C. G. (Claude Goldsmid) Montefiore.

Let me not be ashamed of my hope : a sermon delivered at the service in the Wharncliffe Rooms on June 26, 1909 online

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Online LibraryC. G. (Claude Goldsmid) MontefioreLet me not be ashamed of my hope : a sermon delivered at the service in the Wharncliffe Rooms on June 26, 1909 → online text (page 1 of 1)
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ON JUNE 26, 1909, BY




Jewish IReliGious Bunion

August 1909]





( PSALM cxix. 116)

I FANCY that everybody in this room knows that we
are met to-day not only for the last service of this
session, but for the last service in the West End of
the Jewish Religious Union as at present constituted.
Whether we shall meet elsewhere later on, in a small
building of our own, and in a more permanent form,
remains to be seen. Many of us earnestly hope that
such may be the case. The result partly depends upon
the number of those who share that hope, partly upon
the willingness and capacity of those who so hope to
transform or express their hope in labour and self-
sacrifice, and partly upon other considerations, which
this is not the place, and this is not the time, to dwell
upon or mention.

For various reasons, I do not propose to deliver a
long, formal address to you to-day. A last service-
even if the last service is to be followed by another
service in a fresh form and place suggests many re-
flections ; and various thoughts wistful, anxious, tender
will be rising in, and passing through, our minds.

There is, doubtless, much to criticise and much to
object to in our services as held now for some five
successive years in this hall. The environment and
surroundings are not associated with religion. It needs
some effort of mind to forget them. The hall is noisy.
We are not able here, even if we wished, to impart to



our services some of that dignity which adds to im-
pressiveness. We could hardly have linked them up
more closely with the historic services of the Synagogue
by adding to them some of that ceremonial and some
of those ritual forms, which, in a building of this
kind, would, I think, have been awkward and out of
place. If we even meet again for worship in a building
of our own, such ritual and ceremonial, while adapted to
the needs of to-day and harmonised with our newer
convictions and beliefs, will be much more in place and
keeping, and will indeed of necessity have to be intro-
duced. We may be able to aftbrd a better and more
solemn musical instrument than the one which is now

And yet, when all is said and done, and whatever may
be our hopes for the future, and however much we may
feel that for various reasons, and whatever the future
may hold in store for us, it was right that the services in
this hall should be brought to a definite close, neverthe-
less I think and believe I even hope that none of us
will leave the hall to-day without some feelings of wistful
sadness and tender regret. There is nothing inconsistent
in this, nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing
inconsistent in this, even for those who are most certain
that the course we have taken is the right course. It
is not only that a few of those whom we greatly care
for and respect even though they are few in number
like to worship with us in this hall, and like and appre-
ciate our Union, so long as its services are held in this
place ; it is not only, I say, that these few persons whom
we greatly care for and respect may not be among us
as our helpers and supporters and fellow-worshippers,
if, at a later date, we start again in a small building of
our own, but there are other reasons as well. In our
short human lives, especially for those of us the number
of whose chapters is tending towards the end, or who
have passed in all human probability the middle chapter


of the book, the end of any chapter is accompanied by a
certain feeling of wistful sadness. Few of us, I think,
can finish a particular piece of w r ork, or a year of our
lives, or even a summer holiday, without a certain access
of yearning melancholy. One more stage has passed in
our brief journey towards the grave.

But if we feel like that on other occasions when the end
of any particular season or occupation or work has come,
we are the more likely to feel it to-day. For this hall,
whatever its defects, and whatever its disappointments,
has become to many of us an important part of our lives.
In this hall were centred many of our dearest hopes and
aspirations, and for some of us at least this hall was the
scene of activities around which were concentrated much
labour, interest, and concern. And in this hall some of
us, at any rate, have held communion \vith God. Here,
in these odd surroundings, but forgetting and triumph-
ing over them, some of us have prayed with earnestness
and intensity. This hall had been for some of us an
oasis of rest and prayerful quiet after a week of labour
and varied trials. Here, perhaps, some of us have
formed resolutions to be braver, gentler, purer men and
women, and have asked the Divine Power and Father
to help us to keep them. And, perhaps, in very truth,
some of us have indeed done our duty better, in this
point or in that, because of our attendance in this hall.
Here, perhaps, to some of us has come a soothing and
helpful thought which has been of use or strength to
us in our daily lives and work. Here, above all, our
faith in God, hard for some of us to win and to keep,
has been made more living, more constant and more
keen. And here, too, some of us it is not, I think, too
much to say have been brought back to Judaism,
even if we had not to be brought back to religion.


