The excerpt was cut out of a book. We could not find the original source, nor could we figure out anything about the ‘Rabbi Miller’ appearing in it. We apologize for the lack of clarity which might result from the reading.
The Jacobs Affair
Rabbi Miller had a sense of vision and realised that the time was ripe for the R.C.A., which was forging strong links with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and with the rabbinic establishment there, to widen its contacts and sphere of interest. He took the initiative and came to London for a meeting with Rabbi Brodie. This was in 1964. At that time, England was in the throes of what came to be called “the Jacobs Affair”. Rabbi Brodie was under tremendous pressure from some prominent members of Anglo-Jewry who were determined to see Rabbi Louis Jacobs appointed as the Principal of Jews’ College after the death of Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein, an outstanding talmid chacham and scholar who retired in 1962 and passed away in 1963.
Rabbi Epstein sensed that this crisis was approaching and it is interesting to read his speech to the Conference when it met in England (Westcliffe) in 1960. He described the dangers of the attacks on the belief in Torah min Hashamayim which Rabbi Jacobs had put on the masthead of his fight against the Chief Rabbi and members of the London Beth Din who were heavily involved in the struggle to protect the interests of Orthodox Jewry in the United Kingdom. This fight, which was really for the soul of Anglo Jewry, became an international issue, with the media portraying Rabbi Brodie and his supporters as medievalists who ignored “scholastic truth” and were trying to impose archaic ideas on the community.
Much has been written about the “the Jacobs Affair” in addition to what Rabbi Jacobs wrote himself. Rabbi Jakobovits describes it very succinctly in his book, “Journal of a Rabbi”:
“Late in 1961, a religious conflict began to erupt in Great Britain which eventually rocked Anglo-Jewry and sent its shockwaves all over the Jewish world. Sparking the bitter controversy was the refusal of Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie to appoint Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs as Principal of Jews’ College, and later in 1964, to approve his re-appointment as Minister of London’s New West End Synagogue. In both cases, the Chief Rabbi argued that Dr. Jacobs had rendered himself unfit for both these Orthodox positions because of the heterodox views he had expressed in speech and in writing, notably of his denial of the traditional belief that the entire Torah was of Divine origin. While the Chief Rabbi received the overwhelming support of Orthodox rabbis and scholars everywhere, the world-wide reports and comments were heavily slanted in favour of Dr Jacobs, largely through the partisanship of the influential Jewish Chronicle which, as Dr. Jacobs’ protagonist from the beginning, embarked on a sustained campaign to turn public opinion against the Chief Rabbi. The letter below, published in the Congress Bi-Weekly, on Friday 5 February 1962, was prompted by an article on the controversy.
To the Editor of the Congress Bi-Weekly:
“Mr. S.J. Goldsmith’s report on the Jews’ College crisis in London, published in your January 22 issue, shows a lamentable departure from your usual standards of objectivity, fairness and accuracy. It is quite untrue that ‘most members of the council of the College resigned’ with Dr. Louis Jacobs. The truth is that only the officers resigned after being defeated by a vote of 14 to 6 at a council meeting which favoured the Chief Rabbi’s request to postpone a decision until his return from Australia in April.
It is equally untrue that ‘Dr. Jacobs has the support of the Jewish community’. The truth is that at least half of the community sides with the Chief Rabbi, as revealed in the correspondence columns of the Jewish Chronicle, the principal protagonist of Dr. Jacobs. Almost the entire faculty of Jews’ College, itself is opposed to the appointment of Rabbi Jacobs. So were twenty ministers of the United Synagogue in London as against only thirteen who favoured his appointment, according to a poll taken by the Jewish Chronicle. Orthodox rabbis and leading Orthodox organisations, such as Mizrachi, are virtually unanimous in their rejection of Dr. Jacobs as a suitable candidate for the principalship of Jews’ College.
