Claude Montefiore, Lily Montagu and the Origins of the Jewish Religious Union

Numerous religious difficulties afflicted Anglo Jewry at the turn of the century. Fewer and fewer individuals were attending services regularly. Intel? lectuals openly doubted God’s existence. The chal? lenges of Higher Criticism of the Bible seemingly undermined the authenticity and originality of Judaism as a religious system. These problems were by no means unique to Judaism, for Christianity, too, witnessed a serious decline in the number of worshippers and in the degree of commitment, and Higher Criticism posed as grave a threat to the integrity of the New Testament as it did to the Old Testament. In this setting a number of Jewish intellectuals and communal leaders resolved to stem the tide of growing religious apathy. Generally upper-class British Jews, they agonized over the future of Judaism among the Anglo-Jewish gentry. Convinced that only drastic measures could save their cause, they prepared themselves for a torrent of criticism and abuse.

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