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Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate

Norman Cohen

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate NORMAN COHEN The emergence of the Chief Rabbinate has usually been taken to mean the development of the Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London, into the central authority for Orthodox Jewry throughout the British Commonwealth. It is not the purpose of this paper to enter into any discussion of the current significance or future development of the office, but I assume, as a fact that would be accepted by supporters and detractors alike, that the Chief Rabbinate has been the most important institution in the history of Anglo-Jewry and that it has wielded authority of a type and extent that is rarely, if ever, to be found elsewhere, at least since the close of the Geonic period. The history of the Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue has been closely studied and its evolution into the Chief Rabbinate cannot be gainsaid, but this narrow approach has tended to ignore other and more decisive factors in the development of the office, which I term non-religious, although, in fact, 'non-Great Synagogue' would be more accu? rate, if less elegant.1 There is a natural tendency to glamorise the origins of great men or institutions, which, being frequently either obscure or prosaic, appear out of keeping with the reality of their full development. In Jewish history one may recall the legends surrounding the birth of Rashi or of the Baal Shem Tov, while, in more recent times, Samson Raphael Hirsch's accept? ance of the Rabbinate of the Religionsgesell? schaft of Frankfort-on-Main, a gallant but easily explicable decision, has been exalted into the sphere of the near miraculous. Similarly, since the Chief Rabbinate de? veloped from the Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, there has been a tendency to see something pre-ordained about the history of this office. The careers of some quite un? distinguished Rabbis have been carefully recorded, not because they contain anything of intrinsic importance but because their successors enjoyed a remarkable sway and reputation. Their names are supposed to be commemorated at every Yizkor service, though this is now more honoured in the breach than in the ob? servance and, in any case, the list includes persons who never held the office at all. The community of Oxford, for reasons which will readily occur to this audience, has a very erudite and esoterical list of its own. But does the romantic account of the rise of the Chief Rabbinate really take note of the more prosaic facts of history, which so often play havoc with the simplified explanations that hagiography likes to offer ? To my mind, it does not. Chief Rabbinates of this nature do not merely grow; they evolve through social and environmental factors. To prove this thesis, it will be necessary to show that conditions existed in Anglo-Jewry such as could be found nowhere else; or, if they did, a similar office resulted. It also means that the precursors of Nathan Marcus Adler may have to be deprived of the retrospective glory bestowed on them by their brilliant successors; it is possible that Meshullam Zalman has been accorded an unfair obloquy as a sort of Anglo Jewish anti-pope and that the congregational squabble at Portsmouth in the 1760s is not the epoch-making event it is thought to be.2 This study will deal principally with the period ending with the death of Solomon Hirschell in 1842; thereafter, purpose replaced evolution. The basic reason for the development of the Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue into the Chief Rabbinate was that London was the capital city of a great Empire. This seems a pointless and self-evident fact, until it is appreciated that, in most countries, until comparatively recent times, Jews were debarred from free settlement in the capitals. As the royal residence, the seat of government, administration, and justice, capital cities had to be kept free of aliens, with all they might 304</page><page sequence="2">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate 305 signify in terms of religious heresy and com? mercial rivalry. But it was precisely the capitals, with all the possibilities they afforded of financial and mercantile activities, that attracted Jewish settlement whenever circum? stances permitted. It will be instructive to compare the situation in a number of European capitals during approximately the period of resettlement in Great Britain. In Paris, the trickle of Jews who had returned after the expulsion of 1394 were officially banished in 1615. Apart from the occasional presence of physicians, there was no real settle? ment before a small number of Portuguese Jews took up residence in 1750. Until the Revolution, the police regularly searched Jewish dwellings and arrested all those whose papers were not properly executed. In 1789 there were but 500 male Jews in the city. In Brussels, Jews began resettling in 1713, after having been expelled in 1370. Ineffectual decrees of banishment were issued in 1716 and 1756. Brussels Jews were subjected to special imposts, and official freedom to settle dates only from 1794. In Vienna, a community of 500 families existed in 