People." It was a moment of indescribable enthusiasm on the part of a vast audience of 1,200 people, who sat amazed at the revelation of the true character of this great Jew. I might dwell longer upon this theme, but I would be recounting facts which are fairly familiar. My object in reminding you of what has been done in this connection is to obtain a wider support. There are some who only think of the Jewish Historical Society in association with the famous banquets which have been held under its auspices, which have been graced by the presence of learned scholars and famous statesmen who have testified to the importance of our work. I would not minimise the value of such gatherings for the prosecution of our task. I now turn to another consideration which involves the retelling of a chapter of our history. It is the story of the Mocatta Library and Museum, our centre in University College. The events that led up to our settlement in University College may not be generally known. Frederick Mocatta, the great philanthropist, spread his benefactions over a wide area ; his influence extended to everything Jewish, whether charitable or educational. He was connected with the Exhibition of</page><page sequence="6">LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. 257 1887, to which reference has already been made ; he helped to found this Society and filled the Presidential Chair for a term ; he remained its fast friend. He was a strong supporter of Jewish scholarship, a collector of books, and the possessor of a library of Judaica which he had assimilated. His love for articles of Jewish interest went beyond books, and he had collected from many sources objects of Jewish antiquity, the whole forming a valuable miscellany of Hebraic culture. When Frederick Mocatta died it was immediately felt that some permanent memorial of so good a man should be set up?a memorial which would embody the ideals for which he had striven. The result was the formation of the Mocatta Library and Museum, containing his books and items of Jewish art which he had bequeathed to the Jewish Historical Society. It was a labour of love gladly under? taken by members of Mr. Mocatta's family and his friends. I am happy to recall that I had the privilege at that time of assisting the late Sir Isidore Spielmann to collect a sum of ?2,700, which forms the endowment fund of the Library and Museum. Negotiations were entered into with University College, and through the good offices of Sir Isidore Spielmann and Sir Hermann Gollancz we were soon installed in our premises in this building, which we have enjoyed since 1905. So for a quarter of a century the link between our Society and University College has bound us together in terms of intimate friendship, and the association has proved beneficial to both parties. The Library has the advantage of the supervision of the College Librarian, who is at hand to assist students who wish to avail them? selves of this comprehensive array of books. The committee which controls the Library consists of six representatives appointed by the Jewish Historical Society and an equal number nominated by University College. This scheme of joint management has worked admirably all the time, and I feel it an honour to testify in his presence to the debt we owe Sir Gregory Foster, the Provost of University College, for the valued advice and services he has placed at the disposal of the Society. Sir Gregory contemplates retirement at an early date from the office of Provost, amid universal regret, which we Jews share with those associated with him in the labours of this college. The Jewish com? munity, both students and others, will long remember with gratitude his eminent labours for the welfare of the University, and his broad VOL. XII. S</page><page sequence="7">258 LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. minded toleration, in the spirit which has animated University College since its foundation. One other honoured name in connection with University College is that of Lord Meston. His presence here this evening testifies not alone to our friendship, of which I am proud, but to the interest he takes in the progress of our Society. University College is fortunate in counting him amongst its staunchest friends. Lord Meston's great powers of administration were for many years at the service of our Indian Empire, and since his return home he has been a consistent worker on behalf of education. I shall refer later on to the part he has played in a scheme designed to enhance the usefulness of the Mocatta Library. This Library has grown since the collection of Mr. Mocatta's books formed its nucleus. It has been enlarged in several ways. The annual interest from the Endowment Eund has enabled us to purchase from time to time books and pamphlets germane to the needs of such a library, while gifts of a similar kind have been donated by authors and friends. Sir Hermann Gollancz presented his valuable collection of Anglo-Judaica to the college a few years ago, and it is now housed in the Mocatta Library. When our ever-lamented friend and pillar of this Society, Israel Abrahams, passed away in 1925, his friends in London and Cambridge speedily initiated a movement to purchase his library; a quick and generous response to the appeal enabled the Mocatta Library to acquire the books on Anglo-Jewish