top of page
< Back

Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation

Israel Finestein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation* ISRAEL FINESTEIN When Montefiore was born, Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia and Dr Johnson still held court in London. When he died, Albert Einstein was alive, Leo Pinsker had written Auto-Emancipation, and the great westward Jewish migrations were well under way. This combination of distance and proximity gives Montefiore a prismatic quality. He lived through a series of divers epochs, outliving each and sometimes at odds with the successively new. His strenuous attention to congregational and charitable responsibilities was part of the noblesse-oblige way of life common to the governing circles of the community, Sephardi and Ashkenazi. It was a highly personalized family commitment. In addition to his strikingly long tenures of communal office,1 he was one of the most assiduous exponents of that way of life. The course of conduct which for many years was epitomized by his communal activity, was a continuation of longstanding responses connected not only with traditional Jewish norms and religious duty, but also with Jewish public relations within the wider society. The leadership wanted to be seen caring for the Jewish needy, engaging in the education and westernization of 'foreigners' and their families, and sustaining the familiar religious patterns and institutions of Jewish life. Much more attention was paid to the Jewish education of the poor than to that of the middle classes, whose wants in that direction were often greater. Sir Moses embodied a philosophy which equated leadership with the philanthropic impulse. In his case there was the additional fact of his sheer energy. That quality steps out of the pages of his published diaries.2 During the last twenty years of his life the adulation of him became universal and endemic. Inherited assumptions about him and the veneration of his memory inhibited frank study of his role as a communal leader. The heroic elemeni obtruded. Furthermore, his career reinforced the idea-which ran deep in Anglo-Jewry in any event-that personal influence in public relations mattered more than representational capacity. It strengthened the current belief in the legitimacy of the power of notables. His career illustrates the public and private success of the Anglo-Jewish pluto-aristocracy. The various echelons of the Jewish middle classes followed their fashion. People at the large base of the Jewish social and economic pyramid were more concerned with subsistence, or with their own efforts to move higher in the social and economic scale. Everyone was conscious to some degree of British power. It was widely remembered that Montefiore had often * This paper forms the major part of the author's lecture to the Society on 11 July 1984 in connection with the bicentennial Montefiore celebrations. The remainder was included in his article on Montefiore in The Century of Montefiore, eds V. D. and S. Lipman (Oxford 1985) 45-70. 195</page><page sequence="2">Israel Finestein acted in overseas matters with the public encouragement of Her Majesty's Government. His purposes abroad were related to a liberalism which it was the boast of that Government to promote. This outlook underlay not only Montefiore's position as a Jewish spokesman, but also his image as a decidedly British public figure. He was not a man of ideas. He did not have an original turn of mind. His cautious yet tough pragmatism was allied to the pursuit of ideals as well as immediate practical causes. This combination gave the substance and style of his leadership a distinctive quality which endowed his marked Victiorianism with features which even in his own times were both old and new. On a wide range of issues which he faced, one detects the impact of dilemmas created by the beckoning world which was opened to the Jews of the West in the eighteenth century. At the height of his career, between the 1830s and the 1860s inclusive, many issues were brought into sharp focus which in one way or another have continued to be debated ever since. They are questions concerning the proper degree of assimilation, the criteria for judging the matter, the nature of Jewish distinctiveness in modern society, and the relation between integration and practical messianism.3 The conventional picture of his era long tended to be roseate, somewhat reverentially portrayed, with historiography tilted towards the lives of a comparatively small number of families. The conflicting philosophies within the Jewish community, the deeper divisions within the leadership, and the nuts and bolts of communal machinery, were little written about. It was as though it was felt that the setting out, episode by episode, of the stages of the emancipation campaign and of the Reform secession, said enough. Whether he liked it or not, Montefiore was at the centre of the scene in a variety