The Revd John Harris: issues in Anglo-Jewish pacifism, 1914—18

John Harris, a minister at Prince’s Road Synagogue in Liverpool, was probably the first person to argue that Jews should have the same rights as Christians to lodge a conscientious objection to military service. Harris was an unassuming and religious man. His pacifism was personal and not political. But he raised questions about Jewish pacifism, Jewish self-censorship and the freedom of the rabbinate, which caused consternation and self-questioning in the community and in the end cost him his job.

So great was the concern that the Chief Rabbi, Dr Joseph Hertz, was obliged to use his influence to have Harris reinstated, and Alfred Jessel KC was brought in to mediate. Jessel was ‘one of earth’s enviable men’,((Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 19 Janu? ary 1917.)) an eminent barrister, and Vice-president of the United Synagogue. Above all we are told that he had ‘an absolute genius for resolving serious difficulties into matters

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