Rabbi Moses Gaster

Rabbi Moses Gaster • UCL Special Collections

This photograph of Rabbi Moses Gaster comes from the UCL Special Collections , whose largest component (around 170,000 items) is Rabbi Gaster’s personal archive. Gaster (1856-1939) was a Jewish communal leader, prominent Zionist and prolific scholar of Rumanian literature, folklore, and Samaritan history and literature, as well as Jewish subjects. Born in Bucharest, he was expelled from Romania in 1885 because of his political activities. He settled in Britain and was appointed Haham (spiritual head) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, and later also Principal of the Judith Lady Montefiore College in Ramsgate. He was a founder and president of the English Zionist Federation, and played an important role in the talks resulting in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

His personal papers, consisting of some 170,000 items, were given to UCL in 1974. Among them is a large collection of ‘ephemera’, dating from the 1880s to 1930s, including invitations, menus, visiting cards, greetings cards, and programmes. They shed a fascinating light on Gaster’s social and communal activities and on Anglo-Jewish life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Read more about Gaster in this article by Michael Berkowitz, Professor of Modern Jewish History at UCL.

We love this treasure for the light it sheds on sometimes overlooked members of the Jewish community in Britain, because of the range of Gaster’s scholarship and interests, and because of Gaster’s wonderful robe.


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