< Back

Miscellanies: Sources in Israel for the Study of Anglo-Jewish History - An Interim Report

Stuart Cohen

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Sources in Israel for the Study of Anglo-Jewish History - An Interim Report STUART COHEN Anglo-Jewish history is a topic of marginal interest in Israeli academic life. The subject is neither comprehensively taught at Israeli universities nor intensively researched by Israeli students, although local interest in Anglo-Iudaica can sometimes be discerned. One heartening indication is the progress of the Israel branch of the jhse which was founded in Jerusalem in 1978 on the initiative of Professor Lloyd Gartner; another is the comparative popu? larity of occasional symposia and exhibitions on Anglo-Jewish themes at Bet Hatefuzot ('The Museum of the Diaspora' on the campus of Tel-Aviv University). Nevertheless, most Israeli scholars tend to regard the history of Anglo-Jewry as a topic of secondary importance. This attitude cannot be attributed solely to an understandable desire to direct academic concern towards the larger Jewish communities of Europe and the United States. Considerations of a more opaque nature also seem to come into play. In some quarters, for instance, there appears to exist a feeling that little of substan? tive interest can be learnt from a study of Anglo Jewish history; the community, after all, has invar? iably been situated on the cultural as much as on the geographical periphery of Jewish life, rarely contributing much of significance to the intellec? tual or social development of the Jewish people as a whole.1 Elsewhere, neglect of Anglo-Jewry has been excused on the grounds that priority must be accorded to those communities which were vir? tually wiped out by the Holocaust. Hence the justification for establishing specialized Institutes for the study of German, Dutch or Polish Jewry which, unlike Anglo-Jewry, now possess only the slimmest of 'home bases' on which to rely for the reconstruction of their pasts. It is the purpose of the present article to indicate that Israeli institutions nevertheless can, and do, make substantial contributions to our knowledge of the development of Jewish communal life in Great Britain. Most critically is this so at the level of primary documentary materials for the late 19th and 20th centuries. In this area, the quantity of archival sources presently located in Israel is large, and its quality is high. Not only do Israeli libraries and institutions contain a large number of pub? lished works and papers of relevance to Anglo-Jew? ish history, but they also possess a sizeable propor? tion of the manuscript sources to which historians of the community must necessarily refer. This circumstance prompts two suggestions. One is that a study of many aspects of recent Anglo-Jewish history in Israel is viable; the second - and more important - is that in some areas of research a visit to Israeli institutions is vital. My primary interest has been to indicate the extent and type of manuscript sources in Israel appertaining to Anglo-Jewish history, although the picture would be unbalanced without due regard to the availability of other categories of written mater? ials which constitute important bases from which any historical study must proceed. The second consideration concerns the aims of the present paper. In its present form, it is designed to constitute no more than an introductory guide to the mater? ials available in Israel. It does not purport to present a comprehensive catalogue of such materials. It is hoped, however, that the body of the paper, together with its footnotes, will provide some indication of the provenance, accessibility and possible significance of the sources which have hitherto been found and consulted.2 I. Published Materials For a country of its size and population, Israel possesses a large number of libraries.3 Although the public library system is neither as well organized nor as well funded as that in Britain, the country contains a high proportion of university libraries and of institutional collections of a specialist nature, most of which are open to the public. Not one of 129</page><page sequence="2">130 Stuart Cohen these libraries specializes in Anglo-Jewry, but several of them do contain respectable collections of works on the subject and some possess books and pamphlets which are not easily accessible else? where. For present purposes, library holdings of printed materials relating to Anglo-Jewish history have been divided into three categories, (i) Works of reference, (ii) specialist published works, (iii) news? papers and periodicals. (i) Works of reference All university libraries in Israel possess copies of what are justifiably considered to be the standard works of reference for all students of Anglo-Jewish history. The bibliographies successively compiled by Jacobs, Wolf, Cecil Roth and Ruth Lehmann are conveniently available, as is, in most cases, a