of capacities in regard to many of the deeper issues, as well as the more immediate outward or institutional questions. He was instinctively sympathetic to causes and assumptions which by the mid-nineteenth century had become old-fashioned. Events have made us in our own generation much more attuned to the need for and the naturalness of consciously seeking to put bounds to assimilation, than was once the case. Between Montefiore and many of the leading Jewish emancipationists there were differences of policy and of nuance on that score.4 We today may regard his approach on some topics as simplistic and sometimes even untenable; yet his retentive grasping on to a dissolving age strikes in us chords of recognition and mutuality. He had about him something of a reluctant Victorian, which for example Sir David Salomons in no sense was. Salomons' robust modernity in his epoch has for us today an element of touching confidence. Montefiore shared it, but with reservations which the twentieth century understands better than did the nineteenth. At the same time he was the quintessential Victorian in other ways. He was at his most English in his visible piety, his pride in the public acclaim of his domesticity, and his especially high view of public service. He emerged into 196</page><page sequence="3">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation prominence when the Evangelical Revival was at its height. Victorian thrift and economic individualism mingled with social conscience and the developing notions of social welfare. The Anglican Evangelicals and the Nonconformists had made conventional among the middle classes those external qualities which were in practice evinced in any event by Sir Moses. They were qualities which largely belonged to his own self-consciously demonstrative Judaism. The Englishman and the Jew blended in him with a naturalness which had great appeal, even among those Jews who failed to share his pietism. That appeal long outlived him. One of the sharpest conflicts of his career centred round his efforts in 1853 to exclude from the Board of Deputies four members of the Reform congrega? tion in London who had been elected as Deputies by provincial orthodox synagogues. The dispute extended beyond the instant issue. Broad questions were raised concerning not only the relations between provincial communities and the London leadership, but also the system of communal government generally. The four had considerable support in the Provinces, including that of recognized heads of the respective local congregations. For example, Elias Davis, Common Councillor in the City of London and an Aldgate wholesale clothier, had in Norwich the backing of that celebrated East Anglian personal? ity, Joel Fox. Davis was the true leader of the four, and in the 1840s and 1850s championed a series of efforts to curb the power of the old established system. In Chatham, Samuel Ellis of Euston Square, London, had the vigorous support of the well-known Kent figure, Simon Magnus. Men such as Fox and Magnus were not only local congregational leaders, but were also in the van of provincial emancipationist endeavour. There were frequent calls from such leaders, and from vocal London communal activists such as Henry Keeling (a prominent City jeweller) and Lewis Braham (a notable solicitor), for changes which would have involved a restructure of the pattern of communal leadership; they would have included a greater use of committees, wider consultation, and greater professionalism. The four aspiring Deputies were excluded by Montefiore's casting vote. His private and public roles in this protracted affair were severely attacked in wide segments of leading communal opinion. This reaction indicated the strength of feeling on the religious and administrative questions inherent in the argu? ments. It also gave notice of the rising influence and the growing esprit de corps of the new businessmen and professional men from outside the ruling families, who were now edging their way forward in the communal hierarchy. Montefiore was slow to perceive that his long retention of high office could in practice operate as a fetter on their emergence, with their talents and imagination lost to the succession. There were also sharp and persistent differences of opinion over what should be the relationship between the English law of marriage and divorce on the one hand and Jewish religious law on the other hand. The differences 197</page><page sequence="4">Israel Finestein reflected a deep diversity of attitude over the status of the Jew in society in a changing world. I do not thereby refer to the status of the Reform congregation in this sphere: that was itself an issue of acute controversy within the Board and within the Jewish community, in the course of which Montefiore's tradition-rooted policy was hotly challenged by Salomons and others promi? nent in the orthodox community as well as by the leaders of Reform. Monteflore