< Back

Book Notes: Basil Henriques, a Portrait, L. L. Loewe

A. S. Diamond

<plain_text><page sequence="1">An East End Figure Basil Henriques, a Portrait, L. L. Loewe, Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, London, 1976, x+181 pp., ?5.25 net Basil Lucas Quixano Henriques was born in London in 1890. On his father's side he came from a well-known and prosperous Marrano family that had migrated to Jamaica in the early days of the Resettlement and had come to England in the first half of the 19th century. He was the grandson of a President of the Reform Synagogue, Upper Berkeley Street, and was educated privately and at Harrow and Oxford University. From childhood he was possessed of a sensitive social conscience, oppressed by a feeling of guilt if he fell short of his aims and obsessed by a sense of the nearness of God. He grew up to embody the ideal type of the Anglo-Saxon, tall, broad, blond, with a resonant and well-modulated voice and a perfect accent. Even before he came down from Oxford he had become influenced and inspired by Alec Pater son, Dr John Stansfeld of the Oxford Medical Mission, and Barclay Baron of the Oxford and Bermondsey Mission, and had conceived the project of establishing a Jewish mission in the East End on its model. After a period of apprenticeship he succeeded in winning the moral and financial</page><page sequence="2">168 Book Notes support of Upper Berkeley Street and the Liberal Synagogue, and opened the Oxford and St George's Club in March 1914m one room in Cannon Street Road. It was not the first Jewish Boys' Club to be founded in the East End: indeed, it was almost the last, for the scene was about to change with the movement of the Jews north and west. Before the Jewish immigration of 1880 to 1905 it had been a highly undesirable neighbourhood, and now the population was overcrowded, poor, and under? nourished, sweated and seasonally unemployed, and knowing little or nothing of the country and its ways. There was little room for most of the young people except on the streets. The system pursued in all the clubs was that young men and women from comfortable Anglo-Jewish homes further west would come and voluntarily act as managers, each undertaking a specific activity and imparting to the young a knowledge of England and English ideals and opportunities, including sport and athletics, as well as a simple Judaism. Rose Loewe, a gifted and devoted person hardly less remarkable than Basil, and sister of both Herbert Loewe and of the author of this book, took charge of the new Girls' Club, and in July 1916, when he was serving in the army, they married and proceeded to live for the rest of their lives in a shabby room at the club (or, as it later became, the Bernhard Baron St George's Jewish Settlement). Not only was the club one of the last to be founded: it was not even the best. Soon Basil typified the Anglo-Jewish community service to the youth of the East End, and many visited the club to learn and work. Everyone in the boys' club movement knew that it was necessary to give each visitor an activity of his own and thereby secure his interest; but visitors to Oxford and St George's tended to be proud and were soon lost to the clubs, and Basil's club and settlement, with few exceptions, were managed by old boys. There were other difficulties. Basil inspired those who worked under him, but it was difficult or impossible to work with him. Yet of all the admirable Jewish managers of the East End clubs, he alone possessed something of greatness. The clubs and settlement were firmly founded on his sense of community with God and service to God, even if his religion was hardly recognizable as Judaism. Rose's God was Basil, and after his death she put in order the vast mass of papers that he had left, but died before she could write his life, and this excellent and absorbing book was written by her younger brother. It tells the story of how her husband became the monumental figure that he was in the life of the East End and the country, and should be read by all who would study the Jewish East End in the period between the wars. A. S. Diamond (Editor's note: The above book review was the last contribution made to the Society's publications by the late Master Diamond.)</page></plain_text>