Theologian and founder of Liberal Judaism in England. Montefiore, scion of a prominent Anglo-Jewish family, studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Benjamin Jowett’s religious modernism, and at the Hochschule in Berlin, where he met a fellow-student, Solomon Schechter, whom he brought to England to act as his private tutor in Rabbinics. Montefiore founded the radical Reform movement Jewish Religious Union in 1902, which led to the establishment of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in 1911. Montefiore, determinedly anti-Zionist in the belief that this movement is detrimental to Jewish universalism, tried, in his capacity as president of the Anglo-Jewish Association (1895-1921), to prevent the signing of the Balfour Declaration.
Originally published as entry in the Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture: from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Blackwell Publishing: 1990) or EJ. vol. 12: 268-9.
Montefiore, Claude Joseph Goldsmid (1858-1938)
Among Montefiore’s works are Bible for Home Reading (1897-9), The Synoptic Gospels (1909), Rabbinic Literature and Gospel Teaching (1930), and, in collaboration with the Orthodox scholar Herbert Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology (1938). Montefiore’s work on the New Testament led him to the belief that, in certain respects, the Christian ethic is superior to the Jewish, and in looking forward to the day when the best in both religions (and in other religions) will be combined. But he never contemplated accepting the doctrinal claims of Christianity and steadfastly refused to place the New Testament in any way on a par with the Old. Montefiore also sought to demonstrate that the acceptance of biblical criticism need not lead to any rejection of the Hebrew Bible as devotional literature of the highest order. In Montefiore’s view, the greatest contribution to civilization made by the Jews was in keeping theism alive in the life of ordinary Jews throughout the ages.
Cohen, Some Recollections of C. G. Montefiore (London: Faber and Faber, 1940) Jacob, W.: Judaism 19 no. 3 (1970) 328-41