Photo: Montefiore Lodge No. 1017
Sir Israel Brodie wearing the
regalia of a Past Grand Chaplain.
His skull cap was made from the
same material as his apron.
The Very Reverend Sir Israel Brodie (1895–1975), Chief
Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the British
Commonwealth of Nations (1948–65), was an active and
energetic Freemason and personified British Jewry at its best.
Notwithstanding the expulsion by Edward I in 1290, the
Jewish community have always enjoyed tolerance in Britain
unequalled through history by any other nation.
In 1655 the Amsterdam Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel
successfully petitioned Oliver Cromwell to re-admit the
Jews and the community began to grow slowly. From the
start they embraced assimilation into wider English culture
and integrated, so far as possible, into the British style of life,
emphasising their British nationality whilst maintaining their
own Jewish traditions and way of life.
It was a distinctive style of Orthodoxy which Theodore
Herzl referred to as “everything English, with the old Jewish
customs peeping through”. By the mid-nineteenth century
the Jewish community had taken its place in the academic, civic,
educational and legal fields. In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted
Moses Montefiore, and Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was made baronet
four years later, the first Jew to receive a hereditary title.
In 1855 Sir David Salomons was elected as the first Jewish
Lord Mayor of London and the 1858 emancipation of the Jews
finally allowed Baron Lionel de Rothschild to take his seat in
the House of Commons on 26 July, 1858. Benjamin Disraeli,
a baptised Christian of Jewish parentage, already a Member of
Parliament at the time, became the first and only Jewish Prime
Minister in 1874.
The first rabbinical leader of the community was Aaron
Hart (1703–1752) and it was not until 1845 that the formal
conferment of the title of Chief Rabbi took place, when
Nathan Marcus Adler (1800–1891) was appointed to that post.
The concept of a Chief Rabbi was then unique to England and
broadly based on the function and duties of the Archbishop of
Canterbury. It is in his footsteps, and with this rich history
behind him, that Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie followed.
Israel Brodie, son of Aaron, was born in Newcastle-upon-
Tyne on 10 May 1895 and received his primary education
at Rutherford College, in the same city.
This followed with higher education at Jews’ College and
University College, London and finally at Balliol College,
Oxford. In 1917 Israel Brodie enlisted in the RAF and served
as a Jewish Chaplain to the Forces to the end of the war. In
1921 he worked for social services in the East End of London
until an opportunity to move to Australia came up.