Abrahams, Israel

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ABRAHAMS, ISRAEL (1858–1925), English scholar. In 1902 he was appointed reader in rabbinic and talmudic literature at Cambridge, succeeding Solomon *Schechter. He played a considerable role in the university, both personal and scholastic, and had some distinguished non-Jewish pupils. For many years his home was the focus of university Jewish life. His influence was greater, however, as a writer than as a teacher, and over many years he was the chief exponent of Jewish scholarship in England. Although in some respects a popularizer, even his most ephemeral writings were nevertheless distinguished by their scholarship, just as his most learned writings did not lack charm. He was also one of the founders of and most devoted workers for the *Jewish Historical Society of England and similar bodies. In religion, he favored extreme reform and was the intellectual bulwark of the Jewish Religious Union when it was established in 1902, and of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue which developed out of it. Though not ordained as rabbi or minister, he was a frequent lay preacher. His most important works were his Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896; 2nd ed. by C. Roth based on author's materials, 1932); Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (2 vols., 1917–24); Hebrew Ethical Wills (2 vols., 1926); notes to the Authorized Daily Prayer Book edited by his father-in-law, S. Singer (1914); and numerous collections of essays on Jewish literature. His weekly literary causeries and reviews over the signature I.A. were for many years a feature of the *Jewish Chronicle, and when in 1919 the anti-Zionist Jewish Guardian was founded, he was among its literary mainstays. Nevertheless, he was an ardent advocate of the establishment of a Jewish university in Jerusalem, even as early as 1908 when he visited Ereẓ Israel (cf. Jewish Chronicle, Feb. 28, 1908). He edited the *Jewish Quarterly Review, from its establishment in 1888 down to 1908, in association with his friend, collaborator, and supporter Claude G. *Montefiore. Abrahams was an ardent champion of Britain, viewing it as more favorable to its Jews than any other European country.


Jewish Studies in Memory of Israel Abrahams (1927), incl. bibl.; A.M. Hyamson, Israel Abrahams: a Memoir (1940); idem, Jew's College: 1855–1955 (1955), 27–28, 31–32, 43–44, 70–71; H.M.J. Loewe, Israel Abrahams… a Biographical Sketch (1944); idem, in: ajyb, 28 (1926/27), 219–34; Montefiore, in: jhset, 11 (1924–27), 239–46; S. Levy, in: jhsem, 3 (1937), 41 ff. (bibl.).

[Cecil Roth]