complete series of the Jewish Year Book.4 Indeed, at the Jewish National University Library (jnul), situ? ated on the Givat-Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, these and related items are conveniently located together in the bibliographical reference room located near the main card indices on the ground floor.5 Complete runs of the annual reports of such bodies as the Board of Deputies, the Board of Guardians and the English Zionist Fede? ration are a little more difficult to come by; they are scattered amongst the stacks of the libraries at Tel-Aviv University, the Central Zionist Archives (Jerusalem) and the jnul. Of even greater value for the research student are the catalogues of Jewish archival materials pos? sessed and/or compiled by the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (cahjp; situated in the basement of the Sprinzak building of the Hebrew University at Givat-Ram, Jerusalem). This institution, with substantial archival holdings of its own, also obtains and sometimes commissions indices of collections elsewhere, references to which are to be found in its occasional Newsletter. It must be stated that the cahjp's catalogues are neither comprehensive nor entirely up to date. Neverthe? less, they do constitute a valuable directory to many of the collections open to inspection both in Israel and abroad. For that reason, they must be cited as a preliminary port of call. Thus, under the rubric 'r' (Register) can be found lists of the holdings of some of the most important repositories in Britain;6 the United States;7 and France. The latter register deserves particular mention, since it contains one of the very few available copies of the (unpublished) index to the archives of the Alliance Israelite Univer? selle with whose representatives and officials several Anglo-Jewish personalities and institutions conducted a regular correspondence until as recently as the 1960s. Thus, the list provides references to exchanges between the Alliance and Frederic Mocatta (ib 53); Chief Rabbi Hertz (ib 13); Samuel Montagu (ib 56); Claude Montefiore (ib 58); members of the Rothschild family (ij 6); and such institutions as the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Russo-Jewish Committee (m 7). Microfilm copies of some (but not all) of these holdings have also been deposited at the cahjp itself, further increasing the value of a visit to the institution. Finally, under this rubric, reference must also be made to the Responsa Project of the Institute for Information Retrieval and Computational Linguis? tics at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan. Launched in 1967, the project plans to place on computer tapes as large a body as possible of the published responsa issued by leading rabbinical authorities from the 1 ith century until modern times, and thus to provide an almost immediately retrievable sur? vey of rabbinical opinion on almost any topic of halakhic interest. The importance of responsa literature as a source for social and intellectual as well as purely legal history has long been recog? nized, and the Bar-Ilan project (which has hitherto stored some 170 collections of responsa) promises to facilitate all such enquiries. A pilot request (entered in the spring of 1980) that the computer retrieve all available responsa emanating from the British Isles or referring to the Anglo-Jewish com? munity, resulted in references to over 250 indivi? dual responsa from over 70 sources, dating from the 12th century (Rabbi Avraham ben David of Posquieres [Rabad], c. 1125-98) to the 1970s (Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the present Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel). A preliminary survey of the material provided suggests two possible lines of further enquiry. One is the extent of contact between rabbinical authorities in Britain and the Continent; the second is a study of the sorts of issues upon which the rabbis were asked to express an opinion by Jews and Jewesses living in the British Isles.8</page><page sequence="3">Israeli Sources for Study of Anglo-Jewish History 131 (ii) Specialist published works Neither the jnul nor any other library in Israel publishes a catalogue of its printed holdings, so there is no substitute for a visit to the card indices of individual repositories. Unfortunately, the experi? ence can often prove frustrating. In part, this can be attributed to the tendency of university libraries in Israel to spread their holdings among specialist (faculty or department) libraries; more generally, it is due to the inadequacies of the Dewey Decimal Classification system for matters of Jewish interest.9 Consequently, idiosyncratic classification systems abound. At the Central Zionist Archives (cza), for instance, books are classified according to the name of the country to which they refer (Britaniya, in this case, providing an inadequate summary of the materials available); alternatively - and equally unhelpfully - they are numbered according to the date of their receipt; at Bar-Ilan University, the relevant reference is '047'; and at the jnul (in Dewey style) 933.5 (42) for England and 933.5 (415) for Ireland. Confronted with such a maze of symbols and numbers, it is a good rule to consult the librarian at the enquiries desk (who will generally be found to speak English adequately) before embarking on this labyrinthine course. The search, however, is likely to prove reward? ing, obviously in the case of the jnul, whose collection of Judaica is recognized to be among the best in the world. In the case of Anglo-Jewish history, the library possesses both a sound collec? tion of what may be termed 'basic books', as well as an interesting mixture of more ephemeral works. More comprehensive is the collection of addresses, responsa, talmudic novellae, essays and halakhic treatises written by rabbis of East European origin, who either settled in Britain at the turn of the present century or spent some time in the British Isles (often in tiny immigrant communities) on their way to the United States.10 These are often very rare works, many of them printed privately and without due regard to the Copyright Act, and hence difficult to obtain in so concentrated a form else? where. For a historian of Anglo-Jewry two aspects of such works-many are little more than slim pamphlets while others are heavy treatises - are of particular interest. One is their subject matter, which can help to round out our knowledge of the intellectual climate pervading certain (and usually submerged) quarters of Anglo-Jewish life. It is particularly interesting to compare works written by immigrant rabbis with the treatment accorded to parallel subjects in comparable English-language works (of which the jnul possesses an equally representative collection) written by and for a much more acculturated section of the com? munity.11 Equally instructive, secondly, are the occasional - and often incidental - glimpses which many of the immigrant works provide of the personal histories and fortunes of their authors. In the apparent absence of private papers relating to most rabbis of this type, the introductions to and approbations of their works constitute virtually unique sources for a study of the vicissitudes of their personal and professional lives. Among the issues on which such works throw some light are the manner and motives of an individual author's passage to Great Britain, and the extent of his continuing relationship with colleagues in his country of origin.12 (iii) Newspapers and periodicals The history of the growth and development of the Anglo-Jewish press still awaits comprehensive aca? demic treatment. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Roth, Fraenkel, and Prager we do, fortunately, possess handlists of many of the English, Yiddish and Hebrew-language newspapers printed and published in Great Britain.13 Analytical studies of press content and circulation are, however, still inadequate.14 The Jewish Chronicle, which, for all its notorious biases, is generally recognized to be an indispensable source for many aspects of Victorian and modern Anglo-Jewry, is readily available in Israel. Similarly accessible, in their original form, are the Voice of Jacob (the jc's predecessor); the Jewish World (its one-time competitor, until both papers were acquired by Leopold Greenberg in 1907); the Jewish Guardian (launched in 1919 with the express purpose of 'dislodging the lewish Chronicle from its auracular position'15); Ha Yehoodi (the Hebrew-language weekly run on a shoestring by I. Suvalsky between 1895 and 1913); and-at Tel-Aviv University - Ha-Me'orer (the Hebrew literary journal edited in London by Yosef Chaim Brenner between 1909 and 1910), and the Jewish Review (launched in 1910 by Norman Bentwich and Joseph Hochman with the purpose of</page><page sequence="4">132 Stuart Cohen 'filling the gap left by the transfer of the jqr to the United States'16). But the material on open shelves represents only the tip of the iceberg. Lists of holdings of the jnul, the cza, and Beit Lessin (in Tel-Aviv), which houses the Archives and Museum of the Labour Movement in Israel, reveal over 30 further titles in Yiddish, some 20 in Hebrew and almost 70 in English. Clearly not all of these are of equal value and quality, but the jnul possesses a representative run of such important Yiddish newspapers as Die Zeit (x2? pv 5 72); AbendNaiess (20 pa 3174) and Unserer Tribune (launched by Ze'ev Jabotinsky in London in 1916; x2? pv 3326); as well as a high proportion of the more noteworthy provincial lewish news? papers. No less significant (and in many cases more interesting) are collections of lesser-known publica? tions which testify to the occasional richness of Anglo-Iewish intellectual life and the wide range of communal concerns. Within this category fall the various journals issued under different titles by the Inter-University Jewish Association (Jewish