By Simon Rocker
September 24, 2008
For all the tensions that exist between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, we probably manage them more civilly than in the past. Go back to 1853, for example. When the first delegates from the West London Synagogue (the country's first reformist synagogue) came to the Board of Deputies, the debate over whether they should be allowed to take their seats became so heated that the police were called. But when the constable arrived, the wardens of the Great Synagogue, who included Sir Anthony de Rothschild, would not allow him to enter the building.
This is just one of the incidents recalled in a new book by the JC's former Judaism editor Meir Persoff, "Faith Against Reason", which charts how Britain's Chief Rabbis, from Victorian times to Lord Jakobovits, have handled religious dissent. For anyone who wants to understand the divisions that beset modern-day British Jewry, it will provide invaluable historical background: among other things, Persoff has had access to the papers of Lord Jakobovits and Rabbi Louis Jacobs. For a flavour of the book, dip into our published online extract, which records an encounter between Rabbis Jakobovits and Jacobs in the 60s.