Originally published in Tradition 8:3 (Fall 1966).
To the editor of TRADITION:
In the course of his eminently readable account of the situation in Anglo Jewry published in the summer issue of TRADITION, Mr. Norman Cohen honors me by alluding in the following terms to a conversation, one of many, which I had with him several years ago:
I was told by Sefton Temkin, now in the U.S.A., but then a columnist of the Jewish Chronicle and a strong Jacobs supporter, that the Chief Rabbi was threatened that, unless the appointment was made Dr. Jacobs would follow Dr. Alexander Altman, at Brandeis since 1959, on the “brain drain” to the United States and he would then have to account to an outraged public opinion for the loss in quick succession, of two of the leading clergymen under his jurisdiction.
It is not clear whether the reference to the alleged threat to the Chief Rabbi purports to be a quotation of my remarks to Mr. Cohen or his own interpretation of the position derived from the information which I gave him. Probably it is the latter! I cannot flatter myself to believe that my conversation leaves such an indelible impression on the mind.
In Conservative Judaism, Fall, 1963, page 31, I alluded to what had happened in these terms:
In 1959 it was feared that Dr. Jacob might accept an invitation to teach in the United States, which would have been a serious loss to a community all but bereft of scholarly preachers. It was known that the then Principal of Jews’ College was due to retire within a couple of years and a place on the staff was made for Dr. Jacobs, obviously with the anticipation that he would succeed to the highest office.
Amplifying what appeared in print, the position as I knew it and as I discussed it with Mr. Cohen on one of the occasions when he kindly entertained me in his home was as follows:
When Dr. Altman accepted his present position at Brandeis University the Chief Rabbi remarked to X—another friend of mine—that had Dr. Altman consulted him first he would have seen to it that a satisfactory position had been found for Dr. Altman in England; and when later Dr. Jacobs received the offer of a teaching position in the United States X, with this earlier conversation in mind, and possibly alluding to it directly, promptly took up with the Chief Rabbi the urgency of making a counter offer which would keep Dr. Jacobs in England.
Where such representations involved a threat to the Chief Rabbi I do not see, but some contact with these matters convinces me that belief in the existence of a threat depends on the position from which you are looking. When one wing declares that some one is being “threatened” (a variant phrase is “subjected to undue pressure”), the other declares that he has “had the facts put before him in their true light” (or “been acquainted with the true facts of the situation”). An examination of Anglo-Jewish history would show that for seventeen years and on a variety of subjects Chief Rabbi Brodie was being “threatened” and having “the facts put before him in their true light” simultaneously.
S. D. Temkin
Mr. Cohen Replies:
Mr. Temkin does too much justice to Dr. Jacobs and too little to himself. His telephone call to announce the Jews’ College appointment did create an indelible impression, with its triumphant report of the successful pressure brought to bear on Dr. Brodie.
His suave account of the matter is demolished by one undeniable fact, Dr. Epstein’s vehement opposition to bringing Jacobs into the College. I find it unbelieveable that Dr. Brodie, merely on the strength of a casual conversation with “X,” should have thereupon resolved to violate the deeply-held feelings of the Principal of Jews College, who was a colleague of many years’ standing as well as being one of the greatest Jewish scholars of his time.