1660, but its flourishing condition was marred by growing hostility on the part of the Viennese. On 1 March 1670 a general decree of expulsion was promulgated and no Jew was left by the August. An authorised return was made from 1675 and, in 1753, there were 700 Jews in the city, paying a yearly toleration tax of 14,000 gulden and living in a virtual ghetto. In 1782, the Edict of Toleration allowed 'tolerated' Jews (i.e., those who paid toleration money) to live where they liked in Vienna. Foreign Jews were allowed in the town only to attend fairs. There were but sixty-five 'tolerated' families in 1784, and they were not allowed a synagogue. A Jewish head tax (Bolletengeb?hr) was levied?ultimately in? creased until it covered the entire expenditure of the police. No synagogue could be built until 1823 and equal rights had to await the Constitu? tion of 1849. In 1629 the Chief Rabbi of Prague, Yom Tob Lipman Heller, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the age, was brought before a clerical commission in Vienna, accused of writing against Christianity. He was fined 12,000 thalers and, in default of payment, was to be stripped and flogged in the public squares of Vienna and Prague. The fine was ultimately considerably reduced, but Heller spent forty days in prison, and, on his return to Prague, was confined to his bed for three months. In 1744 Maria Theresa issued a decree of expulsion, under which all Jews in Prague and the rest of Bohemia were to leave the country in five weeks. This decree had its repercussions in Anglo-Jewish history, for it was the first occasion that the wardens of Duke's Place and Bevis Marks made joint representations to the British Court on behalf of a suffering Conti? nental community. Prague had no Jews between 1745 and 1748; in 1789, by Government decree, only the oldest son of each family was permitted to marry. In Warsaw, Jews never had rights of permanent residence and were officially tolerat? ed only at the time of the Diets. Immunity and exemption might be obtainable by bribes and Jews began resettling from about 1775. Their situation was always precarious and a minor expulsion occurred in 1798. The few Jews in St. Petersburg had no cemetery until 1802. Moscow's community was established in 1791 and initially consisted of temporary visitors only. The great difference between the conditions just enumerated and those that prevailed in London is due to the entirely unofficial way that the Resettlement was effected. The legally recognised, but closely regulated, community that Menasseh ben Israel was hoping for might well have been burdened with major obstacles on the right of settlement in London, in order not to offend the merchant classes. Jews might have been restricted to outlying villages, from which they would have visited London for market days and fairs. In fact, it was seriously urged in 1674 that the Jews should be segregated under their own (non-Jewish) Justiciar, who would be responsible for the collection of their taxes and for regulating their relations with the Crown. Nor did this proposal emanate from contemptible circles; it had the support of the Bishop of Lincoln and the Lord Privy Seal, and was referred to the Privy Council, from whose</page><page sequence="3">306 Norman Cohen discussions it never re-emerged, if, indeed, it was ever discussed at all.3 A further factor, which positively encouraged settlement in London, was the entire absence of anything resembling the Leibzoll known on the Continent. This was a tax levied on Jews travelling from place to place within the jurisdiction of local rulers. Primarily fiscal, it was often levied in a deliberately humiliating way. Its degrading nature, placing Jews on the level of dutiable cattle, was increasingly attacked during the course of the eighteenth century and it was only slowly and grudgingly abandoned in the early part of the nineteenth. In England, however, the Jews, from the moment of the Resettlement, could travel unhindered from London to any part of the United Kingdom and back again. A Leibzoll might have fostered the earlier growth of provincial centres; its non-appearance added one further reason for the growth of London Jewry. Against such a background, one can appre? ciate the truth of Johanan Holleschau's remarks in Maaseh Rau (1707): 'We, our brethren of the House of Israel, live in the Kingdom of England, under rulers and princes and lords who deal with us with kindness and mercy. They may indeed be reckoned as the Pious Ones of the Nations of the World. If a man gave them a houseful of gold and silver they would do no injustice or wrongdoing, but act only as it is written in their laws'.4 The resettlement of the Jews in England began in London, because it was there that the Marrano merchants had settled, and until comparatively recent times London Jewry has been the only considerable community in the country. The Rabbi of London was, therefore, the spiritual head of a metropolitan community, whose members included leading financiers and who, even before emancipation, had un? hindered access to Government circles. The prestige of the capital inevitably enhanced the standing of its Rabbi. He was entirely free of the two rival candidates for supremacy, who existed in all countries abroad, the Rabbis of old-established