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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2805/04
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1899-1946
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 10.83 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Hertz | Joseph Herman | 1872-1946 | Chief Rabbi


Administrative/Biographical history:

Joseph Hermann Hertz was born in Slovakia in 1872. In 1844 he moved to the United States where he was educated and was one of the first graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Between 1894 and 1896 he was Rabbi of the Congregation Adath Jeshurun at Syracuse, New York. In the late 1890s he moved to South Africa to work as a rabbi in Johannesburg and later served as Professor of Philosophy at Transvaal University College. Joseph Hertz was expelled from the country during the Boer War after he denounced Boer conduct towards the Uitlanders and also called for political emancipation of Jews. From 1911 to 1913 he again worked in New York, this time as Rabbi of the Orah Hayyim Congregation. In 1913 he was elected Chief Rabbi in Britian.

The Jewish Chronicle on the occasion of Hertz's death in 1946, described the Chief Rabbi as "Jewry's Fighter-Scholar": two world wars, the rise of fascism in Europe, the holocaust and the growth of Zionist activity dominated his period of office. Hertz was a fervent and vocal Zionist at a time when many Jewish leaders were not, often coming into conflict with other Anglo-Jewish leaders. In 1917 he wrote to the Times to protest against the attempts of the Presidents of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association to "strangle the Balfour Declaration before its birth". In 1945 Hertz declared, in a telegram to ministers that the 6 October (a Jewish Sabbath) was to be a day of solidarity with the remaining European Jews and stated that British Jews looked to the British Government to provide Jews with a haven of refuge (Palestine). The Honorary Officers of the United Synagogue were opposed to what they regarded as the introduction of politics into a religious service and wrote to all United Syngogue ministers to warn them against the Chief Rabbi's words. The sharp dispute within the community was unresolved at the time of the Chief Rabbi's death a few months later. The episode typified his periodically fraught relationship with prominent communal leaders, in particular with Sir Robert Waley Cohen (President of the United Syngogue for much of his term of office). The historian Cecil Roth remarked "Hertz was greatly in favour of a peaceful solution to disputes, but only after he had exhausted every other possibility first".

Chief Rabbi Hertz was opposed to the Liberal Jewish movement in Britian and roundly rebuked its adherents. In 1927 he published Affirmations of Judaism, a volume of sermons including severe criticisms of the movement. In 1934 Hertz attended the opening ceremony of the Reform Syngogue's new communal hall and later lectured there. He was a notable Jewish scholar whose publications included his widely used annotated edition of the Pentateuch and his book of Jewish Thoughts.

Joseph Hertz championed the oppressed Jews in Russia, eastern Europe and Nazi Germany; in 1913 he denounced the Russian government at the International Congress for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. Later in his term of office he organised support for German refugees in the form of the Chief Rabbi's Religious Emergency Council and encouraged rescue operations.

In 1920-21 Joseph Hertz carried out the first pastoral tour of Jewish communities in the British Empire. Following his Dominions tour in 1921-22 the designation "Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire" was drawn up as part of the attempt to provide a central focus for Jews in the British Empire.

Joseph Hertz died on 14 January 1946.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, 1899-1946, including correspondence with various individuals and organisations including the Anglo-Jewish Association, Aria College, the London Beth Din, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Conference of Anglo-Jewish Preachers, the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women, the Jewish Chronicle, Jews' College, Central Committee for Jewish Education, the Jewish Historical Society, the Jewish Memorial Council, the Council for Christians and Jews, the Jewish Peace Society, London County Council, the Metropolitan Hospital Sunday Fund, the Mizrachi Organisation, the Provincial Ministers Fund, the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, associate synagogues of the United Synagogue, the War Graves Commission, Zionist groups, the Talmud Torah Trust and the War Victims Fund.

Also correspondence with Jewish congregations throughout the United Kingdom and in countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Palestine, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States of America; correspondence relating to matters including shechita, Jews in Ukraine, Germany and Poland, war orphans, rabbinical exams, mikvah, marriages, kabolohs, disarmament, the Coronation of King George VI (1937), and pastoral tours of Wales and Ireland; papers relating to World War One including services for Jewish soldiers, the Kosher Food Fund, correspondence with chaplains, distribution of kosher foods, prisoners of war and Palestine Relief Fund, and copies of publications and sermons.

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:

Records arranged into series as follows: Records arranged in 6 series:
ACC/2805/04/01 General correspondence;
ACC/2805/04/02 Congregations in Great Britian and Ireland;
ACC/2805/04/03 Congregations and communal organisations overseas;
ACC/2805/04/04 World War One;
ACC/2805/04/05 Miscellaneous;
ACC/2805/04/06 Publications.

Conditions governing access:

Access by written permission only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The survival of records for the last part of this Chief Rabbinate, especially the Second World War, is poor.

Immediate source of acquisition:

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

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also ACC/2805/06/01-05.

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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