< Back

Memorial Address: Owen Elkin Mocatta

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Memorial Addresses (i) OWEN ELKIN MOCATTA (Treasurer of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1942-57) By The Reverend Arthur Barnett, B.A., H.C.F.1 IT is my sad privilege to offer a brief tribute to the memory of a man whose passing has taken from us one who bore an honoured name inseparably associated with the story of Anglo-Jewish philanthropy and public service for many generations past. The name of Mocatta is on record in the Anglo-Jewish scene within the first decade of the Resettlement; and from that moment to this it has never ceased to be intertwined with the Jewish and general life of this country. It was from such a family that Owen Elkin Mocatta was sprung, and to its noble tradition he remained steadfast and faithful through? out his life. He served the community in many directions and many will have been the tributes commemorating him. But tonight my specific task is to recall in grateful, though sorrowful, remembrance something of what we of the Jewish Historical Society of England owe to him. If one were to seek the motivating force that impelled him into the service of our Society it would assuredly be found in his intense consciousness of the splendid spiritual heritage from his forebears, foremost among whom would be that inspiring and now almost mythical figure, Frederick David Mocatta, 'Uncle Fred', as Owen would always proudly and affectionately recall him. F. D. Mocatta was one of the 'Grand Old Men' of 19th-century Anglo-Jewry? outstanding not only as a great philanthropist but equally as a munificent patron of cultural enterprises. To the present generation he may be just a name, to his own he was the living embodiment of the grandest of Jewish and human ideals ; and into that family legacy Owen richly entered. His uncle was one of the founders of our Society in 1893 ; at one time its President, and for all time to be associated with the magnificent Library and Museum housed within these walls, in which indeed his effigy is still enshrined. No wonder then that Owen Mocatta made our institution one of the primary interests of his own fife. He was a member for close upon half a century, during the greater part of which he served on its Council and for the past 15 years as its Treasurer. Those of us who were close to him in his work for the Society will not readily forget his tireless and almost sacrificial devotion to its welfare. Hardly a week passed without his attendance at our office?yes, even after serious decline and illness had overtaken him. Though the duties of the Treasurer are concerned mainly with the stewardship of its material resources? and this he exercised with a most meticulous and sagacious care?he took no narrow view of his functions. Indeed there was no facet of the Society's activities which did not engage his constant interest. While he would have claimed no pretensions to Jewish historical scholarship, he possessed something perhaps as valuable for such an institution as ours, viz., a very practical understanding of its current needs and a wonderful sympathy with its ultimate purposes. 1 Delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 12 June 1957. 207</page><page sequence="2">208 MEMORIAL ADDRESSES He realised that (as a great contemporary historian has put it) : 'A community that does not understand its past cannot understand itself or determine its future'. Owen Mocatta had something that today, alas, is rapidly on the wane in our community?a justifiable pride in the Anglo-Jewish past and a deep faith in its future. Hence his enthusiastic energies for our Society's wellbeing. As Chairman of the Mocatta Library Committee he enjoyed the high esteem of the authorities of University College who, jointly with ourselves, administer the Library. He took a leading part in the restoration of its totally destroyed contents so that it is now in many respects richer than it was before it became a war-casualty. And, during the reconstruction of this building in which we are now assembled, he was in frequent consultation with its distinguished architect, Professor Sir Albert E. Richardson, P.R.A. and did not a little to assure the present adequacy and beauty of this Lecture-theatre and Museum. It was also mainly due to his breadth of vision and generosity of instinct, no less than his gentility of manner, that we were able to steer successfully through intricate and delicate financial and legal problems affecting our joint partnership with the College? so that the happy relationship that has always existed between us has become even further enhanced. Again we owe it in large measure to him that when we became homeless the West London Synagogue (of which he was the President) became our hosts not only for a Lecture Hall but also remain so still for our office accommodation. Time does not permit me to enlarge upon the many benefits and benefactions for which the Society will remain indebted to him. Nor is it either necessary or within my province tonight to recount his many fine qualities and virtues so patent to all who knew him. I would sum up his character by a reference to the motto inscribed on the armorial bearings of his family. It runs : 'Adhere and Prosper'. In his loyalty to that behest lay the key to all that he was and all that he achieved. Singleness of mind, integrity of heart and tenacity of purpose ; upon these pillars his life was built; in their light he ever moved and had his being; and into their reward he now enters. 'Remember the days of old; consider well the years of each generation.' This is the text that adorns in golden letters the walls of this Theatre. Owen Elkin Mocatta never failed to consider with deep reverence and love the generations that shaped his own life; he remembered proudly the days of old ; and for these things we shall long retain golden memories of all that he was to the Jewish Historical Society of England.</page></plain_text>