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Tribute to Rabbi Dr. Israel Brodie, 1895-1979

Vivia D. Lipman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Sir Israel Brodie, K.B.E., Hon.D.D., Hon.D.C.L. (Dunelm) Emeritus Chief Rabbi Vice-President of the Jewish Historical Society of England VIVIAN D. LIPMAN, C.V.O., M.A., D.Phil. This evening* we mourn the passing of the Emer? itus Chief Rabbi, Sir Israel Brodie, and I have the honour, in accordance with the custom of our Society, to offer a tribute to our late distinguished Vice-Presi dent. As Chief Rabbi, he not only wrote history, he made it. If he was not the first Rabbi to be knighted, he was the first Chief Rabbi to be appointed a Knight Com? mander of an order of chivalry; and chivalry and courage were outstanding features of his life. He served as Chaplain on active service in two World Wars; he wore his Sovereign's uniform in two of the armed services; and countless numbers of Jewish Ser? vicemen have borne tribute to his devotion to duty, his kindliness, and the deep respect which he earned for Judaism among all with whom he served. If he was not the first Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth to be born in this country?for Solo? mon Hirschell was born in London?he was the first to have had a characteristically English education from elementary school to this College, and?in two per? iods of his life?he was a Balliol man. He combined, in a traditionally Anglo-Jewish way, the benefits of Jew? ish study and secular culture. It is natural for us in this Society to think of him in his association with ourselves, and of his interest in scholarship and Anglo-Jewish history. We have been fortunate in that, having elected successive Chief Rabbis to the Vice-Presidency of this Society, all of them have not treated it as a mere compliment but have interested themselves, in one way or another, in our work. I think Sir Israel's outstanding contribution was to devote himself to ensuring the publication of the Etz Hayyim of Jacob ben Judah, Hazan of London, a work of immense importance for medieval Anglo Jewish history. I recall with affection the detailed * Tribute delivered at a meeting ot the JHSE at University College London on 14 February 1979. discussions with him arising from the editing of this work; and subsequently the pleasure and interest he took in any subsequent discoveries about medieval Anglo-Jewish scholarship. But he was concerned not only with dead scholars, but with living ones. Tribute has been paid to his concern to help poor Jewish scholars, often from his own means; this was from personal knowledge of the former Treasurer of Bequests and Trusts of the United Synagogue, since Sir Israel Brodie followed the din of mattan b'seter, anonymous giving. This is not the place in which to discuss the contro? versies in which he was involved; and future historians may consider that in his Chief Rabbinate can be dis? cerned the beginnings of new trends in Anglo-Jewish religious attitudes. But no one?whether they agreed or disagreed?would think that he was other than i-^uctant to indulge in confrontation; nor that once he und come to a decision, which might be difficult or involve personal regret to him, he would shirk doing what he conceived to be his duty. In all his ways, he was a gentle man; more, he was a gentleman. Simeon Singer, addressing undergra? duates at Cambridge, characterised the English con? cept of a gentleman as 'one who makes light of favours while he does them and seems to be receiving when he is conferring'. Anyone who had personal dealings with Sir Israel will wish to recall his humility, his courtesy, his kindness in which he taxed, and did not spare, his own health. This is the man we shall remember. And, in doing so, let us think with sym? pathy and concern of Lady Brodie, who did so much by her unique combination of dignity and serenity, to sustain him in the troubles of his office. I ask you, in accordance with our custom, to rise in tribute to the memory of Sir Israel Brodie, Emeritus Chief Rabbi, Fellow of this College, Vice-President of this Society?rabbi, scholar, and gentleman. 113</page></plain_text>