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Rev Michael Adler, DSO, SCF, BA

13 Tishri 5705 (30 September 1944)

Basic Information

Unique reference:


Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Spitalfields, London


Date of death:
13 Tishri 5705 (30 September 1944)
Died in combat?:
Place of death:
Burial place:
Willesden Jewish Cemetery Section AX, Row 10, Plot 37



Parents' home:
3 Wellclose Square London (1881)
71 Brook Green London (1901)
38 Hallam Street London (1911)
East Cliff Manor Hotel Bournemouth

Other Organisations

United Synagogue
Her served as Reverend (Rabbi) to the Hammersmith and Central Synagogues
Jewish Chaplaincy
He was Senior Jewish Chaplain and pioneered Jewish Chaplaincy in the field
Jewish Historical Society of England
Editor, and President 1934-1936


Hammersmith Synagogue
Central Synagogue, Gt. Portland Street
 < Close personal journey map
Personal Journey map
Rev Michael Adler, DSO, SCF, BA

Mentioned in Despatchers

Distinguished Service Order
Instituted on 6th September 1886 by Queen Victoria, the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) was awarded to Michael, Rev. Adler for meritorious or distinguished service during wartime.

The order was established for rewarding individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in war. It was a military order, until recently for officers only and normally given for distinguished services during active operations against the enemy.

It is typically awarded to officers ranked Major (or its equivalent) or higher, but the honour has sometimes been awarded to especially valorous junior officers.

The recipient, Michael, Rev. Adler, is known as a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and is entitled to use the letters D.S.O. after his name.

A Century since WWI: Reverend Michael Adler (1868-1944)

The centenary of the start of the First World War is an appropriate if sombre time to recall Rev. Michael Adler, Chaplain to the British Armed Forces and one of the most accomplished ministers of his time.
The first minister to serve as Chaplain was Francis Lyon Cohen (1862-1934), minister of the Borough Synagogue, who held this position from 1892 to 1904. He received semicha (Rabbinic ordination) and moved to Sydney, Australia, where he served as head of the Beth Din, at which point Michael Adler, minister of the Central Synagogue (and former minister of Hammersmith Synagogue) succeeded him.

Initially, the responsibilities were part-time and included an annual Chanukah military service, which Rabbi Cohen had pioneered. By 1915, with many young Jews volunteering for the services ahead of conscription, Michael Adler realised that chaplaincy had to become full-time and that he should be based in France. The Chaplain General, John Taylor Smith (1860-1938) suggested that instead of the usual Christian chaplain’s badge, Rev Adler should wear a Magen David. It was not long before Michael Adler decided that the Magen David would be the symbol on the graves of Jewish soldiers who died in action.

Initially working as the lone Jewish Chaplain on the Western Front, he enlisted the support of Jewish communities in Paris, Havre, Rouen, Versailles and Boulogne. With financial support from Anglo-Jewry, he arranged that the suppliers of matzah for French Jewish soldiers should also supply 1,200 British Jewish soldiers. It did not happen, and three months after Pesach 1915, he received a letter asking what was to be done with the special food that was awaiting distribution!
In the first month of the War, Michael Adler wrote a Soldiers’ Prayer Book, which Chief Rabbi Hertz (who visited France in June 1915) later enlarged.

As the conflict continued, more chaplains were required, and Rev. Vivian Simmons of West London (Reform) Synagogue and Rev. Arthur Barnett (d. 1961), later minister of the independent Orthodox Western Synagogue were called up. About a dozen others, both ministers and chazanim, followed. The most famous of them was the future Chief Chaplain and Chief Rabbi, Israel Brodie. Mark Gollop exchanged his pulpit in Southend & Westcliff for the Gallipoli Campaign, later becoming Rabbi of Hampstead, a Dayan at the London Beth Din and Chief Chaplain to the Forces. One of the chaplains attached to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was my great-uncle-in-law, Yitzchak Frankenthal. In July 1918, Michael Adler returned home unwell, his place as senior chaplain in France being taken by Arthur Barnett.

In 1922, Michael Adler edited the British Jewry Book of Honour, which recorded the names and regiments of the approximately 50,000 Jews who served in the British and other armies of the Empire and Dominions, as well as containing a number of articles. He also wrote on the Jews of Medieval England.

