Albert Lowy - 1816-1908
Author Unknown: written circa 1944
Although Albert Löwy1.
was born 128 years ago there are members of the Council of the Anglo Jewish
Association today who remember him, not as an old man long past his activities,
but as one still mentally alert, interest in all questions of Jewish Concern and
if in his last years no longer able to take part in Jewish administration, yet
an eager and valuable participant in discussions- even controversies - in
matters of Jewish learning and scholarship.
Löwy was one of the trio of young
students at the University of Vienna who, eager to help forward the emancipation
of the Jews of the world which was then dawning, formed a University Jewish
Society, Unity or Die Einheit, which, they hoped, would organise Jewry towards
the end. Unity as has been narrated on earlier occasion failed in its immediate
object, but out if its failure sprang the Anglo Jewish Association and the
Alliance Israelite Universelle and other similar organisations that arose later
in other countries for the protection of the interest of Jews in the less
Löwy was born in Aussee in Moravia in
December 1816. When he was seven his parents moved to the larger centre of
Friedland, a small country town. There, there were no facilities for a wider
education such as his parents desired and at thirteen the boy left home to
attend school, ending at the University of Vienna. In 1840 having graduated he
left the University and went to England, then the magnet of all Jews and also
others of liberal tendencies. England remains his home until the end of his life
sixty-eight years later.
Löwy's main purpose in coming to
England as was that of his friend and colleague, Abraham Benisch, who followed
him a few months later, was to secure support for the programme that Unity had
adopted. In this he failed as did Benisch who made the same attempt. The
proposal was too revolutionary for those who were directing the affairs of Anglo
Jewry: the other Jews of England were either uninterested in the larger affairs
of Jewry or were satisfied to leave them in the hands of those with whom the
knew their interests were safe. Both Löwy and Benisch, despite their failures,
however had sown seed which fructified in due course. Among the fruit that came
from that seed are the Anglo Jewish Association and its valuable work for Jewry
over almost three-quarters of a century.
Löwy was not the first Minister,
either in time or seniority, of the
Synagogue, the first organised
movement for religious reform in Anglo-Jewry. The Synagogue had been open about
six months before he was appointed its second Minister. The Senior Minister was
David Woolf Marks, better known as Professor Marks, who had previously been a
preacher to the Hebrew Congregation of Liverpool and was, in the Jewish clergy,
the pioneer of religious reform in England. Both Marks and Löwy served very long
term as Ministers of the new community, Marks outliving Löwy by almost exactly a
year. Marks remained in office until the day of his death at the age of 98: Löwy
retired after fifty years in office.
A scholar as well as a man of letters
Löwy found his metier in his new undertaking. To him and his colleagues fell the
building up or more properly the adaptation of a new ritual for their community.
The first prayer books of the Congregation were compiled by Löwy and Marks. Some
of the prayers were original: others such as the Mi Yiteneni of Jehuda Ha Levi
were the result of Löwy's research. In the West London Synagogue also, Löwy
initiated with the assistance of the Countess of d'Avigdor and Benjamin Kisch,
the first Jewish Sabbath school in London. He also founded a Jewish day school,
who latest form was that of the High School for Jewish Girls in Chenies Street,
which came to an end about forty years ago.
Löwy was active in the formation of the Anglo Jewish Association in 1871. With tireless application he interested prominent members of his congregation in the project and the resolution founding the Association was moved by Sir Francis Goldsmid, one of the principal members of that Congregation and also of Anglo Jewry. Of the five members of the "Correspondence Committee" which brought the Association into existence he was one and he was also a member of the original Council. Later, in 1875, be became secretary of the A.J.A. in succession to Herbert Lousada, the father of the present Honorary Solicitor, and held that office until his retirement in 1889, retaining, by a special vote of the Council, his membership of that body. Löwy remained a member of the Council after he had laid down his secretaryship and was later elected a vice president.