provincial communities on the one hand, and the Court Jews on the other. The small size of all provincial communities in Great Britain throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries ensured that no spiritual leaders of any genuine importance acted as Rabbis outside London. The late development of provincial centres may be illustrated from a list of subscribers published in the Pentecost volume of the 1807 reprint of David Levi's machzor. Of the 807 volumes subscribed for, 725 went to London, and the 82 provincial subscribers were distributed as follows: Portsmouth 37; Liverpool 19; Green? wich 9; Portsea 8; Sheerness 4; Bath, Sheffield, Deptford, Bedford, Bristol, 1 each. It is not suggested that these figures are a reliable indication of the Jewish populations of the places mentioned. They possibly represent the cultural interests of the Jewries concerned, or, more probably still, the desire to be fashion? able, but the overwhelming importance of the metropolitan community is undeniable. These figures may be contrasted with far more official ones available for France in the following year (1808). In the thirteen con? sistories fixed by Napoleon in December 1808, covering an area which, following the victories of the revolutionary armies, included the Rhineland and northern Italy, Paris came but ninth, with 3,585 Jewish inhabitants, whereas Strasbourg, the most numerous consistory, had 16,155 Jews.5 Not only was Strasbourg Jewry more numerous than that of Paris, but the region resisted the forces of assimilation much better than other districts and long provided a disproportionate number of religious leaders for French Jewry. Furthermore, in Alsace there were to be found rural communities, dating from times when city residence was forbidden, who maintained, like the similar communities of south Germany, a proud tradition of sturdy independence coupled with religious loyalty. Metz, in Lorraine, had a far better record than Paris for its treatment of Jews and was the site of the first French Rabbinical Seminary, founded in 1824 and not removing to Paris until 1859. Hence, it can be readily appreciated why, at least until very recent times, the Grand Rabbin of the Central Consistory acted</page><page sequence="4">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate 307 as a member of the Consistory rather than as a hierarchical chief. Similar conditions prevailed over most of Europe and ensured that the Rabbinates of important provincial centres never lost their prestige and influence when large Jewish populations established themselves in the great conurbations which arose in the nine? teenth century. To revert to London, the complete equality of Jews before the law had one favourable and one unfavourable result. The favourable one was the non-appearance of the Court Jew. As the country was mercifully free from the excesses of absolutism, the wire-pulling and bribery which the Court Jew had to provide were never needed. Secondly, access to Govern? ment circles was available to all, without the difficulty experienced elsewhere of residing near the Court. Thirdly, the fact that Gentile lawyers could always be briefed on behalf of Jews made the possession of the vernacular tongue less important. (It would appear that eighteenth-century rabbis rarely mastered the vernacular. Hart Lyon, for instance, had some secular knowledge?though certainly not in English?but his German was not adequate to prepare the r?sum6 of Jewish Civil Laws re? quested by the Prussian Government, which had to be undertaken by Moses Mendelssohn (Ritualgesetze der Juden). His grandson, the demented Arieh Loebusch, Chief Rabbi of Silesia, 1800-1807, who gave himself airs as a general scholar, could not write proper German.6) The Continental Rabbi thus had frequently to consult and rely upon the Court Jew, but the Rabbi in London had no need of him. Furthermore, those communities who re? quired the protection of the Court Jew more often than not gained little in security from his efforts. His career was usually meteoric, frequently catastrophic, his eclipse meant that his favours became a liability, and a successor had to be procured for the sad process to begin over again. Anglo-Jewry ambled along, with the Law Courts and the City of London more stable protectors than princes' favourites. The 'High Priest of the Jews' was never needed as an inter ceder on behalf of his flock, but his picturesque ness and uniqueness gained him the interest and even the respect of the Gentile world. He became the focal point of the community in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike. Now Hirschell came into very little direct contact with the outside world and his com? mand of English was not outstanding. He occasionally impinged on the secular scene, as when, in 1809, he threatened some of his flock with excommunication if they persisted in leading the clamour for the reduction of seat prices at the new Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. In the same year, dressed in his robes, he was given a seat on the bench at the London Sessions, when a certain Mr. John Isaacs was prosecuted for assaulting the beadle of the New Synagogue.7 Such appearances hardly account for the respect in which he was held, the unjustified doctorate popularly added to his