Adler, Hermann

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ADLER, HERMANN (Naphtali ; 1839–1911), British chief rabbi, son of Nathan Marcus *Adler. Born in Hanover, Hermann Adler was taken to London as a child, when his father became British chief rabbi, and was educated at University College School and at University College, London, where he graduated with a B.A. in 1854. Adler was thus one of the first British rabbis to receive a middle-class secular education in England. He continued his studies in Prague under Rabbi S.J. *Rappaport, where he was ordained as a rabbi in 1862. Adler went on to receive a doctoral degree from Leipzig University, his thesis being on (of all things) Druidism. In 1863 he became principal of *Jews' College, and in 1864 minister of Bayswater Synagogue in the West End of London. After 1879 he deputized as delegate chief rabbi for his father who was ill and was elected to succeed him in 1891. Adler followed and developed the tradition set by his father, combining Orthodoxy with organizational ability, as well as having a firm feeling for the dignity of his office. He was largely instrumental in securing general recognition of the chief rabbi as the main representative of English Jewry, taking his place alongside the heads of other religious communities on public occasions. Opposed to the ideas of Theodor *Herzl, in 1897 Adler termed political Zionism an "egregious blunder," although he had previously visited Palestine and been active in the Ḥovevei Zion movement. His period of office coincided with the great Russo-Jewish influx into the British Isles. This created a large "foreign" element in the community, whose confidence he did not gain. Despite periods of friction, Adler succeeded in maintaining his position as chief rabbi of Anglo-Jewry as a whole, the *Reform and *Sephardi communities being satisfied to be formally represented by him on public occasions. In the relatively small Anglo-Jewish community of the second half of the 19th century, with its integration into non-Jewish society and its painfully achieved balance, Adler saw a sort of self-contained "National Jewish Church," led on the lay side by the head of the Rothschild family and on the ecclesiastical by the Adlers, as the Jewish equivalent of the Anglican or Catholic hierarchy; Hermann Adler even imitated the Anglican episcopal garb. Hence they were seriously perturbed by the influx of Eastern European refugee immigrants from 1882 onward, which disturbed the delicate balance of the community. In politics, Adler was an avowed Tory and supported the Boer War. Adler published historical and other studies and numerous sermons, as well as preliminary studies for an edition of the Eẓ Ḥayyim by the 13th century scholar *Jacob b. Judah Ḥazzan of London. A selection of his sermons was published under the title Anglo-Jewish Memories (London, 1909). Adler's career is evidence of how comprehensively the acculturated section of Anglo-Jewry had adapted to Britain and had been accepted by its "Establishment."


C. Roth, in: L. Jung (ed.), Jewish Leaders, 1750–1940 (1953), 475–90; L.P. Gartner, Jewish Immigrant in England, 1870–1914 (1960), 114–6, 209–10; Schischa, in: J.M. Shaftesley (ed.), Remember the Days (1966), 241–77; Roth, Mag Bibl, index; H.A. Simons, in: Judaism, 18 (1969), 223–31. add. bibliography: odnb online; G. Alderman, Modern British Jewry (1992), index.

[Cecil Roth]