would have preferred English Jews to be allowed by law to marry in accordance with the permitted halachic degrees, regardless of the general rules of prohibition applicable under the law of the land. However, the prevailing opinion came to be that this distinctiveness should not be pressed for. The issue was angrily argued within the first years of his Presidency of the Board. In 1838 Salomons retired from the Board, partly because of these and related divisions of opinion, and partly because of what he deemed to be the Board's dilatoriness and inadequate support in the emancipation campaign. Samuel Ellis, later one of the four of 1853, and at that time Deputy for the Western Synagogue in London, resigned with him. It was essentially because of disappointment with Montefiore's leadership. These differences caused Monteflore great anxiety. Even as early as 1838, barely three years after his accession as President of the Board of Deputies, he had qualms about continuing in office. In the 1840s the differences were vividly illustrated by the embarrassing divergences in representations made to the Government by committees headed respectively by Monteflore and the Goldsmids. The former expressed readiness to accept a stage-by-stage pro? gramme for civic and policial emancipation. The latter urged immediate total abolition of the disabilities. In the event, the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, adopted the former approach. The debates of 18 5 3-4 became absorbed in even keener discussion over the efforts of the West London Synagogue of British Jews to procure by statute their own marriage registration arrangements outside the Registration Act of 1836. That statute had given sole recognition to the Board in this field. The question whether to oppose those efforts was probably the most acrimoniously contested subject in Montefiore's career. The dispute ceased at a late stage when it became clear that for Parliamentary reasons the relevant Bill would in any case not complete its passage. When the Bill was revived in 1856, the Board's leaders decided neither to support nor oppose it, and it became law. Had Monteflore pursued a course hostile to the measure, there can be no reasonable doubt that at that time he would have been most unlikely to attract a majority of Deputies. Such bruising debates severely tested his stamina. He was afflicted by periodic bouts of ill-health. He was now in his seventies. But the conflicts were not at an end. He and the Chief Rabbi, Nathan Marcus Adler, wanted the law to recognize rabbinic divorce, and thus permit the remarriage of English Jews without first meeting the considerable requirements of the civil law of divorce. 198</page><page sequence="5">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation Salomons and his school of thought considered that Jews, as Englishmen, should be bound by the law of the land in addition, as he certainly hoped, to their own religious rules. In this dispute, which was much publicized, Salomons' view prevailed and ultimately gained the crucial support of the Government-to Montefiore's personal chagrin and the Board's public discomfi? ture. For Montefiore, considerations of creed, tradition and public policy con? verged. In the 1830s it was still common for the Jewish community to be referred to in ordinary course by Christian friends as 'the Jewish nation'. This caused him none of the concern, then or later, which it gave to other prominent Jews, especially of the younger generation. He was President of the Board of Deputies for a total of twenty-eight years, spread over a period of thirty-nine years. In spite of his personal and instinctive courtesy and his readiness to accept change when it proved in his eyes inescapable, he expected in that office, and generally, that those whom he sought to serve and those who aspired to leadership would share his inherited approaches. Montefiore repeatedly expressed private and public misgivings over his re-elections to the Presidency. The press was first admitted to the Board in 1853, at the height of that year's controversies. Not until 1854 was anY standing committee created. When it was formed, it was part of the healing process after the verbal battles of those years. Both reforms had long been called for. If Montefiore came to perceive the need for a broader-based system of communal government and for some regular consultative machinery, he hardly regarded any new procedures as a restraint on his personal authority. A certain arbitrariness on his part persisted, and this was increasingly criticized. He was not one to acclimatize himself easily to new constraints or to the politics of accountability. One of the most remarkable facts about his communal career was his consistent readiness to retain office and submit himself unsparingly to public debate and critical scrutiny for so long. For a man of his hauteur, this reveals a remarkable strength of attachment to public duty as he saw