Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quakers and Jews

"As time passed Friends found themselves in closer contact with Jews in commerce, banking, insurance and scientific societies. They had much in common. Both believed that they could have direct access to the divine without human intervention. They both worked together for the abolition of slavery; their marriage regulations needed the endorsement of the state; they were both smallish scattered communities. Quakers had commercial and family links with coreligionists in North America; Jews had similar links with communities scattered all over the world. Both emphasised religion as a practical path of ethics and in both there were splits over doctrinal differences. Both had an uneasy relationship with the state, and were excluded from university and Parliament. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, Quakers were respectable and legal. Jews, on the other hand, on average a much poorer community, had to struggle to gain social acceptance."

More in an outstanding article at

"There was once a small Jewish population in an area which was dominated by Quakers. The Jews there had their own synagogue, and found their Quaker neighbors to be friendly. All in all, the two populations got on very well.
One summer, there was a terrible fire and the synagogue was completely burned to the ground. The Jews were devistated, and began raising money to build a new synagogue. The Quakers quickly saw their plight, and also decided to lend a hand. They got together and had a meeting and decided that until the new synagogue could be built, the Jews should be able to pray in their church on Friday nights and Saturdays, since they only needed the church on Sundays. Furthermore, all funds placed in the charity box would go toward the rebuilding of the synagogue. The Jews of the community, and their Rabbi, were overwhelmed by the generous offer - and so it was."


  1. Interesting. Similar to the cordial relations between Unitarians and Jews, and between Unitarians and Quakers.

    The work of Robert Travers Herford, a Unitarian theologian, did much to correct the misconceptions about teh Pharisees that resulted from the way they were portrayed in the New Testament. There was also dialogue (resulting in mutual appreciation) between Unitarians and Jews in the early 20th century.

    The cordial relations between Unitarians and Quakers are pretty well-known. For instance, the Unitarian Peace fellowship has close links with the Quakers; so does the Unitarian Animal Welfare Society; and so on.

    And Pagans generally get on well with Quakers, Jews, and Unitarians :)

  2. My former meeting, First Friends Meeting of Richmond, Indiana, USA, has a long-standing relationship with the Jewish community of Richmond and the Beth Boruk Temple. The Temple extended its hospitality to us between the time we left our old meetinghouse and our new one was completed. In honor of this friendship, the fellowship hall of the new meetinghouse is called Boruk Hall.

    Friends strive to be in peaceful dialogue with any community whose concerns overlap with ours--even if there are important differences of history or faith. Since 1869, Friends have built an enduring presence in the Palestinian community, with both Muslim and Christian Arabs. I hope that this helps us make contributions to peace in the "Holy Land," currently scarred by conflict between Israel and Palestine.

  3. Thank you for that Johan. Peace in the Middle East remains a hope for Jews, Muslims and Christians all over the world. Friends, I hope, have the trust of all parties in their work for peace and reconciliation.


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