Closed Doors, Open Minds: British Jewry’s Secret Disputations

Closed Doors, Open Minds: British Jewry’s Secret Disputations

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Meir Persoff
Forward by Aubrey Newman

ISBN: 9781618117557 (hardcover) / 9781618117564 (paperback)
Pages: 258 pp.; 10 illus. 
Publication Date: February 2018

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For some twenty years from the late 1960s, and thereafter following a brief pause, representatives of British Jewry’s religious orientations held closed-door meetings at the Chief Rabbi’s residence in attempts to bridge their communal and halachic differences. So secret were they that barely a word broke through, and until now the details of their often fiery disputations – both verbally and in writing – have never been revealed. In an exclusive glimpse into this shrouded arena, Closed Doors, Open Minds presents an important new chapter in Meir Persoff’s acclaimed series on the British Chief Rabbinate, deftly unraveling the manifold theological and ideological strands of its multi-hued tapestry.


Now a freelance writer and editor, Meir Persoff edited the London Jewish Chronicle’s news, features, arts, Judaism, letters and obituaries sections during a distinguished forty-year career on the paper. He has written extensively on Jewish topics, and served on the Jewish Book Council and as president of the Israel–Judaica Philatelic Society. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he earned his PhD from Middlesex University, London, for his research into the British Chief Rabbinate’s relationship with the non-Orthodox movements.


In Closed Doors, Open Minds, the distinguished former [Jewish Chronicle] journalist Meir Persoff documents the history of this dialogue [between Orthodox and Progressives]. It is a rigorous, balanced and thoughtful presentation, made all the more striking because what one might have expected to be a straightforward liaison between the religious leaders of British Jewry turned out to be an emotional and spiritual roller coaster for its participants.
— Dr. Harry Freedman, Jewish Chronicle (March 15, 2018)

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Aubrey Newman
Chapter I, 1945–1960: Strife and Sanctity
Chapter II, 1960–1970: Gestures and Concessions
Chapter III, 1970–1980: Disputes and Divisions
Chapter IV, 1980–1990: Dissent and Disunity
Chapter V, 1990–2000: Kinship and Courtesy Notes