it. This phenomenon goes far to explain the extraordinary acclaim which he enjoyed unbrokenly from the mid-1860s. He had stayed the course, and it was never a sinecure. Like the Queen, there were fewer and fewer who could remember when he was not monarch. As he approached his eighties, astonishment turned to adulation, marked by a widespread sense of indebtedness for unprecedented and strenuous service at home and abroad. He took on a larger-than-life image. The quarrels of the 1840s and the differences of the 1850s were after all now quiescent, if not resolved. And emancipation had by this time been securely achieved. His failure over the Mortar a Affair in the late 1850s was accompanied by great personal sympathy for his considerable and much publicized personal efforts. The episode aroused resentful criticism of what was considered to be an unreasonably unbending Vatican. It encouraged the creation of the Alliance 199</page><page sequence="6">Israel Finestein Israelite Universelle in i860, an event pointing to a different-though not necessarily mutually exclusive-kind of Jewish diplomacy from that associated with the highly personalized intercessions of Monteflore. He never truly reconciled himself to any such predetermined coordinating machinery. By habit and choice he reserved his position. His attitude was consistent with his belief in his influence at home. Given the stability of British public life and Britain's commercial, naval and political power, his belief in the goodwill and support of the British Government in proper cases strongly reinforced his sense of independence. To his fellow-Jews, and many others, he acquired a uniqueness for which there was neither precedent nor any likelihood, as posterity soon perceived, of any comparable successor. When it was announced in 1863 that he had offered to visit Morocco in the Jewish behalf, there was communal consternation that at his age he should be prepared to undertake that onerous, even dangerous, journey. All his travels abroad were long and arduous. With some misgivings he was allowed his lordly way by his colleagues in 1863. His wife's death in 1862 had evoked widespread sympathy. His Moroccan mission set the seal, so to speak, upon his canonization. In politics he was more interested in personality than in party.5 He respected establishments and protocol. Monteflore saw public duty as a function of station. He was not a politician's politician. Nor did he have much interest in political ideas. Monteflore had the altruism of a public-spirited Whig aristocrat and the paternalistic impulse of the compassionate Tory. These were not thought-out positions. Indeed their formulation is misleading unless it is recognized as the reflex of temperament and the reactions of instinct. Montefiore's political associates, personal friends and business colleagues were from all parties and included prominent Tories and High Churchmen as well as many Nonconformist figures, lay and religious. He could have had no illusions about the strong and deep-rooted reserve towards the Jews in Tory and some Anglican quarters. The promotion of the Act of 184 5 - which opened the municipalities to Jews-by the Tory administration of Peel and Lyndhurst encouraged him against regarding the Whigs as having any monopoly of party goodwill to the Jewish claims. Whatever inhibitions Monteflore retained against giving political effect to a preference for a party whose outlook on society he undoubtedly shared, the opening of the House of Commons to Jews in 1858 (under a Tory administration) disposed of them. In his closing decades he was regarded by his contemporaries as an unequivocal political Conserva? tive, his natural stance. He retained his genuine personal respect and admiration for Gladstone, who by the 1860s had completed, via the Peelites, his own Odyssey out of the Conservative ranks. The attempts to democratize (comparatively) and rationalize the system of communal government in Anglo-Jewry continued into the 1860s and beyond, but in a more subdued tone. Monteflore was no longer the target. His presence was to some extent a becalming, though not an obviating, factor. There was 200</page><page sequence="7">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation still vocal discontent over the limited sources, not to say the oligarchic nature, of communal government. A typical proposal for expansion was made by the Jewish Chronicle on 17 June 1869. Let there be added to the Board, wrote the editor (Abraham Benisch) all Jewish MPs, Queen's Counsel, Royal Academ? icians and other specifically nominated persons. Some part of the criticism was met by the creation of the Anglo-Jewish Association in 18 71, which incorporated leading Reformers (including promi? nent MPs), and other notable public figures to whom the novelty, independ? ence and apparent capacity for speedy action of the new body had a strong appeal. Benisch, who was the principal initiator of the Association, had