And thus, so far, at any rate, a blessing has rested
upon the sincere, if very imperfect, efforts of the
preachers from this place, inasmuch as to a lew


persons they have suggested how Judaism is, and still
can be, a religion of to-day and to-morrow, and not
merely a museum curiosity or an outworn creed. Here
the conviction has come to a few of us that Judaism
must be, and can he, not merely the inherited religion of
our fathers, but the religion of ourselves, of our brothers


and sisters, and, above all, of our children. Here
some of us have learned to distinguish between those


things in religion which are primary and those which
are secondary ; between the truths and principles which
abide and endure, and the doctrines and the practices
which are subject to the destructive criticisms of science
or of history. And here we have learned to identify
Judaism with the primary rather than with the secondary,
with that which lies beyond the reach of science and
history to harm or impair rather than with those things
which fall within their province.

And so here we have come to believe that not in anv


other faith, however good that faith may be, however
justified its existence, however authorised by God, but
in our own faith, in our own religion, in Judaism, is
our religious and spiritual health and well-being and
happiness to be most securely and assuredly found.
Here some who might have drifted right away, so far
as religion was concerned, from our own community,
have found once more satisfaction and contentment in
their own inherited religion. Here finally some of us,
just because we have come to believe aiul realise that
Judaism is capable of development, expansion, new-
birth, have l)een reunited with their brethren. Just
through differences have we been brought to realise
a deeper and underlying unity. Through Liberal
Judaism we have been kept within Judaism, we have
been enabled to cling to those fundamental beliefs of
the Mission and the Divine purpose in Israel's history
which, without it, would inevitably have slipped from
our grasp or perished from our souls.


Surely these are results upon which we can look back
\vith satisfaction and gratitude. It is true that they
only apply to a small hand, a select few ; but every soul
is of importance of importance to itself, of importance
to Judaism ; yes, even of importance to God.

And if it be true, as I think it is, that the services in
this hall during the seven years of their existence have
been productive, to this person and to that, of one or
other of these results, in varying degrees and in different
proportions and combinations, it is not unnatural that
the occasion of the last service in this familiar place
should evoke in us some feelings of wistful sadness.
What the future may bring forth \ve do not know ;
what the past, with all its inadequacies and imperfec-
tions, has done for us that we remember and call to
mind. But we must not linger too long upon the past ;
we must, if we are really grateful for it, think the
more ardently about the present and the future. We
must the more keenly desire that any good results
which have so far been achieved may be preserved,
consolidated, and extended ; that the good which has
touched the hearts of ten may before long touch the
hearts of a hundred, and that in another and more
permanent form the Jewish Keligious Union may con-
tinue to work in the cause of Judaism, of religion, and
of God.

Into our hopes for the future I cannot further enter
here. Nor will I say anything more as to the reasons
which have led us, whatever may happen in the future,
to bring the services in this hall to a close. They end
to-day, partly because we hope that something better
and more permanent may succeed them, partly because,
though we have a good deal to be thankful for, our seven
years' experience has shown us that we cannot gradu-
ally build up a large edifice I am using a metaphor
and accomplish important constructive work, quite upon
the old lines, and partly because the present labourers


are not equal to continue, unassisted, the same yearly
task. For these reasons we close the services to-day,
but we hope, in the words of the familiar French proverb,
that it is, and will be, a case of wculcr pour mieux
sauter, pausing and ending for a time to make a more
efficient progress later on.

