My subject is " The First Pastoral Tour to the Jewish Communities of the British Overseas Dominions." In other words, it is the story of a unique pastoral visit to forty-two different communities on three continents, of a tour extending over eleven months, and covering over 40,000 miles. In the circumstances, I must largely confine myself to apergus and resumes ; and I must pass over with little more than occasional mention the arduous work performed in conjunction with Mr. Albert M. Woolf, O.B.E., who accompanied me in the interests of the Jewish War Memorial.
It is best to begin with the official invitation to undertake the Tour that was addressed to me on April 23, 1920, by Mr. Lionel de Rothschild, President of the United Synagogue, in the course of which he wrote :
The Council of the United Synagogue, at their meeting on the 29th ult., passed a resolution to invite you to visit the Overseas Dominions and Dependencies. It is felt that a Pastoral Tour of the nature indicated would be of the utmost value in helping to bind together the Jewish communities of the Empire, and in stimulating their religiou? activities; while it would afford a unique opportunity of ascertaining local conditions, and of examin? ing the problems which face the Jewish congregations overseas."
The need for such a pastoral tour and all that it implies has been felt in the Overseas Dominions, one may say without exaggeration, for generations. Too long and too often have the religious and lay leaders of our colonial communities felt that they were stranded members of the Jewish body, forsaken and forgotten by their brethren even in the Home Country. Once only did the Chief Rabbi come into anything approaching a direct touch with our brethren overseas. In the year 1828, my ante-penultimate predecessor, Chief Rabbi
Solomon Hirschel, sent one of his Dayanim, Rabbi Aaron Levy,1 to Tasmania and New South Wales, for the settlement of some ecclesi? astical questions. Memories of that visit are cherished to this day by the children and grandchildren of the founders of Sydney Jewry, and contemporary records enable us to gauge the deep impression it made on the religious life of that young community. That visit was ninety-four years ago. And since that time, younger congregations like Perth and Dunedin, Maritzburg and Halifax, and dozens of others, had to struggle unaided to keep the flag of Judaism flying. Would they not have gained immeasurably in religious vitality and power if there had been, as in other Churches, the stimulating personal contact with accredited representatives from the older centres of spiritual life ? This is not mere theorising on my part, but a conviction born of thirteen years' activity as rabbi in one of the youngest Jewries of the Empire. Very soon after my going out to the Transvaal nearly a quarter of a century ago, I realised what a tremendous uplift both to Judaism and to Jewry in South Africa a visit of the Chief Rabbi would bring