Adler, Nathan Marcus

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ADLER, NATHAN MARCUS (1803–1890), British chief rabbi. Nathan Adler was born in Hanover, then under the British crown, and was educated in Germany. He became rabbi of Oldenburg in 1829 and succeeded his father, Marcus Baer Adler, at Hanover the following year. In 1844 he was elected chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire in succession to Solomon *Hirschel. He was chosen by a representative gathering of national delegates, and not, as with his predecessors, by the London Great Synagogue alone. S.R. *Hirsch was among the other candidates. During his 45 years of office the Anglo-Jewish community developed its modern features, which Adler did much to shape. His firm but enlightened orthodoxy was coupled with a strong and attractive personality. Adler was largely responsible for the failure of the *Reform movement, established in England shortly before his arrival, to make much headway there. His wide-ranging and ambitious conception of his office was made clear in his Laws and Regulations for all the Ashkenazi Synagogues in the British Empire, issued in 1847. He was mainly responsible for the establishment of *Jews' College in 1855 and was a moving spirit in the organization of the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1859. In 1866 he took the first steps toward the creation of the *United Synagogue. His pastoral tours and visits to provincial communities made his influence felt throughout the country, and he was also able to secure recognition of his authority in the British colonies. Adler regarded Anglo-Orthodoxy as lax compared with the Continent and therefore in need of central direction. Outside the community he was regarded as the official representative and public spokesman for Judaism. Ill health curtailed his activity after 1879, when his son Hermann *Adler was appointed delegate chief rabbi. His principal literary work is Netinah la-Ger, a Hebrew commentary on the Targum *Onkelos (Vilna, 1875; published in numerous editions). His Ahavat Yonatan, a commentary on the Targum Jonathan, remains in manuscript (jtsa, Ms. Adler, 1173). Adler enjoyed an international reputation for his scholarship. He greatly strengthened the position of the chief rabbi.


C. Roth, in: L. Jung (ed.), Jewish Leaders 1750–1940 (1953), 477–90; Friedlaender, in jqr, 2 (1890), 369–85; Schmidt, in: ylbi, 7 (1962), 289–311; jc (Jan. 24, 1890); C. Roth, History of the Great Synagogue… (1950), 266 ff.; L.P. Gartner, Jewish Immigrant in England 1870–1914 (1960), index. add. bibliography: odnb online; G. Alderman, Modern British Jewry (1992), index.

[Cecil Roth]