Booklog: Israel Mattuck

Speaking out for Liberals


Rabbi Danny Rich,
Liberal Judaism, £4.99

Israel Mattuck was one of the three "M"s who shaped Liberal Judaism in the UK (alongside Claude Montefiore and Lily Montagu). Arriving from the USA in 1912, he established himself over the next 40 years as one of the leading preachers of his generation.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich has sifted through a fifth of Mattuck's 2,000 sermons to produce this compact introduction to his thought. In one respect, Mattuck was a traditionalist, regarding belief in and commitment to the service of God as the essence of
Judaism.

But elsewhere, the radicalism of classical American Reform shows in his elevation of prophetic ethics above ceremony: "ugly" rituals were not to be kept for the sake of sentimentality. For Mattuck, Jews were a religious community, not a nationality, hence his rejection of Zionism (a position which is shared by few Liberals today).

An ardent universalist, he believed that Judaism carried an enlightened "message for the world today". The modern movement's emphasis on social action is part of his legacy. Saturday morning shul was not a cosy club to escape the stresses of the week. Unafraid to bring politics into the pulpit when he felt religious values were at stake, he expressed sympathy for striking miners and hit out at slum landlords.

For anyone who wants to know more about a formative influence on Progressive thinking, this concise booklet is a good place to start. The sermons which are quoted in the publication can be read on www.israelmattuck.org in full.

    Last updated: 10:45am, July 6 2014