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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2805/07
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1913-1992
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 38.67 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Jakobovits | Immanuel | Baron Jakobovits | 1921-1999 | chief rabbi


Administrative/Biographical history:

Immanuel Jakobovits was born in 1921 in Konigsberg (later Kaliningrad) in eastern Prussia. He moved to Berlin in 1928, when his father Julius Jakobovits was appointed Dayan to the Jewish community there. In the 1930s the family left Nazi Germany for Britain. Immanuel Jakobovits attended a Jewish school in Stamford Hill and then Jews' College and the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in London with a view to becoming a rabbi. In 1940 he and his father were interned briefly on the Isle of Man as they were classed as "enemy aliens". After his release Immanuel Jakobovits was appointed successively Rabbi of the Brondesbury Synagogue, the South East London Synagogue and finally the Great Synagogue. At the age of 27 he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Ireland. In 1958 he was appointed Rabbi of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York and in 1967 he succeeded Israel Brodie as Chief Rabbi in Britain.

Jakobovits greatly extended the prestige and authority of the office. He was the first Chief Rabbi to sit in the House of Lords and during his term of office was perceived as the principal representative figure of the Jewish community.

He was the founder and first President of the Jewish Education Development Trust which sought to extend the provision of Jewish education by promoting school building projects; by improving the quality and extent of teacher training; by providing better teaching aids and text books; and by increasing the hours of Jewish study. In his twenty four years in office the percentage of children attending Jewish day schools increased from 16% to 30%. Close contact was maintained with Jews' College and a bi-annual journal, L'Eylah, was initiated jointly by the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the College.

Lord Jakobovits served as an active President of the Conference of European Rabbis. He was also much concerned with the problems experienced by Jews in the former Soviet Union and campaigned in their cause. In 1975 he became the first Western Chief Rabbi to visit the Soviet Union in an official capacity and preached in the Moscow Synagogue.

Jakobovits' other outstanding achievement lay in the field of Jewish medical ethics. It was the subject of his Ph.D. thesis in the 1950s and he wrote what was to become a classic text in the field, "Jewish Medical Ethics". He was consulted by agencies and individuals outside the Jewish community on the subject and continued to lecture and write throughout his Chief Rabbinate. In 1985 the Sir Immanuel Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics was opened at the Ben Gurion University in Israel.

While in office Jakobovits was knighted and in 1988 made a peer (he was gazetted as Lord Jakobovits of Regent's Park). He was on friendly terms with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who seemed to have a better relationship with him than with some leaders of the churches. In 1985 the Church of England published "Faith in the Cities", a report critical of government policies for inner-city decline and the despair of deprived citizens living in areas of urban decay. The Chief Rabbi responded by writing his own paper "From Doom to Hope". He acknowledged the role of governments in regenerating cities but, citing the history of Anglo-Jewry as an example, emphasised the importance of self-help, hard work and individual self-reliance. "From Doom to Hope" was criticised by many, including some Jews, but had praise from others: a hundred and sixty Conservative MPs signed a motion approving his sentiments.

The Chief Rabbi developed the practice of his predecessors to engage in full dialogue with Christian churches and was a Joint President of the Council for Christians and Jews. In 1987 he received a Lambeth Degree as Doctor of Divinity from the Archbishop of Canterbury - the first Jew to do so. Theological differences notwithstanding he communicated with Reform and Liberal Jewish organisations and individuals and was ready to work with them in practical matters of communal concern.

Lord Jakobovits retired from office in August 1991. He died on 31st of October 1999.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Chief Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, 1913-1992. The records of Lord Jakobovits are the single largest part of the archive, indicative of the large volume of work undertaken and the relative speed with which the records were passed onto London Metropolitan Archives.

Records relating to the Office of the Chief Rabbi and Chief Rabbi's Cabinet including papers relating to social functions and administration. Correspondence with the Board of Deputies, London Beth Din and United Synagogue. Papers relating to Jewish communal organisations including the Kol Nidre Appeal and the Joint Israel Appeal.

Papers relating to education and Chaplaincy Boards including general correspondence, the Education Reform Act 1988, Jews' College, individual schools, colleges and universities, the University Jewish Chaplaincy Board, and the National Jewish Chaplaincy Board. Papers of the Jewish Educational Development Trust including administration, correspondence, financial records, trustees, donors, applications, fundraising and policies.

Papers relating to Jewish religious organisations including Reform, Liberal and Sephardi congregations and the Spanish and Portuguese Community. Papers relating to congregations and ministers in Great Britain including the registration of synagogues, the National Jewish Chaplaincy Board and provincial congregations.

Halacha [a legal decision regarding a matter or case for which there is no direct enactment in the Mosaic law, deduced by analogy from this law or from the Scriptures] and rulings on religious questions including correspondence, rulings relating to burial practices, the participation of women in communities, blasphemy, medical ethics, circumcision, bar mitzvah, marriage, conversions, get [divorce] legislation, High Holy Days and mikvaot. Papers relating to Shechita [slaughtering practices] and Kashrut [laws relating to food] including correspondence and minutes of the London Board for Shechita and the National Council of Shechita Boards of Great Britain, general correspondence, reports, and defence of shechita practices.

Papers relating to bills in the House of Lords. Correspondence with central Government departments and local authorities, including correspondence with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Correspondence with welfare organisations and papers relating to ageing, child abuse, crime, drugs, homelessness, hospice care, disabled people and individual welfare cases. Correspondence with religious leaders, individuals, and organisations relating to Israel, including the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Correspondence with overseas congregations including those in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, South Africa, and the United States of America and correspondence with the Conference of European Rabbis. Papers relating to Soviet Jewry including correspondence, appeals and reports.

Papers relating to interfaith organisations including the Council of Christians and Jews. Papers relating to medical ethics including abortion, sex education, AIDS, organ transplants, Tay-Sachs disease and abortion. Papers relating to social issues including business ethics, disarmament, homosexuality, inner cities, disasters, and race relations. Correspondence relating to the representation of the Chief Rabbi on various public bodies and patronage by the Chief Rabbi.

Copies of sermons, addresses, publications from the office of the Chief Rabbi, press and publicity, broadcasts and messages from the Chief Rabbi. Personal papers including household accounts, letters of thanks and messages of sympathy. Papers relating to the Chief Rabbinate Fund including the distribution of funds to various causes.

PLEASE NOTE: Records can only be accessed with the written permission of the depositor. Contact the Chief Executive, Office of Chief Rabbi, 735 High Road, North Finchley, London NW12 OUS.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

These records have been arranged to reflect filing schemes used by the Chief Rabbi's Office.

Conditions governing access:

Some files have been closed where Jewish communal defence plans and anti-Semitic attacks are detailed and where confidential information about individuals and Lord Jakobovits and his family is recorded.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited as part of several accessions of material from the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Description prepared in March 2010.

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