name, or to the memorial address preached in his honour by a Christian clergyman at Portsmouth. I suggest that the Chief Rabbi's prestige rose with the growth of a more en? lightened and understanding approach to the Jewish community. Some of it may have had missionary overtones, but much represented the finest flowering of liberal thought. Macaulay's celebrated essay on the 'Civil Disabilities of the Jews' in the Edinburgh Review of January 1831 and his superb speech in the House of Commons in April 1833 on the same subject were not the products of a voice crying in the wilderness, even though political emancipa? tion had to await a further quarter-century. Before Hirschell passed away, two major inno? vations in British policy in the Holy Land occurred. In 1838, the British Consulate in Jerusalem was established (Hirschell's son, David, was a resident there and prominent on behalf of his brethren) and three years later there was the Anglican-Lutheran tie-up over the Bishopric of Jerusalem. This is principally remembered now as one of the final causes that drove Newman out of the Anglican Church, and the Jewish significance, if any, of this eccle? siastical oddity has yet to be studied.8 I mention it in juxtaposition with the Consulate as a warning against oversimplified explanations, for, although these two events were similar in</page><page sequence="5">308 Norman Cohen time and place, the motivations were not identical and the two institutions were not invariably in harmony. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to connect the increase in the stature of the Chief Rabbi? nate with that utilitarian and humanitarian spirit which was responsible for the abolition of the Slave Trade, the first Factory Acts, and the general removal of religious disabilities. Still, progress has its ups and downs and it might be instructive to compare the Protestant excite? ment over the establishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in 1850 with the furore over the Jews' Naturalisation Act of almost a century earlier. But the worst that could be said about the Jews was that their first loyalty was to their coreligionists rather than to their domicile, and their religious leadership was not suspected of any hostility towards the Established Church and far less of any conversionist designs. We have discussed, somewhat discursively, the favourable result of legal equality. We must now turn to the other side of the coin. It may seem paradoxical, but it is not improbable, that his high Rabbinic standing owed something to the fact that the Chief Rabbi exercised only limited Rabbinic functions. Jewish Civil Law can hardly have existed in Anglo-Jewry. From 1667 the right of a Jew to be a witness in a Court of Law was admitted. Ten years later, a Court List was re? arranged to avoid a Saturday sitting where Jewish witnesses were involved, and the capacity of a Jew to sue was admitted from 1684. This rapid extension of civil rights is all the more remarkable since no less an authority than Lord Coke had ruled (admittedly only academically) that Jews, as infidels, could never give evidence before a Christian Court. Where unrestricted access to the Civil Courts is permitted, Jews rarely utilise the services of a Beth Din. Furthermore, there was never any attempt to introduce into England the humiliating and disgraceful oath more judaico, under which the Jew, prior to testifying before a Gentile tribunal, was required to call down on himself all the curses of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and all the Egyptian plagues should he fail to tell the truth. He might have to stand on a swine's skin while so swearing or enter into the synagogue to take the fearsome oath there. This degradation lasted well into the nineteenth century; the French Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional only in 1846; it lasted in Prussia until 1869 and in Rumania it carried on into the twentieth century. Under such conditions, the Continental Jew had little incentive to renounce his communal autonomy nor, generally speaking, does it appear that secular authorities cared much about bringing the Jews under their direct sway in matters of only internal concern. Joseph II, in a decree of 1787, attempted to restrict Rabbinical Courts in Hungary to cases of arbi? tration, excluding from their jurisdiction all matters where actual adjudication was re? quired, but whether this had any lasting effect is a matter which requires specialist investiga? tion. The English Jew, on the other hand, restricted the Rabbinate to the exercise of judicial powers in purely religious matters, where there was no clash of jurisdiction with the secular courts. At the same time, the non Jewish Ecclesiastical Courts were similarly restricted in the cases brought before them and lost virtually all jurisdiction over laymen by 1873. The popular acceptance of the Chief Rabbi as a sort of Jewish Archbishop of Canter? bury is not, therefore, without quite good historical grounds. It undeniably fostered the conception that the Chief Rabbinate was an ecclesiastical rather than a halachic eminence, and the garb and 'Very Reverend' title assumed by Hermann Adler gave added weight to the view. The Chief Rabbinate, as an institution, gained prestige from this development, although its effect on the internal development of traditional Judaism in Great Britain is more doubtful. However, it is important to realise that this development was quite independent of the secular authorities. There was never the slightest effort to turn the Chief Rabbinate into a Landesrabbinat, which, in the eighteenth century, at any rate, was essentially a means of Government control, used to promote Reform or Orthodoxy in accordance with the wishes of the authorities. This frequently fostered dissen? sion within the Jewish communities and gravely impaired the prestige of the Rabbis.