As a revered scholar, philanthropist and spiritual authority, Claude Montefiore belongs to that important group of learned laymen who have sought to revolutionise Judaism. He was a founder of British Liberal Judaism at the turn of the century, considered to be the most original Anglo-Jewish religious thinker of his day, and still remains a highly controversial figure. Montefiore infuriated his enemies and often alientated his supporters with his radical agenda in which he applied the findings of historical and literary analysis to the Jewish scriptures, attempted to radically systemise rabbinic thought, and by his desire to learn from and re-express aspects of Christian theology. The extent to which he incorporated the teachings of Jesus and Paul into his own ethical and theological musings makes him unique among Jewish reformers. In his dealings with Christians and Christian thought, he can also be regarded as a forerunner to those who would later fully partake in Jewish-Christian dialogue. The Life and Thought of Claude Montefiore is an intellectual history and biography, together with an attempt to place Montefiore within the context of Jewish thought during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Controversially, it argues that Montefiore's own personal conception of Liberal Judiasm, which was never fully appreciated by his followers, should be regarded as more than simply a progressive Jewish denomination, and rather as an attempt to re-mould Reform Judaism in terms of contemporary liberal Christianity. Montefiore is an important figure in Anglo-Jewish history, not least for the way in which his complex identity reflects the difficulty inherent in attempting to make Judaism genuinely relevant to the modern world.
Publication Date: 4/30/2002