Reason and belief: The world of Louis Jacobs

Louis Jacobs was undoubtedly the greatest Chief Rabbi that British Jewry never had.

January 10, 2018 16:40
Illustration by Pepe Fainberg

Illustration by Pepe Fainberg. (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)


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IT IS now some 11 years since Louis Jacobs, one of the finest Jewish theologians of the modern age, passed away. Unfortunately his works are largely unknown in Israel since they were never translated into Hebrew and since theology is an unknown and neglected subject of study in the Jewish State. This is unfortunate and I would like to encourage people who take Judaism seriously to read Jacobs’s books, beginning with his magnum opus, “We Have Reason to Believe,” a book that caused him to be rejected by British Orthodoxy.

I came to know Jacobs well when I served as interim rabbi of New London Synagogue upon his retirement from that pulpit in 2005, one year before his death. That was also the year in which the Jewish Chronicle, British Jewry’s famous weekly, usually known simply as JC, held a contest in which they asked the readers to vote on who was the greatest British Jew of all time. Louis Jacobs won hands down, well ahead of Chief Rabbi Hertz, Disraeli and Montefiore among others. However, when I suggested to the JC that they co-sponsor an event to celebrate his title, they declined saying that it was not the JC that was proclaiming him the greatest British Jew – only their readers.


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