</page><page sequence="6">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate 309 There was a third possible rival who never troubled the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, although his absence scarcely redounded to the credit of the community?the Rosh Yeshivah. The academy, curiously transliterated as Heshaim, which pursues its unremarkable course through the history of the London Sephardim, had no Ashkenazi counterpart. It is not to be doubted that sporadic efforts must have been made from time to time to teach higher Talmudics, but nothing of note was ever achieved. Hermann Adler went to Prague to complete his Rabbinical studies, and the first viable Yeshivah in Great Britain was the London Etz Chaim, founded as late as 1903. Abroad the 'Stodt Rov5 and the 'Rosh Yeshivah' kept communal life in some sort of balance, the practical responsibilities of the one offsetting the theoretical views of the other. The penurious, Yiddish-speaking Rosh Yeshivah, which was the only type London was to know for many years, was never much of a rival to the Chief Rabbi, long established and un? challenged. The Chief Rabbi represented the height of Rabbinical knowledge as well as administrative authority for those under his jurisdiction. The leading yeshivot abroad were rarely established in the large centres, but the scholarship of their principals gave them great weight in any region where there was a hierarchy of learning. No such hierarchy was possible in England throughout the period we are discussing. The emergence of the Gateshead community, with its Yeshivah, in the 1930s was centuries too late to alter the course of Anglo Jewish history. Against this background one can understand the relationship which evolved between the Chief Rabbi and his ministers and, beyond them, with the laity. The Rabbi of the Great Synagogue was, of course, an ordained Rabbi, but his functions were not those of Rabbis elsewhere in Europe. He shared with them a responsibility for the supervision of kashrut and authority in matters of marriage and divorce. But he was never called upon to preside over a talmudical college, nor could he often have had to adjudicate in troublesome civil proceedings. Where Jews enjoyed legal autonomy, a sound Talmudic knowledge had considerable practical value; where they did not, it appeared at best a luxury, at worst an anachronism. In consequence Anglo-Jewry was a cultural backwater. The cause celebre which culminated in the Hambro' secession was not handled in a way that suggested much mastery of Jewish law on the part of Aaron Hart. (As a sort of quid pro quo, Anglo-Jewish history has failed to recognise that the title of his account of the Hambro' affair, the Urim veTumim, has a Talmudic background, despite its apparently pretentious Pentateuchal phrasing. It is simply taken from the actual wording of the ban of Rabbenu Tarn, quoting Ezra ii, 63. 'Until the Priest stands in the Urim and Thumim5 is a recognised Talmudic formula referring to the messianic era and, in this case, marks the eternal nature of the excommunication merited by those who cast doubts on the validity of a divorce decree).9 That was in 1706; sixty years later Meshullam Zalman showed an ignorance of a basic question of procedure in examining lungs for adhesions. It says much for the power of paternal love that his father, the fiery Jacob Emden, passed meekly over the error, which was contained in a letter addressed to him. He would have obliterated anybody else who made such a mistake.10 The truth is that Anglo-Jewry, right from the Resettlement, was a community which centred on the synagogue, not on the academy. The halachah, as an entity, never impinged on the communal consciousness. Abroad, it was a constant source of complaint that the Choshen HaMishpat, the fourth section of the Shulchan Aruch, dealing with civil and criminal legisla? tion, was too eagerly studied by would-be dayanim, at the expense of a general mastery of Talmud. No Anglo-Jewish student ever an? ticipated much chance of promotion through studying the Choshen HaMishpat. Until the Targum commentaries of Nathan Marcus Adler, nothing was published in England which was of the slightest significance in Rabbinics, with the exception of two volumes of the Shulchan Aruch edited by the Sephardi Day an, Abraham Haliva. The records we possess of Solomon HirschelFs Beth Din show them deal^ ing with quite trumpery matters, principally</page><page sequence="7">310 Norman Cohen relating to divorce.11 The dayanim were clearly subordinates of no significance and the squabbles between the hahamim, dayanim, and rubissim which add interest, though not distinction, to the history of the London Sephar dim were not