Rev Adler’s chaplaincy article in the British Jewry Book of Honour and US Living & Learning’s booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One are available at www.theus.org.uk/100yearsago.

Jewish Chronicle, Obituary , 20 October 1944

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE REV. MICHAEL ADLER A memorial service for the late Rev,, Michael Adler was held on Wednesday of last week at the Adolph Tuck Hall, Woburn House, which has been the habitat of the Central Synagogue since the building in Great Portland Street was destroyed by enemy action in 1941. The gathering included the widow of the late minister and his only son, Mr. Sidney Adler, and representatives of a large number of communal organisations. The Chief Rabbi read the memorial prayer. The service was taken by the Rev. Arthur Harriett, C.F. (Minister of the Western Synagogue), and the Rev. Aaron Stoutzker {Reader of the Central Synagogue), assisted by the Central Synagogue choir under Mr. Mandel. The Ark, for the El Mole’ Rachamim, was opened by Mr. Sidney Adler and one of the Wardens of the Synagogue (Mr. Gaskell Jacobs). In his memorial address, Mr. Barnett said that Mr. Adler had a high conception of the vocation of the Jewish Minister and did much to raise the status of his calling. He was a rare combination of the pastor and the scholar. The preacher spoke of the outstanding contribution made by the deceased to the study of Jewish medieval history. “ If,” he said, "genius has been defined as an infinite capacity for taking pains, then Michael Adler can be said to have possessed it in no small measure.” Anyone who knew him as Chaplain would agree that no job that he ever attempted was ever better done than this, added Mr. Barnett.
His Work as an Anglo-Jewish Historian.
The President of the 'Jewish Historical Society, Dr. Cecil Roth, writes, in the course of a tribute: Where the rest at us boggled sometimes at the mass of material, he confronted it with the same persistence that he showed in all his other work, spending day after day in the Public Records Office, going through the original sources, deciphering the most cramped hands, wading through volume after volume of the least tractable materials. The result of his labours was not an article, but a monograph. The last word had now been said, in most cases. .Nothing remained to be added, and another corner of Anglo-Jewish history had been finally and definitely investigated. Hit monographs on medieval Exeter and Canterbury secured him a reputation among the local historians. His biography of Aaron of York, the most prominent of medieval Anglo-Jewish financiers, is a contribution to the reign of Henry III. is its wider sense. His History of the Domos Conversorum put the study of the Middle Period in Anglo-Jewish history on a new basis. (All these papers with the exception of that in Exeter are included in his volume of essays, ‘The Jews of Medieval England.’) There was an interruption in his historical work for a while when he was at the height of his activity as Minister and Chaplain but when he returned to it he showed the same vigour as ever,and after his retirement it became his principal solace and occupation. He now acted, moreover, as editor of the publications for the Jewish Historical Society (of which he had served as President in 1934-6) and its more recent volumes showed on every page traces of his meticulous care. Even during his last illness, before he entered the nursing home, he wrote asking me for some work to take with him. The community can ill spare such men, who as they pass are not, alas, replaced! So far as the Jewish Historical Society goes, I fear that it will be unable to survive further losses such as it has suffered by the death during the past few years, of which that of Michael Adler, the latest, is by no means the least.
Cecil Roth



Sophie Eckersdorf (female)
Other surname / Maiden name:


Bertha Lovie (female)
Other surname / Maiden name:


Sidney Adler (male)
Rosalind Marion Adler (female)
Lilian Rosalie Adler (female)


Rachel Adler (female)
Amelia Adler (female)
Eleazer Adler (male)
Rebecca Adler (female)
Henry Adler (male)
Abraham Adler (male)
Harriet Adler (female)


Father: Joseph Adler (male)
Mother: Betsey (female)


Editor of the British Jewry Book of Honour
What was the impact of this:
In the British Jewry Book of Honour he produced a lasting memorial to all those Jewish men and women who served Britain during the First World War

Military Record

Military service:
Date enlisted/conscripted:
Rank at discharge/death:
Senior Jewish Chaplain


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London Jews in the First World War - We Were There Too

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