Acad? emy; Agora, etc; jnul pb 38i 7); Hazofeh Leveit Yisrael (an orthodox Hebrew journal; of which the jnul has the first two numbers, issued in 1887; r 51 a 522); and such contrasting publications as the Jewish Outlook (published in 1946 by the anti-Zionist Jewish Fellowship; cza number 4848) and the Jewish Struggle (simultaneously published by Ang? lo-Jewish supporters of the Etzel; cza 4751). But in some cases, the holdings of original prints are incomplete;17 in others the card indices are mis? leading. A large number of the ventures listed were chronically under-financed, so their lives were irregular and short, and the paper on which they were printed of such poor quality that surviving sheets are rapidly decaying.18 Yet a third category of publications (not necessarily exclusive of the previous two) appealed to so restricted or local an audience that they contain little (beyond gossip) which cannot be gleaned from other sources.19 Nevertheless, the holdings remain both impres? sive and valuable, and undoubtedly provide an adequate base for systematic and comprehensive research. This is thanks to the efforts which have been made to supplement the gaps in Israeli holdings by obtaining microfilm copies of news? papers held elsewhere. The jnul has been particu? larly energetic, with the assistance of the Abe Cahan Fund in New York, in acquiring copies of both a large number of obscure items and complete sets of such seminal newspapers as Der Arbeiter Freund.20 Secondly, note must be taken of various private archives which contain substantial bodies of newspaper cuttings. Special mention must be made of the Morris Myer Archive at Bet Hatefuzot Library at Tel-Aviv University; of the Josef Leftwich Archive at the cza (which contains a particularly interesting collection of cuttings relating to the Yiddish theatre, series A330); and of the Ivan Greenberg Archive at the Jabotinsky Institute (ji, in Tel-Aviv, which contains a complete run of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency bulletins, box 2). Perhaps most important of all is the obvious - but critical - fact that none of the Israeli libraries mentioned limit themselves exclusively to collections of Anglo-Jewish press interest. Other communities are, if anything, even more fully represented. The most important advantage of this situation is that it permits comparative studies of press attitudes in a large variety of Jewish centres towards issues which were of international Jewish concern. It is probably no exaggeration to claim that the newspaper facilities existing in Israel for a comparative study ofthat nature cannot be rivalled elsewhere.21 II. Primary Manuscript Sources In Israel, the dividing line between 'archives' and 'libraries' can often be blurred. Most large libraries (especially when attached to universities) tend to possess an archival division, and all archives possess a select library of secondary and reference works. Since the distinction between the two categories of holdings is clearly a significant one, it has here been maintained. Henceforth, attention will be concentrated on those repositories which specialize in the collection and preservation of manuscript sources, of both an institutional and personal nature. Archives everywhere are fascinating institu? tions: not only do they contain unique, original materials; they also tend, particularly when small, to possess distinctive characteristics and histories of their own. The provenance of an archival collec? tion - the way the sources came to be preserved and</page><page sequence="5">Israeli Sources for Study of Anglo-Jewish History 133 deposited - reveals much about the character of both the archivist and the manuscripts placed in his charge. The manner in which the various deposits are stored and catalogued is also instructive, and provides further indices of the nature of the mater? ial, its origins, and the particularities of its custo? dians. Remarks of this nature seem to be particu? larly pertinent to a discussion of Israeli archives, many of which are highly specialized institutions, established in order to preserve the records of specific (and usually very narrow) aspects of Jewish or Israeli life. Each tends to exaggerate the signifi? cance of the figures in its own particular foreground and to obscure-even obliterate - those in the background with which the general Jewish his? torian might be concerned. This impression is conveyed by a brief list of the names and functions of some of the archives which have been consulted for the purpose of the present paper.22 The Archives and Museum of the Labour Move? ment ('Beit Lessin', Tel-Aviv), for instance, was founded in 1932 with the aim of assembling materials and exhibits connected with the history of the Zionist-Socialist Labour Movement in Palestine and the Diaspora. The Histadrut Archive (situated in the basement of the Histadrut's Headquarters in Tel-Aviv) preserves the records of the Israel General