paralleled in Ashkenazi circles, although it is possible that the records are far less complete. Not only were academies not established, but Hebrew tuition was usually given in a fashion which made it unpleasant and unfruitful. One consequence of the social equality enjoyed by Anglo-Jewry has been the prompt adoption of the vernacular. The result was that children were always being instructed in Jewish matters by teachers who spoke a different language, both literally and figuratively. Hence their overwhelming desire to cease Hebrew instruc? tion at the earliest possible moment and an entire lack of interest in advanced Jewish studies. Something was gained; there was reform without radicalism. Much was lost; traditional Judaism became a matter of con? formity, in which synagogue membership was the hallmark of respectability and Sabbath attendance the ne plus ultra of Orthodoxy. In these circumstances, the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue was easily able to keep all the reins of halachic control firmly in his own hands. The reins, after all, were few and the steeds far from frisky. The actual synagogue services could be safely entrusted to persons who had an adequate reading or singing know? ledge, and later to those could preach in English. But the conduct of the synagogue service does not demand great accomplishment in Rabbinics. Thus was born the Anglo-Jewish minister of the old school, never more than a satellite of the Chief Rabbi. It was a development which suited its con? temporaries very well, but they regarded as Orthodoxy what was, in truth, only an Anglo Jewish mutation and this was to create many problems when its unreality was unsympa thetically exposed by more lettered immigrants. To the layman with a sound Jewish know? ledge, a Rabbi is an authority to whom he appeals on doubtful points, but to the ordinary Anglo-Jewish layman the Chief Rabbi became not so much a decisor in matters of halachah as the virtual embodiment of the halachah. The use of Hirschell's portrait as the frontis? piece of an edition of the machzor testifies to the altogether exceptional status which he enjoyed in the public estimation. Although the fullest manifestations of this attitude appeared later, signs were not wanting earlier, as when, in South Africa, 'it was actually considered impossible to establish a synagogue until a Scroll of the Law had been brought out with the London Rabbi's licence'.12 This showed a very different spirit from the Jews of Que Que in 1920, who, as we know from Dr. Hertz, possessed two sets of Talmud, although number? ing but three families. 'Then you are safe, even without the visit of a Chief Rabbi', was Dr. Hertz's celebrated comment.13 Only a history of Que Que will prove if his optimism was justified. It can thus be seen that the complete ascendancy of the Chief Rabbi within the Jewish community further strengthened his standing in the non-Jewish world. He was without a rival as the representative of the Jewish faith. The verdict of history on Solomon Hirschell has not been particularly favourable, and it is difficult to believe that he consciously turned the Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, which he had assumed in 1802, into the virtual Chief Rabbinate which existed at his death, forty years later. He had, in fact, been carried along by developments, some of which perhaps he hardly understood and may even have dis? liked. Had the other leading London congrega? tions possessed the financial resources of the Great Synagogue, it is quite possible that the Rabbinate of London might have developed differently. One of the other synagogues might have assumed the leadership, or the Rabbinate might have become supra-synagogal. When David Tevele Schiff was Rabbi of the Great and Meshullam Zalman Rabbi of both the Hambro' and New Synagogues, it appears that the latter was the head of the Ashkenazi com? munity.14 The divided loyalties of the Ports? mouth community at this time (a part favouring Zalman and a powerful minority adhering to Duke's Place) have been over-readily regarded as the birth-pangs of the Chief Rabbinate?too much historical hindsight has been brought to</page><page sequence="8">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate 311 bear on the matter. In 1780, Meshullam Zalman left London, disappointed and embittered. No successor was appointed and the Portsmouth community, in resuming its unity under the tutelage of the Rabbi of Duke's Place, was merely yielding to force majeure. The secessionists had not had to decide between two claimants. They merely realised that one had ceased to exist. Financial stringency, or meanness, had secured the victory for Duke's Place. Never, for the rest of its uneventful history, did the Hambro' Synagogue have its own Rabbi, even though its finances soon improved greatly and it was to number some extremely wealthy persons among its members.15 Similarly, after the death of Moses Myers in 1804, the New Synagogue abandoned all further attempts to maintain its separate Rabbinate, so, practically from the commencement of his period of office, Hirschell had sole control in London, in the provinces, and, to a large extent, even in the expanding territories under British rule. It appears to me more than doubtful if the Portsmouth affair had