University of Sussex
Zajdband,_Astrid.pdf (16.88 MB)

German Rabbis in British exile and their influence on Judaism in Britain

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posted on 2023-06-08, 21:03 authored by Astrid Zajdband
This thesis identifies the German rabbinate in British exile as a distinct refugee sub-group and traces its experiences from the onset of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s to those in Britain, ending in 1956 It argues that the rabbinate rose to unprecedented prominence under the Nazi regime as it was part of the communal leadership structure within German Jewry and maintained this role in the early years in exile. It was found that the end of the war and the vanishing of outside pressures impacted on the German rabbinate changing it into a different, modern, Anglo-Jewish institution, with German roots and influences. With the changed demands of the Anglo-Jewish population on their rabbis and the ageing German rabbis passing on, the heritage was transferred into Anglo-Jewish institutions such as newly founded synagogues and the Leo Baeck College. This had been facilitated through the rigorous training and the powerful experiences of the immigrant rabbis which gave the impact for religious expansion in Britain. Their influence turned the progressive but also the orthodox movement into a powerful force in the Anglo-Jewish landscape today. On a personal level the study uncovered that despite their prominence, the experiences of the German rabbinate in British exile unfolded along the same lines as that of the general refugee population fleeing Nazism. In their leadership capacity however most rabbis were able to reclaim their position in the midst of the refugees, the remnants of their former communities now in exile. With that they held responsibility and power. Their attempts of transplanting and maintaining the German Jewish heritage in Britain was a desperate and only marginally successful undertaking with only few traces still recognizable today. Their attempts had a dramatic influence on the course and future of Anglo-Jewry.


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