Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note


Conditions of Access and Use

Administrative Information

Search Terms

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. Sermons and Addresses, 1913-1961

Series B. German Writings, 1928-1932

Series C. Jewish Religious Union [Home Worship Curriculum]

Series D. Short Stories 1925;1933, undated

Finding Aid to the Lilian Helen Montagu Papers. 1913-1961.

Manuscript Collection No. 282


Repository: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Creator: Montagu, Lilian Helen, 1873-1963.
Title: Lilian Helen Montagu Papers.
Dates: 1913-1961
Quantity: 2.8 linear feet (7 Hollinger boxes)
Abstract: Manuscripts of writings, short stories, curriculum for Jewish home worship, and sermons delivered at the West London Synagogue of British Jews.
Collection Number: MS-282
Language: Collection material in English and German.

Biographical Sketch

Lilian (Lily) Helen Montagu was born on December 22, 1873 in London, England. She was the sixth of ten children born to British banker and philanthropist, Samuel Montagu (1832-1911).

Lily was educated at a private school and raised in a strict Orthodox home. By age fifteen she discovered that Orthodoxy did not agree with her personal interpretation of Jewish teaching. At seventeen she and her sister Marian began to run evening classes for working girls and conducted Sabbath services for children. Lily was nineteen when she founded, with her cousin Beatrice, the West Central Club, an educational club for working girls. The club developed into the West Central Jewish Day Settlement with Lily remaining director into the 1960s.

When Lily was 25, she was influenced by the writings of the Jewish scholar, Dr. Claude Montefiore. Lily became a pioneer in the cause of Liberal Judaism and joined the small group, including Montefiore, that established Liberal Judaism in England. In 1902 Lily was one of the founders of the Jewish Religious Union, which led to a separate religious movement represented by the Liberal Jewish Synagogue.

The first rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Israel L. Mattuck, espoused the radical Reform Judaism then popular in the United States. Lily agreed with that viewpoint and supported Rabbi Mattuck. Lily was a regular preacher at services of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and also ministered to affiliated synagogues, one of which was her own synagogue, the West Central Jewish Congregation. She officiated there every week and preached regularly. In her zeal to promote Liberal Judaism Lily became the first Jewish woman to serve as a lay minister, giving her first sermon in 1918.

Lily was a founder of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues which, in 1926 when the movement became world-wide, was renamed the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The WUPJ's headquarters were for a time located in her home and she was its honorary secretary until her death.

During her life, Lily was a pioneer of the Youth Club Movement, founder of the National Organization of Girls' Clubs, and was one of the first women in England to become a magistrate. She fought for decent conditions in sweat shops and helped open the way for the appointment of factory inspectors. During the Hitler regime Lily helped refugees to escape Europe by securing entry permits.

During her lifetime Lily wrote numerous letters, articles, and pamphlets. She also published fourteen books, most on religious subjects, as well as three novels.

Lily H. Montagu died in London on January 22, 1963 at age 89. She remained active until the end of her life and during her last days continued to visit the elderly and other persons in need.

Scope and Content Note

The Lily H. Montagu Papers describe the career of Lily H. Montagu as lay minister, social worker, and co-founder of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The collection consists predominantly of sermons delivered by Montagu at London's Liberal Jewish Synagogue and West Central Jewish Congregation, as well as other places. The collection also contains German writings, religious home worship curriculum materials, and short stories authored by Montagu.

The sermons, most of which are typescript, reflect the broad range of Lily's interests and concerns, ranging from Jewish identity and observance, to social issues and matters of contemporary interest. The home worship curriculum materials were part of a planned four year series sponsored by the Jewish Religious Union designed for instruction on worship in the home. This initiative reflects Lily's interest in merging religious with domestic and women's concerns, specifically the maintenance of Jewish identity and observance with the responsibilities and demands of family life.


The papers are divided into four series:

A. Sermons and Addresses
B. German Writings
C. Jewish Religious Union [Home Worship Curriculum]
D. Short Stories

Conditions of Access and Use

Terms of Access

The collection is open for use; no restrictions apply.