the slightest effect on the development of the Chief Rabbinate. If Ports? mouth and the other, even smaller, provincial centres had all declared for Meshullam Zalman, the course of Anglo-Jewish history would have been unchanged. Their meagre finances would have contributed very little to overcoming the financial problems of the Hambro' authorities and even less to controlling the inherited cantankerousness of their Rabbi, who shared the temperamental failings of his sire (Jacob Emden) and grandsire (the Haham Zevi) without any of the scholastic eminence that makes their faults bearable, at least to posterity. Not all the factors which we have dealt with existed only in England and it is instructive to compare the Rabbinates in two other countries where sufficiently like conditions obtained. In one, in fact, a very similar institution emerged; in the other, it did not. Holland was the country where it did not, although its Jews also enjoyed social equality and freedom of settlement, and had enjoyed them for more than sixty years before the Re? settlement in England. Holland declared its independence of Spain in 1581 and twelve years later the first Marra X nos were throwing off the disguise of Catholicism in Amsterdam, having been refused admission to Haarlem and Middelburg. But Amsterdam, although the capital, was not the seat of government and it appears that some eighty years were to pass before a Jewish congregation was established in The Hague. Much earlier, communities had been founded in Alkmaar (1604) and Rotterdam (1609). Thus the long period in which London and English Jewry were practically synonymous had no parallel in Holland. It has also to be borne in mind that the separate provinces of Holland were very proud of their autonomous status and accepted central organisations only with the greatest unwilling? ness. Furthermore, the Sephardim and Ash kenazim were far more balanced in numbers than was the case in England; Rabbinates were therefore duplicated in every important centre, and, in such circumstances, no one Rabbinical office could achieve a dominating position. There is, however, one parallel to the British Chief Rabbinate. There was one capital city where Jews were allowed to settle long before they came to Amsterdam?Constantinople.16 Under Christian rule, the Jews had been subjected to the usual regime of persecution, expulsion, and ignominy. A new, and better, era opened for them in 1453, a fact which must jolt us out of some of our accepted historical perspectives. Moses Capsali (1410-1497), who had been Rabbi of Constantinople under Byzantine rule, was created Chief Rabbi by the Turks. Istanbul provided the same conditions as London. It was the capital city of a great empire, where Jews had full rights of settlement; in addition, it was the intellectual centre of Jewish life. Its Rabbi was accordingly the acknowledged head of all the Jews in the Turkish Empire. The office never obtained the influence that might have been anticipated, because of internal differences within the Jewish community and, later, because of the continual decline in the organisation and administration of the Turkish Empire. Capsali. was succeeded by an equally outstanding scholar, Elijah Mizrachi (1436-1526), author of one of the major super-commentaries oni</page><page sequence="9">312 Norman Cohen Rashi. After Mizrachi's death, however, conflicts between the Romaniotes, who con? sidered themselves the oldest Jewish element in the city, and the Sephardim, who were in the majority, made it impossible to make a choice that would be acceptable to all parties as well as being officially recognised. The Rabbi of Constantinople therefore re? mained an office of only internal importance, until the reforms of Mahomed II (1808-1839), by which official standing was given to the Greek and Armenian Patriarchs, made the Jews feel that they were being outdistanced by the other non-Moslem faiths. The official Journal of 22 February 1835 announced as follows: . . . the Jewish Nation has addressed a petition to the Court... to beg it not to allow them to be deprived of the great glory of having an official head; to allow them to profit from the great goodness of His Majesty in what concerns the official recognition of Chief Rabbis, hitherto elected by the Jews themselves, without the official bestowing of a pelisse; to solicit that a dismissal and nomina? tion take place forthwith, that the ceremony of the pelisse take place at the Sublime Porte and that in view of the advanced age of the present Chief Rabbi, his assistant should be nominated Chief Rabbi. . . Abraham Levi was nominated by the Berat of the Sultan (a far from inexpensive act, for which the Christian Patriarchs also paid heavily) and he was then officially recognised as Haham Bashi (i.e., temporal as well as religious head of the Jews of Turkey). Although the Jews may have wished to give their Chief Rabbi the same sort of prestige as was possessed by Christian clergy, the two were in no way comparable. Following the establishment of the independent kingdom of Greece in 1830, the leaders of the Orthodox Church, at any rate, were thoroughly un? reliable citizens, whose disloyalty could be temporarily placated but never eliminated. The full extent of the powers of the Haham Bashi may be gauged from