Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A defense of Cecil Roth against the charge of heresy

Here's an interesting article about the Cecil Roth heresy scandal at Bar-Ilan University in 1964. The author is Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz, former Chief Rabbi of South Africa. Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 1964.

I once picked up a Jewish Observer for sale at Pinter's for something like fifty cents, attacking Cecil Roth. I don't know where my sense was, because I didn't buy it.


  1. Odd. What was the outcome of the attack?

  2. Moses from the Tribe of Ephraim?? Had you ever heard that before? I hadn't.

    And is J. Lookstein the father of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of today?

  3. Here is an excerpt from a 2006 posting in Menachem Mendel's blog:

    The “Roth Affair” received much press coverage and Bar-Ilan University was flooded with letters, both pro and con. Many offered strong support for Roth, including Rabbi Lookstein and the university. In late November of that year, Roth suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for a number of weeks. His wife Irene describes how he was so depressed about how things were going that he even suggested to redirect their belongs to Italy where he thought it might be better to settle down. Upon his recovery, Roth decided that his ill health would not allow him to teach at Bar-Ilan. Irene describes how possibly the only ill-feelings that he held were against those within the Mizrahi movement who failed to defend both himself and Bar-Ilan University. He eventually taught for some time at Stern College, dying in Jerusalem in 1970, one week before the first volumes of the Encyclopaedia Judaica were published.

    Source: For a description of the whole affair see Irene Roth, Cecil Roth: Historian Without Tears, pp. 207-210.


    Yes, indeed, Rabbi Joseph Lookstein was Haskel's father and his predecessor at Kehilath Jeshurun, Ramaz, and YU. He was a family friend and quite an interesting character.

  4. Where can you find J Observer articles on the web? Shema Yisrael seems to have taken them down>

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  6. I note that Rav Zvi Yehudah Kook is mentioned in this article as one who demanded that Prof. Cecil Roth's appointment to the Bar Ilan faculty be rescinded. Did the rabbi in question have sufficient knowledge of English to properly evaluate the book in question? If not and he was relying on what others told him, then he was no different than some of the most prominent banners of Slifkin's 3 books.

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  8. Now that you have switched over to the Disqus commenting platform do you plan on importing all of the old comments into the new platform?

  9. Yes. I hope it.... works.



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