Löwy attended the International
Jewish Congress in Paris in 1878 as a representative of the Anglo Jewish
Association and was one of the Honorary Secretaries. Of the Mansion House
Committee on the subject of the Russian persecution in 1882 he was also a
member. While Secretary of the Association he was active in the discovery and
the safeguarding for Judaism of the Bene Israelites of Bombay, the tribe of
native Jews of mysterious origins who are now, largely thanks to Löwy's
exertions an integral part of world Jewry.
Löwy's work as a minister and
communal worker did not absorb the whole of his activities. He was an Hebraist
and oriental scholar of standing. He did not accept the authenticity of the
(Mesa's Stele) and wrote two or three pamphlets arguing against it. Perhaps his
best literary work was that as bibliographer. He catalogued the unique
collection of Samaritan literature of the Earl of Crawfurd and the collection of
Hebraica and Judaica in the Guildhall Library which originated in the library of
Levy Solomons, the father of the first Sir David. This library he induced
friends to supplement, among the accessions being the collection of his old
friend Moritz Steinschneider, acquired and presented by Frederic Mocatta. Löwy's
own library was bought by Mocatta and other friends and presented to Jews'
College. Löwy was also joint author of a biography of Sir Francis Goldsmid.
Löwy was one of the founders of the
Society of Hebrew Literature and Editor of its publications. He was also a
member of the Council and an active member of the Society of Biblical
Archaeology. He was a fellow of the royal Geographical Society and an active
members of the Society of Philology to whose transactions he was a frequent and
welcome contributor and whose meetings he often addressed.
He did not publish much, but his
knowledge and interests were encyclopaedic. Some hint of their range has already
been given. But the hint by no means covers the entire ground. Philology and
oriental languages were perhaps his speciality. In an age when Hebrew was still
practically a dead language so far as Western Europe was concerned he not only
spoke and wrote it but was sufficiently master of the tongue as to compose
sermons in it. His knowledge of other languages enabled him to related its bases
to those of kindred and even more distant tongues. In an altogether different
and unrelated field Löwy shone. He was a naturalist of some distinction and
natural history and in particular biology attracted him to the end of his days.
He eve in his last years studied the noises that animals made with a view to
discovering if possible some coherence among them.
Löwy taught Hebrew to a number of
distinguished public men, among others Chenery, the editor of The Times who had
previously been Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic at Oxford and the learned and
beneficent third Marquis of Bute. At an earlier period Löwy had taught languages
at Eton College and included among his pupils some of the court circle at
Löwy life was very full. This is a
foregoing brief and inadequate mention of his interests will show. Age hardly
reduced its compass and even in his nineties his days were well occupied. But
definite employment in his various offices or in scholarship by no means filled
his day. For one reason there was his ever present feeling of kindness to all
and everyone, to the community as a whole, to his friends and acquaintances and
also to the unknown, the ever readiness to help, not only for the relief of
poverty or suffering but not less noticeably with encouragement to young men at
the opening of their lives, to whom encouragement and guidance may mean far more
than any definite gifts.
In all matters he was enthusiastic,
but enthusiastic to the point that protected him against the bitterness of
disappointment. His philosophy was of the practical order and he was far more
ready to devise a new way of helping a cause in which he was interested than in
speculating or theorising about the future. In religious matters he could well
be described as a conservative reformer. To him tradition loomed very large and
he was never at one with that party in his congregation that wished to break
with tradition and eradicate their Judaism that which without perhaps concerning
the core of their faith is yet an essential part of it. He had a historical
sense and knew that to sever the connection of the present with the past meant
death not life.
Löwy was born on the 10th December 18163. and died at his home in London on the 21st May 1908, leaving a number of children several of whom took an active part in the work of the Jewish Community. One of them still does so. In 1893, a year after his retirement from active work he had been made an honorary L.L.D. of the University of St. Andrews.
Notes (↵ returns to main text)
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