Haham Moses Gaster
A Zionist before Theodor Herzl, the only Ashkenazi Haham the Sephardim ever appointed, the only senior British Jewish spiritual figure to be dismissed, a world expert on the Samaritans, a collector of 2,000 manuscripts, a scholar with a 45,000 book library at its peak, Moses Gaster was not a man to ignored in his lifetime. When he died he left an archive of 180,000 items, many of which are still being studied in universities in Britain and America.
Professor Michael Berkowitz, the Professor of Modern Jewish History at University College London has said that ‘The Haham Moses Gaster (1856-1939) is one of the most significant figures in modern Jewish history but has not yet attracted a full-blown biographical study in either English or Hebrew.’ Cecil Roth, the foremost Anglo-Jewish historian of his time, said ‘If Moses Gaster fell short of unquestioned primacy in any of his multitudinous activities, it was for the very reason that his enormous ability was diverted through so many channels and brought him such high distinction in all.’
Moses Gaster was, however, an unusual British spiritual leader. His heart remained in his native Romania, where he made a major contribution to the literary history of what was then a new country.
He was fascinated by the ancient world. Folk-lore, spells, Biblical archaeology, the relations between empires long forgotten. Moses Gaster held many offices in bodies like the Folk-Lore Society, which saw in a Jewish rabbi a man equally informed about their outlook and interests.
Hardback 272 pages