Terms of Reproduction and Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce, with exceptions for fair use, may be obtained through the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Please address queries to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information, see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Lilian Helen Montagu Papers and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:

[Description], [Date], Box #, Folder #. MS-282. Lilian Helen Montagu Papers. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Lily H. Montagu Papers were donated to the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives by the Estate of Lily H. Montagu and the West London Liberal Synagogue in 1985.

Processing Information

Processed by Kevin Proffitt, January, 1998.

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. Sermons and Addresses, 1913-1961
Series A. consists of seven boxes of sermons, speeches, and lectures. The first two folders in the series contain alphabetical and chronological indexes of Montagu's sermons. Please note that the sermons listed in the indexes may not all be present in the collection. The material spans the years 1913-1961 and includes some undated materials.
The sermons in Series A. are arranged alphabetically by title.
Box Folder
1 1 Index of Sermons and Addresses (alphabetical order)
1 2 Index of Sermons and Addresses (chronological order) 1925-1960, undated
1 3 Sermons and Addresses, A
1 4 Sermons and Addresses, B
1 5 Sermons and Addresses, Ca-Ci
1 6 Sermons and Addresses, Cl-Cr
1 7 Sermons and Addresses, Da-De
1 8 Sermons and Addresses, Di-Dr
1 9 Sermons and Addresses, E
Box Folder
2 1 Sermons and Addresses, Fa-Fe
2 2 Sermons and Addresses, Fi-Fu
2 3 Sermons and Addresses, Ge-Gi
2 4 Sermons and Addresses, Gl-Gr
2 5 Sermons and Addresses, Ha-Hom
2 6 Sermons and Addresses, Hon-Hu
2 7 Sermons and Addresses, I-In
Box Folder
3 1 Sermons and Addresses, Inc-Is
3 2 Sermons and Addresses, J
3 3 Sermons and Addresses, K
3 4 Sermons and Addresses, L
3 5 Sermons and Addresses, Ma
3 6 Sermons and Addresses, Me-Mi
3 7 Sermons and Addresses, Mo-My
3 8 Sermons and Addresses, N
Box Folder
4 1 Sermons and Addresses, O
4 2 Sermons and Addresses, Pa-Pe
4 3 Sermons and Addresses, Pi-Po
4 4 Sermons and Addresses, Pr-Q
4 5 Sermons and Addresses, R
4 6 Sermons and Addresses, Sa-Se
Box Folder
5 1 Sermons and Addresses, Sh-Son
5 2 Sermons and Addresses, Sou-Sp
5 3 Sermons and Addresses, St-Sw
5 4 Sermons and Addresses, Ta-Te
5 5 Sermons and Addresses, Th
5 6 Sermons and Addresses, To-Ty
5 7 Sermons and Addresses, U-V
5 8 Sermons and Addresses, Wa-We
Box Folder
6 1 Sermons and Addresses, What A-What D
6 2 Sermons and Addresses, What H-What W
6 3 Sermons and Addresses, Whe-Why
6 4 Sermons and Addresses, Wi-Wo
6 5 Sermons and Addresses, Y
6 6 Sermons and Addresses [Untitled and Miscellaneous] 1916-1960, undated
Series B. German Writings, 1928-1932
Series B. consists of one folder containing speeches or articles in the German language. The subjects of the writings concern Liberal Judaism. The materials are dated 1928-1932.
Box Folder
7 1 German Writings, 1928-1932
Series C. Jewish Religious Union [Home Worship Curriculum]
Series C. consists of 1/2 Hollinger box (0.2 ft.) of a four year series designed for worship in the home. The materials are undated.
Box Folder
7 2 Home Worship Curriculum - 1st year undated
7 3 Home Worship Curriculum - 2nd year undated
7 4 Home Worship Curriculum - 3rd year undated
7 5 Home Worship Curriculum - 4th year undated
Series D. Short Stories 1925;1933, undated
Series D. consists of one folder containing manuscripts of short stories. The materials are dated 1925, 1933 or are undated.
Box Folder
7 6 Short Stories 1925; 1933, undated

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the AJA's online catalog.

Persons and Families

Montagu, Lilian Helen, -- 1873-1963 -- Manuscripts


West London Synagogue of British Jews
World Union for Progressive Judaism


Jewish women -- England -- London
Worship (Judaism)

Genres and Forms

Jewish sermons, American
Short stories


Women -- England -- London