Originally published in the Jewish Chronicle.
Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs’s controversial book, “We Have Reason to Believe,” is recommended as “a popular work on Jewish religious thought” in a new United Synagogue publication, “Your Jewish Bookshelf.”
The 30-page booklet is written by Mr Henry Shaw, former director of the Hillel Foundation in London, now in Australia. It is issued by the publications committee of the US.
It was largely as a result of his theological views expressed in the book that Dr Jacobs was first rejected as a candidate for principal of Jews’ College and later refused permission to reoccupy his former pulpit at the New West End Synagogue, a constituent of the US.
Mr Shaw writes that the book, among others, gives “a substantial background of knowledge and ideas which will serve the reader in selecting further works for his library.”
Mr Raymond Goldwater, chairman of the US publications committee, told me this week: “We did not feel that we should exclude any books merely because their views do not coincide with that of the Chief Rabbi or the Beth Din.”
He added that the draft of Mr Shaw’s booklet was sent to the Chief Rabbi for his approval and was returned to the committee without comment.
While not agreeing with Dr Jacobs’s views, Mr Goldwater said that if he had written the booklet he too would have included “We Have Reason to Believe” in it.
“It is one of the very few books on the subject which deal with the whole question on a layman’s level,” he declared.
The recommendation of Dr Jacobs’s books represented no change in the official US view, in so far as it was possible for an institution to hold a view, Mr Goldwater stated.
Rabbi Cyril Harris, minister of the Kenton Synagogue and a member of the publications committee, said: “The purpose of a Jewish book-list is to teach as much as possible about Judaism. Anybody approaching the subject with blinkers on would be rather silly.”
Another member of the committee, the Rev Raymond Apple, minister of the Hampstead Synagogue, stated: “The job of a publications committee is not to go in for heresy hunting or to stir up controversy, but to educate.”
Mr S. S. Levin, a vice-chairman of the committee, told me that he had “no objection whatever to the works of Dr Jacobs being included in the list of recommended books. I have bought them myself and they are in my library.”
Sir Israel Brodie, Chief Rabbi at the time of the “Jacobs controversy,” declined to comment.
In a selected book list at the end of the publication, Dr Jacobs’s “Jewish Prayer” and his “Faith” are also included. All three work are published by Vallentine, Mitchell.