Originally published in The Jewish Chronicle.
Rabbi Jacobs on views of Anglo-Jewish youth
Jewish Chronicle Reporter
A forecast that the future of the Anglo-Jewish community would lie with thinking people who adopted a “middle-of-the-road” position in Judaism was made by Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs.
Speaking on Tuesday to the Luncheon Club of the Anglo-Jewish Association in London about his encounters with Jewish south and university students in the country, Rabbi Jacobs said that he had found that very often all the Jewish activities were being conducted by a small group of fully committed and strictly Orthodox youngsters.
“They are the Right-wingers who see everything in terms of black and white, despise all compromise, criticise the adult community for its hypocrisy and judge the spiritual value of a rabbi by the length of his beard. They wish to live in a Western environment but all their Jewish inspiration is obtained, second-hand, from what they believe to have been the East European Jewish tradition. They display a complete lack of confidence in Anglo-Jewish spiritual leadership.”
The trouble with them was, Dr. Jacobs observed, that they “seem to think in slogans and have not made a serious effort at religious thinking.” There was something unauthentic in their brand of East European Judaism.
On the other extreme of Anglo-Jewish youth there were the Left-wingers—“people who rebelled against Jewish tradition and some of the Jewish teachings.” But one found almost invariably, Dr. Jacobs said, that they rebelled not against the Bible or Talmud but against a narrow, inadequate, dogmatic and unquestioning approach to Judaism which they had imbibed in their tender years.
It comes as a revelation to these cosmopolitans and universalists that Judaism is in fact not narrow but universalist.”
In the centre there were a large number of indifferent young people preoccupied mainly with their own immediate concerns. “But there are also some who are deeply committed to Judaism but are sufficiently broad-minded not to join either the Righ-wing or the Left-wing.” Dr. Jacobs added that that type was well represented in the upper forms of Carmel College.
“This is a type of voting people who belong to the centre not because they are indifferent to religion, not because they lack the courage to join the Right or Left extremists but because they are convinced that the answers to our problems and the truth lie somewhere near the centre. It is with this type of thinking people, both among the young and the adults, that the future of Anglo-Jewry lies.”
The Rev. Dr. I. Levy, who presided, said that he knew “of few Anglo-Jewish religious leaders who could appeal to the young in the community as could Rabbi Jacobs, whose absolute intellectual honesty was transparent to them.
“He could be the Pied Piper of Anglo-Jewish youth if he is given a chance and we look to him as a man who could give much to the Jewish community. The community would he stupid if it did not take full advantage of him.”
IRRATIONALISM IS DANGEROUS
Jewish Chronicle Reporter
Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs said in London last week that the religious and communal controversy in which he was involved was important not merely from the point of view of Jewish theology but also because of the practical consequences that might follow.
“If you adopt irrationalism in religion, as distinct from acknowledging its non-rational aspect, if you accept a rigid position in your approach to religious beliefs, then your observances, too, may become untenable,” he told a predominantly voting audience of the Scopus Group of Friends of the Hebrew University at the Herbert Samuel Hall, Bayswater.
Speaking on the subject “Reason and Un-Reason in Judaism,” Dr. Jacobs argued that a distinction ought to be made between the things which were clearly beyond the grasp of reason and the things which were within its investigating reach.
Rabbi Jacobs is leaving for America on Wednesday for a five-week lecture tour at the invitation of the American B’nai B’rith.