also long urged the establishment of an international Jewish body in pursuit of Jewish causes. The Association was created with that object in Benisch's mind, an aim which the leaders of the Board viewed with some caution and in some instances distinct disapproval. With the great immigration after 1881 and the rise of political Zionism in the 1890s, the communal debate concerning the system of communal government became merged with new kinds of communal stress and conten? tion. Many who were formerly in disagreement were now united in their distaste for the new modes and ideas which gathered momentum. In their different ways the new groupings, each with some justification, appealed to the record and impulses of Montefiore. I now turn to an estimate of the spirit and motivation of Montefiore's European missions and his visits to Palestine. In both sets of journeys there was a common element which goes to the root of Victorian Jewish opinion. It was the element of optimism, namely the belief that prejudice would give way to reason in the advancing technological age, and that such movements were part of a providential pattern. With this belief there came a reliance on the openness of kings and captains to enlightened argument. The whole of Montefiore's public career rested on the assumption that improved education, social amelioration and the rational presentation of a case would assuage bigotry. While he imbibed the Victorian belief in the inevitability of progress and in the ultimate triumph of reason, much of his public life was spent in encounters with the opposite realities. I do not think the contrast occurred to him as carrying any implications which need cast doubt upon his convictions. His belief in the ultimate messianic redemption of the Jews was accompan? ied by his strongly held opinion concerning the piety and virtue involved in giving succour to Jews resident in the Holy Land. In these sentiments he was in tune with high social fashion and imperial interest. There was a wide acknowledgement by Christians and Jews of the place of Jerusalem in the providence of Jewish history. Christian conversionists were busy in the advocacy of some link between Jewish restorationism and Jewish conversion. British interests, intellectual speculation and religious enthusiasms gave attraction to the idea of the Jewish return to Jerusalem. 201</page><page sequence="8">Israel Finestein However disparate the motivations, there remained a common residue of providentiality which gave respectability and social acceptance to Jewish ideas about the Return. Much was left unspoken, but the central eschatological idea endured, of a pending grand design, however inscrutable as to time, manner or agency, which would radically affect the status of Jews everywhere and alter the ceaselessly discussed desolate condition of the Holy Land. Christians who nurtured their own beliefs and expectations were meanwhile intellectually and emotionally sympathetic to Jewish efforts to relieve that desolation and improve the lot of the Jews wherever they might be. They were allies in practice of Jewish effort and aspiration. If that relief and improvement could arise under British auspices or, better still, if Great Britain were seen to be engaged in practical deeds to those ends, then the interests of compassion, liberalism, commercial opportunity and British influence in the East would all be served, as well as divine purposes of a longer-term nature. From the Jewish point of view, all such efforts reinforced the hoped-for beneficent consequences of the international Jewish kinship and Jewish religious duty. There was thus a convergence of aspirations which endowed Montefiore's missions overseas, including his visits to Palestine, with a highly Victorian flavour. His involvement with the development of Jewish life in the Holy Land, for all its emphasis on self-help, was essentially a matter of philanthropy, patronage and welfare. He did not think in political terms. But his insistence on frequent public demonstration of the Jewish hope and expectation of national redemption, and his declared perception of that hope as an encouragement to his own work in Palestine, went far beyond the polite drawing-room-style acknowledgment of messianic belief adopted by most of his Anglo-Jewish contemporaries. He is nearer to us than they are in his emphasis, and in his responses to his own convictions. With regard to Russian Jewry, Montefiore wrote in July 1878 as follows to Gerson von Bleichr?der, banker and Bismarck's financial adviser:6 'The best way to obtain the cooperation of the Emperor... and his Ministers is to show our confidence in their desire to ameliorate the condition of the Jews_Nor need I impress on your mind the lesson which history so clearly teaches us that the social and political condition of a large religious community can only be gradually raised?It also appears to me most important that every effort should be made to induce our