New London News – APRIL 1972
Vol. 3. No. 1.
Rabbi Jacobs-with that complete loyalty which he gives us-would deny that this description fitted him. Yet I wonder if he has not sometimes’ in his private thoughts’ felt a little disappointed with events-or rather’ lack of them. His loyalty to us is unquestioned-but what of ours to him?
Let us cast our minds back to the foundation of this congregation. We broke our ties with the United Synagogue and our roots with the New West End firstly through an outraged sense of the injustice meted out to Louis Jacobs. But there was a second reason which’ in its implications’ was actually more important. And it is this very one which I feel we have pushed to the back of our minds-if not completely forgotten.
Rabbi Jacobs was refused permission to re-assume the leadership of the New West End Synagogue because his views on Judaism clashed with those of the fundamentalists. Yet it was his beliefs that inspired us. They made Judaism -and all its traditions-understandable and acceptable to what we like to consider is our sophisticated thinking of today. We felt’ moreover’ that the message our Minister had to give should not be confined to us alone. In those early days we were determined that the rest of Jewry-especially the young-should be made aware of it. I do not mean we were imbued with a missionary zeal to go out and open new synagogues’ but we did feel that what Dr. Jacobs had to say should be heard everywhere … as the message and inspiration of a modern living religion.
And now I pose the question-how far have we carried out these ideals? Indeed’ what have we to show that makes us different from any other congregation? How many members have subsequently joined us because of the things for which we stand (I am almost tempted to say “stood”). Far too many’ I suspect’ came to us simply because they “liked the service” or because it “was convenient”. Take just one small point to explain what I mean (I could give others but space does not permit). It was laid down’ with foresight and as consistent with our policy’ that our congregation should use the modern pronunciation of Ivrit. But it seems that comparatively few have bothered to learn it when one hears the many who sing at the top of their voices in the old style and thus’ apart from drowning the choir’ give the lie to the modernity we profess.
Oh’ how you will shout me down : “We come to shool to pray-are you going to prevent us doing so because we are too old to learn new tricks?” But if’ when new members joined’ they were informed of our policy-and why-I am sure they would not only feel the challenge to learn to read (and sing) Hebrew the modern way’ but would wish to keep their voices a little muted until they had done so. Nothing new’ that is worthwhile’ comes without working at it!
Let visitors to our Services hear we are different; that is the first step to them wanting to know “why?” And when they ask’ do not let our answer be kept within the walls of the New London building. Let it go out through the length and breadth of the land.
I am not’ one who would advocate the creation of division and revolt in the community by preaching what might be termed anti-Establishment views. But the dissension’ and disenchantment with its religious leaders’ already exists; disbelief in fundamentalism and even total rejection of Judaism is already rife. Are we to sit cosily in our own congregation happily aware that these problems no longer beset us-and not caring what happens to the rest of Jewry? We know our Rabbi has the answers for the doubters and the disillusioned. When will we show our loyalty to him by’ somehow’ releasing him from the confining shackles of a congregation and making it possible for him to have the freedom to preach his message to wider horizons?
Editorial note: This article was written by one of our founder members and seven years after the formation of the New London Synagogue it is more than thought provoking. For some time the Executive Committee and the Council have given much thought to the questions which EMEL poses. In a recent issue we published an article on the Choir and what it meant to our services and the Editor asked for the views of members on the provocative issues which the article raised. The response was virtually nothing. Can members improve on this and write what they think about our present situation? After all’ the Council consists of only 26 members. It is the views of the remaining 700 or so that we should like to have.