Speak­ing out for Lib­er­als

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - SI­MON ROCKER

Is­rael Mat­tuck 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 polit i c s i n t o the pul­pit when he f e l t r e l i - gious 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.

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