Jewish Customs and Folklore, by Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman, London 1949.

Customs01Rabbi Simon M. Lehrman, as well as being a prolific author, was best known as the Rabbi of the New Synagogue in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill.

He was an outstanding scholar, preacher and teacher who was born in Russia in 1900 and came to Britain in 1904. He studied at London’s Etz Chaim Yeshiva, and then at Jews College.  He also studied Semitics at University College, London, gaining first-class honours in 1922, followed by a PhD degree for a thesis on biblical exegesis, and further study at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He married the daughter of Dayan Lazarus in 1928 and received semicha (his rabbinical diploma) from Jews College in 1933.

He was Rabbi of the Higher Broughton Synagogue, Manchester, from 1925 ti 1938, and the Greenbank Drive Synagogue in Liverpool from 1938 to 1948. From 1948 until his retirement in 1965, he was the Rabbi of the New Synagogue, Egerton Road, Stamford Hill, then one of the largest congregations in Britain.

Rabbi Dr Lehrman combined his ministerial duties with academic pursuits.  From 1950 to 1958 he was professor of homiletics at Jews College. He wrote prolifically on many Jewish topics and his forthright views on halachic issues sometimes brought him into conflict with the religious establishment. Among other controversial issues, he called for a reconstituted Sanhedrin which would address itself to halachic problems besetting the modern world and pronounce judgments. He also spoke out strongly against “heresy hunters” intent on stifling any criticism of fundamental dogma.

He was associated with the religious Zionist movements of B’ne Akiva, Bachad and Torah Vaavodah, and retired to live in Jerusalem where he spoke regularly at the Hechal Shlomo synagogue.

The preface to the book is written by George Webber, an orthodox jurist and communal activist, and a prominent member of the Hampstead Garden Suburb synagogue in Norrice Lea.  He was a very nice man, whom I met when I was a young activist, a member of the British Zionist Federation Executive, the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi’s Chaplaincy Board. He told me that I was too young and that I should first establish myself and then get involved with communal activity.

Customs03Customs02The book itself was printed in Whitechapel at the Narod Press and published by Shapiro Vallentine and Company. It is the sort of book that would be given out as a Barmitzvah gift or a synagogue prize-giving.



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