Jacobs, Louis

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JACOBS, LOUIS (1920–2006), English rabbi and theological writer. Born in Manchester, Jacobs received his training at the yeshivot of Manchester and Gateshead and at London University. After teaching for some time at the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash, London, he served as a rabbi of the Central Synagogue, Manchester, and at the fashionable New West End Synagogue, London, from 1954 to 1959. From 1959 to 1962 Jacobs was tutor at Jews' College, London, but he resigned when, at the retirement of I. *Epstein, Chief Rabbi I. *Brodie, as president of the college, vetoed his appointment as principal on account of his heterodox views. This led to a violent controversy within British Jewry, with the *Jewish Chronicle as Jacobs' main protagonist. Jacobs' followers created for him the post of director of a specially founded Society for the Study of Jewish Theology, for which he lectured in London and provincial centers. When in 1963 the post of minister at the New West End Synagogue became vacant, Jacobs was elected to his former post; Brodie again blocked the appointment. Thereupon, a number of the synagogue's members seceded from the *United Synagogue and founded the New London Synagogue with Jacobs as rabbi (1964); services continued to be conducted along Orthodox lines.

The controversy had its origin in Jacobs' published work, beginning with We Have Reason to Believe (1957, 19622); Jewish Values (1960); Principles of the Jewish Faith (1964), an analytical study of Maimonides' Creed; and Faith (1968). In these the author accepted some of the methods and results of biblical Higher Criticism, denied the literal inspiration of the Pentateuch, and asserted a human element in the composition of the Bible. Jacobs also devoted several studies to Kabbalah and Hasidism: he translated into English Moses *Cordovero's Palmtree of Deborah from Hebrew (1960), adding introduction and notes; and Dov Ber Schneersohn's (of Lubavitch) Tract on Ecstasy (1963), with introduction and notes; he also wrote Seeker of Unity; the Life and Works of Aaron of Starosselje (1966). Among his other published works are Studies in Talmudic Logic and Methodology (1961), Jewish Prayer (19623), A Guide to Yom Kippur (1957, 19602), and A Guide to Rosh Ha-Shanah (1959, 19622).


S. Temkin, in: Conservative Judaism (Fall, 1963), 18–34; I. Maybaum, in: Judaism, 13 (1964), 471–7; A. Sherman, in: Commentary, 38 no. 10 (1964), 60–64.