Rabbi Adler and the
birth of King Edward VII
Victoria, Queen of the British Empire had
good reason to be grateful to Nathan Adler who was Rabbi
of a synagogue in Hanover, Germany where the Queen had come
to visit. Her husband, Prince Consort Albert was from the
Duchy of Saxe Coburg Gota, and her own ancestors had originated
in Hanover. The royal couple had arrived there for a vacation
before the expected birth of their first child, when suddenly,
labour began two months earlier than expected.
The great Jewish philanthropist, Moshe Montefiore, a financial
advisor to the British Government, came to the court at
Hanover at that crucial moment. The doctors and members
of the Court were at their wit's end- if a the child would
be born on German soil, his succession to the throne might
be in question, since he would be considered a German citizen
and would not be eligible for the crown.
That afternoon, Moshe Montefiore went to pray in the synagogue
of Rabbi Nathan Adler, and received a tremendous welcome
- not because of his great wealth but because of his great
benevolence to his Jewish brethren all over the world. After
prayers, he told Rabbi Adler about the royal dilemma. It
was getting late...
Rabbi Adler suggested that the Queen be brought immediately
to an English ship, which should then travel out three kilometres
from the German shore to international waters. A child born
on the British ship would be regarded as having been born
on English soil.
Sir Moses quickly relayed this advice to the court, and
Queen Victoria was rushed to the famous British warship,
the Ark Royal, which was nearby. That night, she gave birth
to a son. He duly became known later (much later, since
the Queen ruled until her death at the venerable age of
82) as King Edward VII.
Hanover and the Queen did not forget that.
During her long reign, England's glory was at its greatest.
''The sun never sets on the British Empire'' it was truly
said, since it shone constantly on some part of England
and its possessions - Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India,
the African colonies...
Years later, Queen Victoria's attention was directed to
an announcement issued by the Dukes Place Synagogue in London,
requesting applications to be submitted for the prestigious
position of Rabbi there. This was publicised internationally,
and many renowned Rabbis applied, including Rabbi Samson
Rafel Hirsch and others.
The Queen sent a note to the synagogue, stating, ''Since
Rabbi Adler saved me when I was in trouble, he will certainly
be the right guardian and leader for your congregation.''
And so it was.
When the Queen's advice was accepted and Rabbi Adler was
chosen as the Rabbi of the Dukes Place Synagogue, she further
suggested that this position was not enough - he should
become Chief Rabbi of England, or better yet, of the British
Empire! A bill was raised in Parliament in order to decide
whether the Empire required a Chief Rabbi. When put to a
vote, a substantial majority chose Rabbi Adler as Chief
Rabbi of the British Empire, a post he filled with honour
and distinction for 45 years.
Thus Queen Victoria repaid the good advice of the Rabbi
of Hanover. Her reign was an era of good feeling toward
her Jewish subjects, who prospered and enjoyed more rights
and freedom than any of their brethren in the European countries.
Sir Moses Montefiore, who was very close to Queen Victoria,
occupies an important place in Anglo-Jewry, both Ashkenazi
and Sephardi. He was President of the Board of Deputies
for many years. The main hall of the London Sephardi Synagogue
in Lauderdale Road is named after him and ten years ago
there was an attempt to change the name to "The Saatchi
Hall" on payment of a certain financial contribution.
However, some members of the community argued that the naming
of the hall not only honours the memory of Sir Moses, but
it also honoures our community and should not be changed.
Thus the attempt to change the name was abandoned.
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