This book gives me the opportunity to write about its author, the Reverend Gerald Friedlander, Minister of the Western Synagogue, then in St. Alban’s Place, London. He is another of Britain’s slightly forgotten Jewish clergy.
Gerald Friedlander was born in London on December 2nd, 1871. He was a son of Myer Friedlander, who was a member of the Bayswater Synagogue.
He was educated at a Seminary in Hanover, at Jews’ College, and at University College, London. In June, 1897, whilst still a young man studying at Jews College, Gerald Friedlander was appointed Minister and Secretary of the Western Synagogue, a position which he filled up to the time of his early and unexpected death from heart failure in August 1923.
In addition to his synagogue work, he was also Hebrew master at University College School, gave free religious instruction at several institutions, and was actively associated with the Westminster Jews’ Free School, He also frequently delivered lectures at Jewish Literary Societies.
Gerald Friedlander was a profound scholar whose work has survived him, and some of his books are still in print, such as his English language book “Pirke de Rabbi Eleazer”. His prolific articles for the Jewish Chronicle and publications reveal an extensive knowledge of Rabbinic literature. He was known as one of the strongest opponents of “Liberal” Jewish teaching. The correspondence columns of the Jewish Chronicle; to which he was a frequent contributor, often demonstrated his unremitting championship of orthodox doctrine.
There is also a story that Friedlander was on many occasions consulted by the actor, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, whose theater ‘Her Majesty’s’ was next door to the Western Synagogue. tree, who was known for his portrayal of Shylock, would often come to the Synagogue to get a sense of the Jewish atmosphere. Shakespeare’s Jew, Shylock, was portrayed by Tree with sympathy and understanding.
This book, which is a classic and has run into several editions, is for children. Gerald Friedlander was very adept at taking midrashim and stories from the Talmud and adapting them in clear, simple English, for children.