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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore (1858-1938), Biblical scholar and philanthropist

Scholar and founder of Liberal Judaism; born 6 June 1858, in London, younger son of Nathaniel Montefiore, physician. [1] Graduated Balliol College, Oxford 1881; theology student, Berlin 1881–2; co-founder and editor, Jewish Quarterly Review 1888–1908; questioned Anglo-Jewish orthodoxy in Hibbert lectures, Oxford 1891; president, Jewish Religious Union 1902–38; declared opposition to Zionism in Liberal Judaism 1903; personal income allowed him to devote time to scholarship and social welfare, within and beyond Jewish community, causes including Froebel Educational Institute from 1892 (chairman 1917–38), Jewish infant and youth charities, Anglo-Jewish Association (president 1896–1921) and University College, Southampton (president 1913–34); principal funder of Liberal Jewish Synagogue building, St John’s Wood 1925; honours and awards including Hon. DD, Manchester University 1921 and British Academy Medal for biblical studies 1930; died 9 July 1938 at 42 Portman Square, London.

While he could appear unkempt, even shabby, there was great magnetism:

Tall, with somewhat Semitic features, close cropped hair and a beard, his eyes were arresting even to a stranger. When a few years ago his portrait was painted by a leading artist of the day [?G.F. Watts], the picture was criticised because the eyes had not been accurately portrayed. ‘You cannot expect me to paint stars’ replied the artist. [2]

He was very careless, as his brother had been, about his clothes and their cut. In London he was always in black. His boots had to be too large – he could bear no pressure – and so had his gloves; and he wore a large, floppety wide-a-wake [hat] unlike anyone else’s, and sometimes mittens on his wrists. [3]

he was quite unforgettable, and unlike any other man one has ever met or may reasonably expect to meet again. His physical appearance was arresting. The erect figure, the high dominant brow, the deep-set glowing brown eyes, the clear ringing voice and the upright and downright ways of speech gave an impression of commanding force. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) His name is variously spelt: ‘Claude Joseph Goldsmid-Montefiore’ (‘Montefiore assumed the additional surname of Goldsmid by letters patent in 1883’), Alderman 2004; ‘Claude Goldsmid Montefiore’ (‘he substituted his mother’s maiden name [Goldsmid] for his original middle name, Joseph’), Rubinstein et al. 2011; ‘Dr Claude G. Montefiore’ (‘he added his mother’s name to his own by Letters Patent’), Jewish Chronicle, 15 July 1938, p.14 (obit.). Montefiore himself signed his publications ‘Claude G. Montefiore’, without a hyphen.
2) Sir Basil Henriques Diary [no date], cited Fox 2011, pp.203–4.
3) Cohen 1940, p.67.
4) Herbert A.L. Fisher, quoted in Cohen 1940, p.11.

Referencesback to top

Alderman 2004
Alderman, G., ‘Montefiore, Claude Joseph Goldsmid- (1858–1938)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Bermant 1971
Bermant, C., The Cousinhood: The Anglo-Jewish Gentry, London, 1971.

Burkitt 1929
F.C. Burkitt, ed., Speculum Religionis: Being essays and studies in Religion and Literature from Plato to Von Hugel. Presented by members of the staff at University College Southampton to their president, Claude G. Montefiore, Oxford, 1929.

Cohen 1940
Cohen, L., Some Recollections of Claude Goldsmid Montefiore 1858–1938, London, 1940.

Coote 1910
Coote, W.A., A Vision and its Fulfillment: Being the History of the Origin of the Work of the National Vigilance Association for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, London, 1910.

Diamond 2014
Diamond, B., ‘Portraits of Claude Montefiore’, Jewish Historical Studies, vol.46, 2014, pp. 189–202.

Finestein 1993
Finestein, I., Jewish Society in Victorian England: Collected Essays, London, 1993.

Fox 2011
Fox, P., A Place to Call My Jewish Home: Memories of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue 1911–2011, London, 2011.

Kessler 1989
Kessler, E., An English Jew: The Life and Writings of Claude Montefiore, London, 1989.

Langton 2002
Langton, D.R., Claude Montefiore: His Life and Thought, London and Portland, OR, 2002.

Meyer 1995
Meyer, M.A., Response to Modernity: a History of the Reform Movement, Detroit, 1995.

Rigal & Rosenberg 2004
Rigal, L., and R. Rosenberg, Liberal Judaism: The First Hundred Years, London, 2004.

Rothenstein 1939
Rothenstein, W., Since Fifty: Men and Memories 1922–1938 [vol.3], London, 1939.

Rubinstein et al. 2011
Rubinstein, W.D., M.A. Jolles and H.L. Rubinstein, The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, Basingstoke, 2011.

Sebag-Montefiore 1987
Sebag-Montefiore, R., A Family Patchwork, London, 1987.

Weston 1998
Weston, P., From Roehampton Great House to Grove House to Froebel College: An Illustrated History, Roehampton, 1998.

Weston 2002
Weston, P., The Froebel Educational Institute: The Origins and History of the College, Roehampton, 2002.