Above all, it is completely false and misleading to describe the conflict as one between the Chief Rabbi’s ‘fundamentalism’ and the alleged tendency of Dr. Jacobs ‘to be too much inclined towards inquiry’. The Chief Rabbi is himself a modern-type rabbi trained at Jews’ College. In common with men like Dr. I. Epstein (the retired principal of the College) and Dr. Belkin (of Yeshiva University), as well as other leading Orthodox scholars throughout the world, the Chief Rabbi disagrees with Dr. Jacobs while yet favouring intelligent inquiry, the cornerstone of all Jewish scholarship.
The real issue lies elsewhere, despite the bombastic claim of Dr. Jacobs in his letter of resignation that ‘no reputable scholar in the world has an approach that is basically different from mine’, a claim as patently absurd as it is immodest. To quote the Jewish Review, the principal rival of the Jewish Chronicle in England, ‘Dr. Jacobs believes that the Torah contains higher and lower teaching, parts of which are eternal and parts which are ephemeral. This concept clearly abandons the Orthodox religious position.’ The journal continues: ‘No wonder that Rabbi Jacobs has been received with open arms by the Liberal Jewish Community (corresponding to the American Reform – I. J.). The Rev. John D. Rayner in a review in the Liberal Jewish Monthly of his book ‘Jewish Values’, writes: ‘The present work, though it does not always go quite as far as we would like, is almost completely non-controversial from a Liberal point of view. Naturally one cannot help wondering how a scholar of such liberal mind can continue to identify himself with the Orthodox establishment’.
It is appropriate here to quote from a letter written by Dayan Isidor Grunfeld to Ivan Salomon dated 26 October 1964, “As I indicated in my last letter, Dr. Jacobs has meanwhile published a new book, ‘Principles of the Jewish Faith’, in which he goes much further to the left than his previous publications and denies the Sinaitic origin of both written and oral law. I think that is even further to the left than the so called Conservative Movement in America. In a way it is good that he has come out so clearly with his views”.
It is interesting to record that during the time of the controversy in 1962, Rabbi Brodie was invited for an interview on Independent Television in a programme called ‘I Believe’, by the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who was known as an aggressive, no punches pulled, tough interviewer. Rabbi Brodie willingly agreed. Probably the viewing-ratings for watching this interview by members of the Jewish Community was one of the highest ever. Rabbi Brodie came through with flying colours. He answered his interrogator in measured tones, not avoiding the important issues that were being discussed. The day after this interview, an important, well-known Chassidic Rabbi in London said to me, “Er hot geret vi a yid”—“He spoke like a Jew”. In the ‘Essays presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the occasion of his seventieth Birthday’, edited by H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz and I. Finestein, a ‘Biographical Sketch’ by J.M. Shaftesley includes another reaction to the Muggeridge interview by a Christian in the Church of England Newspaper by its television critic who wrote, “If I were a Jew I would feel very proud of my leader. The Chief Rabbi came across as a profound, honourable and wise representative of his faith.”
However, this narrative is basically concerned with the impact which the “affair” had on the Conference and what measures were taken to project the rabbi as a maamin and as a shomer Torah uMitzvot in the fullest sense of the word. The meeting between Rabbi Brodie and Rabbi Miller in 1964 was therefore quite historic because it brought together at leadership level the Rabbinate of the New World with its growing confidence, expertise and dynamics (the R.C.A. listed in its Rabbinic Registry over 1,000 rabbis as dues-paying members), and the Old World with its emphasis on tradition and an ordered way of operating. Several countries such as the U.K, France, Holland and Italy were, despite the decimation by the Shoah, gradually renewing their strength.
This fusion of forces brought in its wake close cooperation between European and American Rabbis in a number of important areas. The immediate result was the decision to hold the 4th Conference of European Rabbis in London in March 1965. This Conference was held in the Adolph Tuck Hall at Woburn House, where the offices of the Chief Rabbinate, the London Beth Din, the United Synagogue and the Board of Deputies of British Jews were located. The Conference was designed to have the largest impact on Anglo-Jewry at all levels. Thus, the rabbis of the R.C.A. were guests of a number of leading Congregations in London on the Shabbat prior the Conference. On three consecutive evenings during the three days that the Conference was in session, the Adolph Tuck Hall was packed with different audiences, which included University lecturers and students, as well as the general Jewish population of Greater London.