wealthier coreligionists in the East to do all that lies in their power to educate and raise their less fortunate brethren.' Virtually every phrase of that classic passage represents a vital strand in Montefiore's assumptions, outlook and policy in all fields of Jewish public relations at home and abroad. Two years later he gave yet more explicit expression to his hopeful thoughts, in response to Bleichr?der's report on the growth of anti-Semitic movements in Germany and elsewhere.7 'I entertain the hope that by prudence and discretion on our part, and increased enlightenment based on principles of humanity among non-Israelites, an improvement in the condition of our 202</page><page sequence="9">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation brethren will ultimately by effected. In the meanwhile we must not relax our earnest activity and when occasion requires it hold up high the banner of our religion, for we must always bear in mind that "it is not by might nor power that Israel prevails but by the Spirit of... the Lord of Hosts".' When Montefiore visited Russia in 1872 he took pride and pleasure in what he deemed to be improvements in the style of Russian Jewish life by comparison with his observations on his visit in 1846. He felt that his earlier advice to Russian Jewish leaders had been taken to heart in the encouragement of agriculture, manual skills and a certain degree of westernization, and that ministerial assurances on behalf of the Czarist Government had not proved dead letters. In the fateful month of May 1881 he wrote to the President of the Board of Deputies (Arthur Cohen, his nephew) expressing confidence in assurances of protection given to him on those visits.8 He supported the Board's decision not to press for official representations to be made to the Russian Government in connection with the anti-Jewish outbreaks. 'I am fully convinced', he added, 'that it is only by mild and judicious representation - relying in advance as it were on their kindness and humanity-that you have a chance of your application reaching the throne of the Emperor.' Popular violence, ministerial hostility or chicanery, and the apparent unassimilability of the massive Jewish numbers in Eastern Europe did not deflect Montefiore's confidence. It was part of an ideology which one was to hear again from Oswald John Simon, Lauire Magnus and others in their debates with the Zionists. They rested their own hopes upon the ultimate rationality of governments and peoples, and prayed in aid the patience, philanthropy and respect-attracting interventions of their now irreproachable senior and exemplar.9 But let not the significance of his missions be underrated. In 1840, in the later stages of the Damascus Affair, the French Government felt obliged to submit to the wishes of the powers whom the British Government, in a Jewish cause in which Britain had her own interest, had brought into concert. The resurgence of the ritual-murder charge in Damascus, and the readiness of intelligent Christians in high places in Paris and even public figures in London to believe it or to treat it as though true, was in stark contrast to the rationality which it was thought the earlier century had bequeathed. The Affair led to the marshalling by Jews and their supporters of sympathetic Gentile opinion in the capitals of the West. The public meetings convened in 1840, and the international Jewish cooperation, were precursors of a familiar style of agitation and public relations. At the time of the Queen's Jubilee in 1887 the Jewish Chronicle justly called the Jewish response to the events in Damascus and Paris 'the first great expression of Jewish solidarity'. The role of Montefiore's intervention with Mehemet Ali in Egypt, and with the Sultan in Constantinople, in giving practical effect to that solidarity and to the public opinion which it influenced, was considerable. The potential influence of Jewish representations was often commented upon; sometimes, as in the 203</page><page sequence="10">Israel Finestein French Chamber of Deputies in 1840, in terms of grudging admiration. These events were not lost upon Jewish opinion. His missions abroad helped to set standards by which governmental acts of omission or commission were or could be tested. They helped to set precedents for Jewish effort and possible governmental intervention in suitable cases. Montefiore was an important bridge between the age of Jewish powerless ness which preceded him and the age of aspiration to statehood which followed him. His career was rooted in the concept of Jewish peoplehood. If he was never jolted towards statehood, his activities formed a developing part of the ground scene, especially his initiatives and practical support for settlement, industry and agriculture in Palestine. His activities were conducive, with many other factors, to the day-to-day growth of the Zionist enterprise and thus to the pre-history of the Balfour Declaration. NOTES Bill of that year. 