the terms of the Berat appointing Haim HaCohen in 1854: T have ordered that the above named Haim HaGohen be Chief Rabbi of the nation of the Jews of Istanbul and of its dependencies and that all Rabbis of the Jewish nation and the heads of communities, great and small, of my Empire should acknowledge him as Chief Rabbi, that they should address themselves to him on matters concerning the Rabbinate, that they do not disobey his reasonable demands and that they do not fail to be obedient in what concerns their religion.' Nine years earlier Nathan Marcus Adler had been granted very nearly the same powers, though under somewhat different circum? stances. Furthermore, the haham in question was deposed after a year, allegedly because he was a foreigner. The institution carried on, decreasingly influential, the last Haham Bashi of the Otto? man Empire, Hayim Nahum Effendi, being appointed in 1909 and surviving to have the dismal distinction of presiding over the dis? integration of two once great communities, first that of Turkey, then that of Egypt. However, it would be wrong to conclude on a note that suggests that historical forces are necessarily more important than individuals. The establishment of the Chief Rabbinate in England, as a major institution, is largely the work of the two Adlers, who held office for nearly seventy challenging years and whose achievements deserve much more thorough chronicling than they have hitherto received. In this connection, I must end with one further consideration, which, although chrono? logically outside the limit I set for this study, in spirit harks back to an earlier period and largely accounts for the subsequent development of the Chief Rabbinate. The two 'daughter' syna? gogues established by the Great in the West of London, the Central and the Bayswater, carried over to the new areas of settlement the sharing of one Rabbi which had been the established arrangement for upwards of half a century in the City of London. The Deed of Foundation and Trust of the United Synagogue (1870) placed the form of worship in each of the constituent synagogues and all religious obser</page><page sequence="10">Non-Religious Factors in the Emergence of the Chief Rabbinate 313 vances in the constituent synagogues under the supervision and control of the Chief Rabbi. Had the United Synagogue been establishing the Chief Rabbinate as a new entity, its powers would no doubt have been as closely and lengthily defined as were the institution's financial arrangements, but it took over a Rabbinate already long established, whose jurisdiction was not in dispute, and whose in? cumbent, furthermore, was one of the most outstanding Rabbis in Western Europe. The only other Rabbi in the United Synagogue at the time was Hermann Adler, who was un? likely to question the authority bestowed on his father, especially as he stood every chance of inheriting it. The Beth Hamidrash, with its elderly and unassertive dayanim, had not yet been absorbed by the United Synagogue. Every? thing seemed set fair for comfortable Anglicisa tion and the Russian May Laws were a decade away. Thus the Chief Rabbi went into the new era with the same absolute authority that Solomon Hirschell had possessed in the old. Nobody could possibly have envisaged the fantastic growth in the size of Anglo-Jewry and consequent responsibilities of the Chief Rabbi. Whereas Hirschell had jurisdiction over five congregations in London and perhaps a score of small communities in the provinces, his latest successor will be able to exercise the same powers over eighty-six congregations within the framework of the United Synagogue, seven independent congregations in the Greater London area, seventy-nine synagogues in the provinces and Wales, fourteen in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland, eight in Australia, and three in New Zealand. *sfe* This paper was delivered to the Society on 8 March 1967. NOTES 1 The Great Synagogue aspect is dealt with in The Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London, by Dr. G. Duchinsky (Oxford University Press, 1921), and by Dr. Cecil Roth in 'The Chief Rabbinate of England', in Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962). 2 Cf. Dr. C. Roth, 'The Portsmouth Community and its Historical Background', Tr. J.H.S.E., XIII, p. 176. 3 Lucien Wolf, 'Status of the Jews in England after the Resettlement', Tr. J.H.S.E., IV, p. 185. 4 Dr. C. Roth, The Great Synagogue, London, 1690-1940 (Edward Goldston &amp; Son, 1950), p. 44. 5 J.E., Vol. 4, p. 232, s.v. Consistory. 6 Hatzofeh (1930), p. 19. 7 Roth, op. cit., pp. 208-211. 8 Apologia pro Vita Sua (Newman), end of part V. 9 Mordecai b. Hillel 455 to Tractate Gittin. Cf. Sotah 48b. 10 Dr. G. Duschinsky, 'Jacob Kimchi &amp; Shalom Buzaglo' (Jr. J.H.S.E., VII, pp. 282-283). 11 Dr. H. Zimmels, 'Decisions &amp; Responsa from the Beth Din of Solomon Hirschell' (Brodie Testimonial Volumes (Hebrew Section), pp. 219 242). 12 Roth, The Chief Rabbinate of England, p. 257. 13 Tr.J.H.S.E., X, p. 157. 14 Tr. J.H.S.E., VII, p. 287. 15 Bicentenary of the Hambro' Synagogue, by the Rev. W. Esterson, London, 1925. 16 This section is principally based on Abraham Galante, Histoire des Juifs dTstanbul, Istanbul, 1941.</page></plain_text>

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