history and kindred subjects, and they now repose on our shelves as a permanent memorial to this great scholar. I had the privilege of carrying out this work in association with the Rev. Ephraim Levine. These indi? vidual collections are placed in special cases, with distinctive reminders of the scholars concerned. Thus the original collection of 1905 has grown after twenty-five years to huge dimensions. And if we have admitted these individual libraries, we have established a precedent which may have to guide us in the future in the event of others wishing to imitate their example. We must therefore visualise the Library as continually growing, while even now the available space is inadequate for its purpose. The connection of the Jewish community with London University dates back to the early days of the foundation of University College, which was established a century ago at a time when the Universities</page><page sequence="8">LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. 259 of Oxford and Cambridge were strictly bound by the Articles of the Church of England. The battle for toleration affected Dissenters of all classes, including Jews. It is interesting to observe that among the far-sighted, broad-minded men responsible for the movement to open the doors to followers of every creed anxious to enjoy the benefits of University education were such leaders of Anglo-Jewry as Baron Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, Aaron Goldsmid, George Magnus, Abraham Lindo Mocatta, Moses Mocatta, and Baron Nathan Meyer Rothschild. We may say that the foundation of this college on a non-religious basis was one of the decisive stages of the march towards complete liberty which marked the progress of Jewry in the nineteenth century, and which culminated in the Act of 1858 by which Jews were enabled to sit in Parliament. The Jews' Commemoration Scholarship celebrates the return to Parliament of Baron Lionel de Rothschild. I have spoken of the inadequacy of the space available for the Mocatta Library with its own books and the others added to them. There is in addition the Museum with its many objects of great rarity, stored away in odd corners or in safes. Instead of a fitting building with glass cases we have a small room where everything has to be packed away and where nothing can be exhibited. It is true that there are in our community many private possessors of valuable collections who would like to loan their objects to the Mocatta Museum, but who are deterred from so doing by the lack of suitable means of displaying them. The authorities at University College are fully cog? nisant of this deficiency, and in many conversations with Sir Gregory Foster and Lord Meston the opinion has been expressed that some solution must be found to put an end to this unsatisfactory state of affairs. The solution is not far distant, as the following facts will show. Two years ago University College celebrated its centenary. An appeal was made for a large sum of money to effect necessary improve? ments in the college buildings and to endow chairs and scholarships. On this appeal committee are a number of men prominent in our own community who are anxious to further the proposed scheme for an enlargement of the Mocatta Library and Museum. Here is an extract from the appeal issued by University College : " The Mocatta Library has grown largely, and has in recent years been increased by the addition of the valuable Hermann Gollancz and Israel</page><page sequence="9">260 LOOKING BACKWARD?LOOKING FORWARD. Abrahams Libraries. A number of donors are prepared to present fine objects of Jewish interest to the Museum, but for lack of space these gifts cannot be properly accommodated. It is intended that larger and more suitable accommodation should be provided for the Mocatta Library and Museum, including a Lecture Theatre, which would be available for the meetings of the Jewish Historical Society, as part of the scheme of re? construction of certain parts of the college buildings." They have gone further than this. They have drawn up a plan showing what the Library and Museum would be like. I can conceive nothing that would shed greater lustre on Jewry than the completion of this scheme. We cannot ignore the fact that the impression prevails, sometimes with good reason, that we are a people too firmly wedded to material aims to recognise our obligations to the higher dictates of the Hebrew soul. While the calls of the body evoke a ready response, while the claims of charity in its material sense find a ready ear, our community is strangely apathetic to the appeal of the mind. The result is that scholarship and learning, and all connoted by these terms, seem to find themselves alone or as competitors with charity. Surely the real truth is to be found in the belief that the burden of a community is dual, to care for the soul as well as the body. When I thanked you on July 24 last for electing me to the office of President, I stated that I saw a vision of a building large enough and adequate to contain the Mocatta Library, the library of Hermann Gollancz, the library of Israel Abrahams, and the other additions which may come to us in days that lie ahead. I also saw the rise of a Museum with beautiful cases stored with unique objects of Jewish interest, set before the wondering eyes of interested visitors. I also saw a great Lecture Hall filled with men and women held enthralled by inspiring lectures. I am not ashamed to confess that I am optimist enough to believe that what is now a dream may in the near future become a living reality. The erection of such a Hall, Library, and Museum would be a lasting memorial to the great names associated with the Jewish Historical Society. It would in addition be a proud privilege for the Jews of this country to feel that within the precincts of London Univer? sity they can enjoy the welcome which has been ours since University College was founded. It will be a great day when, in an "historic</page><page sequence="10">looking backward?looking forward. 