But whatever happens, whether the hopes of some
of us are realised in a concrete form or not, 1 would
venture, in a few brief sentences, to beg those who
listen to me to-day not to lose, so far as they are con-
cerned, any results any inward results so far achieved
and acquired.

Whether we succeed or fail in any further efforts, I
would l>eg of them not to lose heart in those big spiri-
tual realities for which we stand. It may perchance
not be granted to us to-day, in this quarter of London,
to achieve or produce something more permanent and
adequate for the cause of Liberal Judaism. That remains
to be seen. But let no one for a moment confuse with
the results of our small efforts the cause of Lil>eral
Judaism itself.

I have said how, for this one and for that, the results
of our services have been an awakening or a re-awakening
of the religious life ; how one person has perchance moved
on from ethical culture to religion, another from indif-
ferentism to keenness, a third from scepticism to faith,
while a fourth, who was, at any rate, drifting away
from ./Wf/i'.s-///, has been brought back to it in thank-
fulness and in joy. But, in addition to these, there
have, I think, been a few others who, through our
services, once more learnt, or learnt for the first time,
the secret of communion and of prayer. These things
are not spoken about in public ; it is only from stray
hints, and indications here and there, that I gather and
infer that these things have, in some instances, been the
blessed issue of our Union services. Arid if, and in so
far as, this has been the case, I would beg those of


whom any of these things are true not to lose heart or
lose courage whatever happens in the future to this
Union and to its services. We may, indeed, pray with
the Psalmist, "Let me not be ashamed of my hope" may
it he Thy will that my hope may be realised but of our
deeper hope, of our deeper faith, we cannot and shall
not be ashamed. The reasons, the experience, which
have brought and bring us to our faith in God, to faith
in a divine goodness, are independent of the temporary
success or failure I use the ordinary human words of
any particular religious movement. If that faith, with
the communion which may be both its cause and its
result, has come to, or has been vitalised and increased
in, some few persons through attendance at these ser-
vices, I would entreat them not to let it go, not to let
it become weaker, whether our services are resumed or
no. Let them practise prayer in their own chamber, if
they cannot practise it within a synagogue. Let their
courage be not quenched, let their faith be not weakened ;
whatever happens to us and to our movement, the Lord
reigneth, the Lord hath reigned, the Lord shall reign for
ever and ever. In the deepest of all senses, if they
on their part strive for its accomplishment, God will
fulfil their prayer, and of their hope they shall not be

And so of Judaism in general, and of Liberal Judaism
in particular. Let them not be ashamed of their hope.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the
Lord." If not in this generation, then in the next ; if
not to-day in England, then elsewhere. For God fulfils
Himself in many ways. Be strong and of good courage
was the old injunction, and be strong and of good
courage is the message to us still. The faith which
we have won and developed in this place, the clearer
understanding which lias come to us of Judaism and
its possibilities let these not be weakened or impaired,
whatever the future may have in store for us. Our


cause is so infinitely greater and truer than the feeble
individuals who, here to-day and gone to-morrow, are
its representatives and exponents. Let their present
weakness, our own personal weakness, never make us
falter in the truth and beauty of our cause. And weak
though we be, let us not make ourselves weaker than
we are. God needs our weakness, our feeble strength,
as much as in other days and in other lands He needed
men much stronger and better than ourselves. Let us


not make of our weakness an excuse for discouragement
or rashness. Let us keep to the faith, that purified,
developing and progressive Jewish faith, which our
services in this place have helped to implant and quicken
in our midst. Let us be true to the highest we have
learnt and gained, to the highest to which we have
aspired and dared, even though we have had of it but
glimpses, forebodings, and anticipations. To this highest
and truest let us cling in courage and in faith ; and then,
while working and striving that the best may come,
and that our most ardent wishes may be realised, yet,
come what may, of our hope we shall not be ashamed.


Q U.
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Online LibraryC. G. (Claude Goldsmid) MontefioreLet me not be ashamed of my hope : a sermon delivered at the service in the Wharncliffe Rooms on June 26, 1909 → online text (page 1 of 1)