Obituary: Lord Jakobovits

THE FORMER Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits was an outspoken and brave personality who was constantly embroiled in controversy but whose honesty and intellectual and moral stature was never doubted.

He was highly admired by Margaret Thatcher and it was during her premiership, in the 1988 New Honours List, that he was made a peer. It was remarked that Immanuel Jakobovits, who had become Chief Rabbi in 1967, was more admired by the Prime Minister than was the Archbishop of Canterbury. One newspaper commented: "Unlike the meddlesome bishops of the Church of England, Jakobovits talks about God rather than spending cuts and emphasises the eternal Jewish virtue of self-help to solve the problems." Another remarked: "He is the one prelate whose preaching did not, in the views of Mrs Thatcher, give God a bad name."

As someone who saw himself as a refugee, Jakobovits voiced deep sympathy with the plight of the Palestinian refugees. It was this concern which led him to voice his deep desire for a peace settlement with the Arabs. His views were misinterpreted to imply that he was critical of Zionism as well as of Israeli governments. He came under severe criticism in Israel when he warned that the future of Israel was at stake if the government did not seek a way for peace with the Arabs. He was greatly hurt by this. As a pious Jew he saw himself as a true Zionist who wished for peace and prosperity for his people. But the criticism persisted and some observers believed that his chance of becoming Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel was destroyed by this misunderstanding of his attitude.

Other Jews had spoken about their unhappiness on the problem of refugees, but had done so mostly in private; he, on the other hand, voiced his views strongly in public and in talking to journalists.

The family was the centre of his understanding of Jewish life, a view in which he had the strong support of his wife, Amelie, an outstanding personality in her own right. He spoke against homosexuality. While never insisting that Aids and other plagues were a divine punishment for human misconduct, he argued that people were responsible for their actions. To many he was seen as a Victorian but this never troubled him; he was certain that his views on family life and fidelity were based on the fundamental values of Judaism and were a reason why the Jewish people had survived while other nations had disappeared.

Jakobovits believed in Jewish self-help. This was the main reason why he disapproved of the 1985 Church of England report Faith in the City. He was deeply sympathetic to the inner-city families who suffered from grinding poverty and despair and agreed that everything should be done by governments and society generally to help them. But he disagreed with the tendency in the report to blame the Government for their problems and look only to it to provide solutions.

He pointed out that Jews, too, had lived in inner cities and had been held back by terrifying poverty. They might have been hungry and ragged and lived 10 to a room but, mostly through their own efforts and the help of their neighbours and general community, they were able to overcome their adversity. This approach was not, however, universally accepted. He was again criticised, but he felt that his views were valid and based on Jewish teaching.

Immanuel Jakobovits was born in Germany, in Konigsberg, in 1921. His father, Julius, was a rabbi of distinction who became a Dayan (judge) in the main rabbinical court in Berlin. He was a man of compassion as well as of learning and was able to co-operate with all sections of the community, including Reform, when it came to general problems. Immanuel saw the rise of anti-Semitism and particularly Nazism. There were attacks on Jews and, he recalled,

Sometimes, walking with my father, rowdies came behind and hurled insults and we walked faster. A little later they began hurling stones and we walked faster still. Sometimes we broke into a trot which my father hated, it was so undignified. It was unpleasant, frightening, but it became so normal that we eventually got used to it.

With the rise of Hitler in 1933 many Jews decided to leave the country. Julius Jakobovits felt that he had a duty to remain. But with the situation of the Jewish community becoming ever harsher he decided to send Immanuel to England.

For a young boy to arrive in a new country was not easy. But he showed great determination. He studied both Jewish and general subjects. He had no doubt that he wanted to follow in his father's vocation and become a rabbi. He became a Minister at the Brondesbury Synagogue in London in 1941, of the South-East London Synagogue in 1944, then of the Great Synagogue in 1947. He was noted for his outstanding sermons and it was not surprising that he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Ireland, in 1949, and then, after nine years, Rabbi of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York.

Jakobovits's selection as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth in 1967, a post which he held until 1991, was widely approved and he was considered one of the finest Chief Rabbis in the history of Anglo-Jewry. He received many honours, including several from leading Israeli institutions.

Immanuel Jakobovits, rabbi: born Konigsberg, Germany 8 February 1921; Chief Rabbi of Ireland 1949-58; Rabbi, Fifth Avenue Synagogue, New York 1958-67; Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations 1967-91; Kt 1981; Fellow, University College London 1984-99; created 1988 Baron Jakobovits; married 1949 Amelie Munk (two sons, four daughters); died London 31 October 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game