Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz of Britain Dies in London, Was Educated in New York

January 15, 1946
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jews throughout Britain today mourned Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire since 1913, who died this morning at his home here after an illness of two months. He was 73 years old. Funeral services will take place on Wednesday. Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Agency for Palestine, issued statements declaring that his death is a formidable loss to Jewish scholarship and to the Jews all over the world.

Born in Slovakia in 1872, Dr. Hertz was brought to New York at the age of 12 and was educated at the City College of New York, Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he took his rabbinical degree. From 1894 to 1898 he was rabbi of a congregation in Syracuse, N.Y., until called to the Witwatersrand Old Hebrew Congregation in Johannesburg, South Africa.

When the Boer War broke out in 1899, Hertz was expelled from South Africa by President Paul Kruger because of his pro-British sympathies and because he advocated the removal of religious disabilities from Jews and Catholics. He returned to his post in 1900, when the British occupied the territory.

In 1912, Hertz left South Africa to become rabbi of Congregation Orach Chaim in New York, but in the following year he was called to England to become the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire. Hertz was president of Jews’ College in London and held high posts in national Jewish organizations. He visited Palestine in 1925 for the opening of the Hebrew University, and became a member of its Board of Governors. He was in Palestine again in 1936 and 1940.


The Board of Deputies of British Jews in a message said: “He raised the prestige of the Anglo-Jewish community by his learning and devotion to his people and by the dignity wherewith he performed his functions. He was a tower of strength for his brethren during many most difficult years.”

The statement of the Jewish Agency reads: “The Jewish people lost one of its foremost spiritual leaders and most authoritative personalities of Jewish life in modern times. It is a severe blow for Jewish scholarship and a formidable loss for Zionism wherewith he was associated since the inception of the movement. He took a leading part in every critical period in Zionist history. His death is a great shock in the critical stage of our history and a tremendous blow to the Jewish people and the Jewish National Home.”

The New Zionist Organization, the Federation of Polish Jews and numerous other central Jewish organizations in England similarly issued statements expressing grief over the death of the Chief Rabbi. The British Broadcasting Corporation, announcing his death in a special broadcast, paid tribute to him as one of the most outstanding Jewish personalities in Britain and emphasized his participation in the negotiations which led to the issuance of the Balfour Declaration by the British Government.

(A memorial fund in honor of Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, was created today by the American chapter of the Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council of Great Britain. The fund, to be known as the Chief Rabbi’s Memorial Foundation, will be applied to the rebuilding of destroyed Jewish communities in liberated Europe.)

Recommended from JTA