'Mr. Montefiore', wrote Loewe, 'on hearing that Lord Chancellor Brougham had spoken in a very illiberal spirit of the Jews, observed "So much for Whig friends".'This relates to a passage in Brougham's immensely long and often fiery speech on 7 October, the fifth and final day of a frequently heated debate. Among other grounds, critics of the Bill had attacked it as seeking to base the franchise on population as distinct from property rights and public responsibility. 'What say you', declared the Lord Chancellor, 'to close boroughs coming by barter or sale into the hands of Jew jobbers, gambling loan-contractors and scheming attor? neys ... ? That a peer or a speculating attorney or a jobbing Jew or a gambler from the Stock Exchange by vesting in his own person the old walls of Sarum... or a summer house at Gatton and making fictitious... and monetary trans? fers of them to an agent or two for the purpose of enabling them to vote as if they had the property... is itself a monstrous abuse... and becomes the most disgusting hypocrisy when it is seriously treated as a franchise by virtue of property' {Parl.Debs. Vol. VIII, 3rd Series, Cls. 240-2). This notable reformer thus expressed fashionably held views about the proclivities of Jewish finance, so persistently purveyed by William Cobbett. Brougham, who would have repudiated Cobbett's general anti-Jewish senti? ments, supported the Jewish cause in Parlia? ment during the emancipation debates, as was common among the Whigs. 6 Fritz Stern, Gold and Iron; Bismarck, Bleichr?der and the German Empire (1977) 378. 7 Diaries II (see n. 2) 294 (13 June 1880). 8 Ibid. 300. 1 He held office as President of the London Board for Shechita, with short interludes, from 1842 to 1880. 2 The Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Monte flore were edited by Louis Loewe and first appeared in 1890. They were handsomely republished by this Society and the Jewish Museum in 1983. 3 Concerning the particular issues in Victorian Anglo-Jewry, see the author's Post Emancipation Jewry: The Anglo-Jewish Experience (The 7th Sacks Lecture, Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies, 1980), and his article in The Century of Montefiore, eds V. D. and S. Lipman (Oxford 1985) 45-70, and the references appended to each. 4 Assimilation is not the same as absorp? tion, which connotes the loss of transmissible distinctiveness. The process of assimilation, which was engaged in and encouraged within their community by Jewish emancipationists, was in some respects consciously limited to stem absorption. The author's paper on 'Self imposed Limits on Assimilation by Victorian Jewish Emancipationists', delivered to the Lon? don conference convened by the Institute of Jewish Studies in June 1985 has not yet been published. The differences which remained between the leading Jewish emancipationists and Montefiore's school of thought were, as seen from our historical vantage point, often related more to questions of pace than prin? ciple. Indeed, pace and principle are frequently indistinguishable issues. 5 On an unstated date in October 1831 the Diaries record that friends reported to Montefiore the Lords' rejection of the Reform 204</page><page sequence="11">Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation 9 In December 1879 there appeared in The Times a long and unprecedented correspond? ence in which many prominent Jews took part. This public exchange may be said to mark the onset of modern Jewish history in the Anglo Jewish context. The debate turned on the issue as to whether Jews voted as Englishmen and whether there was a Jewish vote. Gladstone's Midlothian campaign was at its height. Dis? raeli's policy for the containment of Russia involved amicable Anglo-Turkish relations. Gladstone's concern for the Christian commun? ities in the Ottoman Empire inclined him towards a pro-Russian stance. It was easier for the Tories to contemplate official representa? tions to Russia over the Jewish position in the Czarist Empire than it was for the Liberals, who looked to the Czar as an ally in support of a policy directed to clearing the Ottoman forces out of Europe. Some Liberal politicians who were Jews, while sharing their leader's anxiety for the protection of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, publicly disavowed his apparent reluctance to press the Jewish case in southeast Europe. Prominent among them was Sir John Simon, QC, MP. Questions were raised in this new phase of Jewish history which in Monte? fiore's heyday had not emerged in practical form. The nature and direction of the influence of the emancipated Jewish leaders in the West came under closer scrutiny, in proportion to the diversity of options open to British policy in the new combinations of power politics, nationalist aspirations in southeast Europe, and the growing European xenophobia which coloured the closing decades of the old century. 205</page></plain_text>

bottom of page