261 building, members of our own community and others interested in Jewish affairs will find a place for study and a home for the display of their treasures. I appeal to my co-religionists to help to bring this day near. We have philanthropists in our midst who are public-spirited enough to work for the fruition of such a desirable consummation. It is not beyond the means of a community like ours, the heirs of a generation which remembers Frederick Mocatta and the great souls akin to his. I send forth this appeal as the message of my Presidential Address, believing it to be the greatest service I can render the Society which has honoured me. I send it forth in the presence of Lord Meston, Professor Chambers, and other representatives of University College, who have assured me that they are in deep sympathy with all I have said, and who have kindly signified their intention to add words of their own in support of what I conceive to be a great movement. Speeches that followed the Reading of the Presidential Address. University College and Anglo-Jewry. Lord Meston congratulated Mr. Tuck upon his elevation to the exalted position of President, and felicitated the members of the Society upon having at their head this year one whose address that evening was symbolical of the sound, scholarly, and yet practical manner in which he was going to conduct their deliberations and look after their welfare. University College was the first great educational institution in this country to emancipate all creeds and all classes. It had brought freedom of learning to every home, every section, and every class of the community, and it bore down and broke away from the old, insular, orthodox fetters of the past. They had found representatives of every emancipated section of the community willing and ready and generous to help them in their recent appeal for funds, and to no section of the community, to no class or creed, did they owe a greater debt of gratitude than they did to that great community represented in the hall that evening. The Jewish com? munity had been most generous to them in their efforts. Lord Meston appealed for support for the new Library and Museum, and associated himself most warmly with Mr. Tuck in all he had said on the subject.</page><page sequence="11">262 looking backward?looking forward. The Chief Rabbi of the British Empire said that in the Jewish Historical Society, as they were aware, there was neither Jew nor Gentile ; neither man nor woman, neither layman nor professional scholar?the only deciding point for the Presidency was love for the cause for which the Society stood and the ability to render that cause service. Mr. Tuck was not the first non-professional scholar to occupy the Presidency. The late Mr. F. D. Mocatta held that office, and like him, Mr. Tuck possessed the same kindliness of heart and the same intelligent and practical sympathy with the needs of the Society. Foremost among those needs Mr. Tuck had always conceived to be that the Society should have a local habitation and name ; that the Mocatta Museum and Library should have a local habitation worthy of the great cause it represented. Given such a proper habitation, collections of Anglo-Judaica like that of Israel Solomons would not have left the shores of England. He was absolutely certain, said the Chief Rabbi, that when the appeal for the Museum and Library was firmly launched the response of the community would be worthy of the noble ideal which animated it. Professor Chambers said that the Library, like all other libraries, was outgrowing its quarters, and it was destined to go on growing in the future. The question of housing was almost more urgent than it was in the case of most libraries, and that was saying a great deal. He assured them that everybody in University College was anxious to see the Library and Museum housed as worthily as they should be. Mr. O.E. d'Avigdor Goldsmid, President of the Board of Deputies, said that he had the privilege of being a descendant of one of the founders of the Library, and also was connected by marriage with Mr. Mocatta, after whom the Library was named. He felt certain that the eloquent appeals they had heard would not fall upon deaf ears. Mr. Owen Mocatta, the Chairman of the Mocatta Museum Committee, proposed a vote of thanks to Lord Meston and Professor Chambers-, and also to the Institutions which they represented. Haham Dr. M. Gaster moved and Rev. S. Levy, M.A., seconded vote of thanks to the President.</page><page sequence="12">Book-plate of the Dr. Israel Abrahams Library at mocatta library and christ's college, Cambridge. Presented by Air. Gustave Tuck, President.</page></plain_text>