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Book Notes: The Making of Manchester Jewry, 1740-1875, Bill Williams

John M. Shaftesley

<plain_text><page sequence="1">MANCHESTER JEWRY The Making of Manchester Jewry 1740-1875 By Bill Wilhams. Manchester University Press; Holmes &amp; Meir, New York, 1976. x + 454 pp. ?6. If you can't be a Metropolis, then the next best thing is to be a Cottonopolis, and especially if you are on the</page><page sequence="2">126 Book Notes direct communications line between the busy ports of Hull and Liverpool. And so thought many good men in the times Mr. Williams speaks of, including, for instance, one Nathan Meyer Rothschild, of Frankfort, who arrived in Manchester in 1800 (and not, the author points out, in 1797, as Lucien Wolf had said). Mr. Rothschild, in fact, found that, by the unification of interests in the Manchester cotton trade, he 'got three profits instead of one' and he 'could sell goods cheaper than anybody'?not a bad start for founding a banking business later in London. By an ironic polarity, it was Manchester which also provided that great charity the London Jewish Board of Guardians with its first, and very efficient, paid Secretary, Samuel Landeshut. He was the first Secre? tary of the Manchester Jewish Board of Guardians and translated his great and efficient administrative ability to London in the handling of the massive poverty not only of settled Jews but also of the waves of immi? grants and transmigrants escaping the persecutions of Europe. The rise in numbers and influence of Manchester Jewry, until it became the biggest and most important Anglo-Jewish community outside London, is traced meticulously by Mr. Williams from local and national sources, touching also upon connections with other towns, so that no religious, social, or economic aspect seems unexplored. His narrative shows a process of communal development similar to that of London, in which a sort of middle-class oligarchy, mainly com? posed of successful merchants, gradually took com? mand of affairs and did its best to set up all the necessary self-sufficient organisations, religious, chari? table, and educational, earnestly trying to help its poorer brethren into positions of self-support and, in accordance with what it judged to be the prime needs of the day, into fast anglicisation. The main vehicle of this latter process, the Manchester Jews' School, founded in 1841, became almost as famous as its big brother the London Jews' Free School, and had as many as 700 pupils in 1875; the estimated total popula? tion of Jews in Manchester in that year was 7,000. Manchester provided the only instance in the prov? inces of a threefold community: Orthodox, Sephardi, and Reform. Reform manifested itself about 1856, some time after the famous schism in London, and revolved round the rather tempestuous personality of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schiller-Szinessy, a political refu? gee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Schiller Szinessy was granted the unprecedented title of'Local Rabbi', but he clashed with the authority of his official superior, the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Nathan Adler. Adler was a far better diplomat than Schiller-Szinessy, who, losing his personal fight, retired and found solace in a long academic career at Cambridge University. But Orthodoxy also lost, to the extent that a permanent Reform Synagogue was founded in Manchester. The author quotes in his conclusions provincial reserva? tions with regard to their lack of representation in the process of appointing a Chief Rabbi and conferring on him his ecclesiastical powers, but does not mention that this situation was largely brought about by what one might misquote as 'no representation without taxation'?provincial congregations (as indeed some London synagogues too) were lax in, or even opposed to, the provision of the financial contributions that were ineluctably needed to make that high office, in the modern term, viable. And even today there is very little realisation in the Jewish community of how, historically and practically, the institution of the Chief Rabbinate has helped to safeguard their rights as citizens. Mr. Williams, who is himself a Roman Catholic (and Director of the Local Studies Unit of the Man? chester Polytechnic), has nevertheless been able to weave himself into the web of Jewish history and produce a luminous book in a style of almost pointil liste detail. John M. Shaftesley</page></plain_text>

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