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Memorial Address: Rev. Solomon Levy

<plain_text><page sequence="1">(II) THE REVEREND SOLOMON LEVY, M.A. (President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1907-9) By The Rev. Arthur Barnett, B.A., H.C.F.1 (HIS is the third occasion in comparatively recent years that it has fallen to me to pay a memorial tribute in this place to former officers of our Society who were among its active members almost from its inception in 1893. The very real sense of personal sorrow with which I approach my task tonight is rendered thereby the more profound as it compels upon me the thought that with the passing of Solomon Levy comes the final passing of a somewhat unique generation from the Anglo-Jewish scene. 1 Delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 13 January 1958.</page><page sequence="2">MEMORIAL ADDRESSES 209 For over 220 years since the Resettlement of the Jews in this country no Jew seems to have had any concern whatever about recording the past. It was only with the emergence of Grace Aguilar and James Picciotto that even the dimmest outlines were attempted. But Anglo-Jewish history proper never really began to be written until the rise of Solomon Levy's generation; and Levy himself was one of the busiest pioneers in this field. At his death he had served on the Council of our Society for close upon sixty years ; he was indeed its doyen. From 1901 to 1908 he acted as Honorary Secretary; from 1907 to 1909 he held office as President; thereafter he became a Vice-President throughout the rest of his life, and on attaining his 80th year he was elected an Honorary Member in recognition of his long and distinguished service to the Society and to the community generally. His contributions to the Society's activities were as remarkable in content as in extent, as significant in the realm of administration as in literary output. As a member of the Council he ever evinced a rare wisdom and foresight in his guidance; and what sometimes may have appeared to be an unduly meticulous regard for construction often turned out to be a sagacious precaution against possible future error. In his researches into, and writings on, Anglo-Jewish history?and they covered both the medieval and later periods?-careful and painstaking accuracy was the hall-mark of his work. Yet, strangely enough, there was nothing of pedantry in his literary style, which was of a highly cultivated order, forceful, attractive, and flowing with the keen native wit that he seemed to have inherited from his Tyneside origins. But, whether in his literary or his administrative activities for the Society, he was an outstanding figure in a small band of workers who realized how much the knowledge of the Anglo-Jewish past meant for the understanding of its present and for the intelligent direction of its future. He was, at the early age of 23, already the spiritual guide of a historic congregation in the City of London. His Synagogue in Gt. St. Helens was the very radial centre of a vast ghost population of almost two and a half centuries of London Jewry. Hence, no doubt, the inspiration of all that he did in the promotion of a healthy interest in the knowledge of Anglo-Jewish history. But valuable and original as was his work in Anglo-Jewish history, this was by no means the complete orbit of his literary interests. He was also a pioneer labourer in the early Anglo-Jewish Literary Society Movement; he edited for 20 years the Jewish Annual, a Calendar which always included a number of serious magazine articles; he was for 14 years Editor of the Jewish Yrear-Book, itself a mine of information?both statis? tical and biographical?for future students of Anglo-Jewish history; and many were his contributions to the Anglo-Jewish Press. In the field of Jewish theology, too, he showed himself a sound scholar as his writings on 'Original Virtue' and 'Original Sin', as well as on other subjects in this domain, amply prove. There are articles from his pen in the Jewish Encyclopaedia and the Jewish Quarterly Review. The agility of his mind was matched by its versatility. Yet, scholar and student as he was by nature, he never became a mere book-man. He had chosen the ministerial vocation and he never ceased to be the faithful pastor. If he was a great lover of books, he was an even greater lover of men. His parish was on the City side of Aldgate Pump ; but his gaze and his goings were directed far more to the Stepney side ofthat historic land-mark, where the social and moral problems of East End Jewry were, in his early days, grave and urgent. Much of the amelioration of these conditions was due to his collaboration with his life-long friend and closest colleague, Joseph Frederick Stern, Minister of the Stepney Synagogue. Solomon Levy will not</page><page sequence="3">210 MEMORIAL ADDRESSES be forgotten by the poor, the distressed, the sick and the destitute who may yet survive from those depressing times and scenes. As the Jewish Chaplain to the London Hospital for over 40 years, he must have brought much comfort, courage and good cheer to many thousands of his fellow-Jews. Another of his ardent interests was Jewish religious education, to the organization of which he devoted much of his energies. Levy showed himself also to be a man of principle and courage when, as an Anglo-Jewish minister, he joined the earliest Zionist circle in this country and worked for the movement: not an easy or popular thing to do in those days of communal 'grand-dukedom'. What a remarkable man ! Scholar, Historian, Pastor, Theologian, Sociologist, Diarist, Educationist; Lover of Zion, Lover of England, Lover of Books, Lover of Humanity ! When shall we look upon his like again? Many are the places he once filled with so much simple dignity, honour and merit which are now rendered vacant by his death. And not the least of these voids will long remain palpable in this place where tonight we recall his memory with sorrow at parting with him but with gratitude for the gift of him. May that memory abide with us for an inspiration and a blessing.</page></plain_text>