Federation of Trade Unions; the purpose of the Weizmann Archives (situated at Rehovot) is to assemble materials relating to the life and activities of the first President of the State of Israel; that of the Jabotinsky Institute (situated on the first floor of the Headquarters of the Herut Party in Tel-Aviv) is to preserve documents of relevance to the history of the Zionist Revisionist Movement and its member? ship; that of the Haganah Archives (at Bet Golomb in Tel-Aviv) to collect and collate materials necess? ary for the publication of a history of the Haganah;23 and that of the Israel State Archives (situated on the ground floor of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem) to preserve and catalogue materials relevant to the foundation and history of the State of Israel. Even the Central Zionist Archives, which is a far larger institution than any of these, is concerned only with the assembly of materials relevant to the history of the Zionist movement in its most recent manifestation.24 Only three repositories in Israel appear to possess wider briefs. One is the Library of Bet Hatefuzot (which is new and still rather small); the second is the manuscript division of the jnul (situated on the second floor of the main library building on the Hebrew University Campus); the third is the cahjp, which was granted the status of a national institu? tion in 1968, and whose terms of reference empower its trustees to collect and preserve mater? ials relating to Jewish settlement in every country throughout all periods. Appearances are, however, deceptive. For the student of Anglo-Jewish history, conventional dis? tinctions between 'broadly-based' and 'narrow' archives are not at all helpful. Paradoxically, those archives with specific terms of reference contain more material of relevance to the subject than do those with ostensibly wider interests. Thus the cahjp, although an indispensable source for the history of many other Jewish communities, pos? sesses a very limited amount of archival material of direct relevance to Anglo-Jewry. Its only holdings of private papers, for instance, are those of Lucien Wolf and Cecil Roth - neither of which collection is complete-and such incidental items as the ori? ginal record of a grant of armorial ensigns to the merchant family of Salvada by the College of Arms in 1745. Otherwise, its holdings in the sphere of Anglo-Judaica consist of microfilm copies of docu? ments in other institutional or private hands.25 Of course, its vast collection of archives of other communities can, if thoroughly searched, provide highly interesting insights into Anglo-Jewish affairs.26 The use to which such sources can be put is severely limited, however, for they do not consti? tute a unified body of Anglo-Jewish material, so can only profitably be employed as supplementary material, after the researcher has clearly defined the parameters of his enquiry. Simply to work through all the communal pinkasim available at the cahjp in search of documents of relevance to Anglo-Jewry is to impose intolerable burdens on the resources of the researcher and to tax severely the admirable patience and kindness of the archivist and his efficient staff. In addition, it is precisely those archives which initially appear to possess the more limited terms of reference which have been found to contain some of the richest veins of Anglo-Jewish material. These repositories do suffer from technical limitations. Some of the smaller archives do not possess the</page><page sequence="6">134 Stuart Cohen facilities for preserving all of the material in their possession; others have not yet managed to cata? logue and index their holdings.27 Furthermore, there is the question of periodization. The over? whelming majority of documents of Anglo-Jewish interest in Israel are no older than the late Victorian era, and most are still more recent. Within those boundaries, however, the archives do merit the brief and deliberately narrative scan which will be attempted here. For the purposes of the present paper, archival materials of Anglo-Jewish interest in Israel have been divided into three main areas: (i) Political (ii) Institutional (iii) Social and personal. Other themes (intellectual, religious, etc.) can also be pursued; however, initial research does suggest that the three areas here covered are the most prominent. (i) Political Popular and academic interest in the history of relations between Great Britain and the Palestinian Yishuv during the mandate period has always been considerable in Israel. Consequently, the subject has for many years been accorded substantial archival concern. With the recent opening of most of the official British documents for the period of the mandate, and the virtually simultaneous appli? cation of a 'Thirty Years Rule' in Israel, work on the period 1920-48 has attained something of the status of a national growth industry. As such, it has produced some ancillary benefits.28 The affairs of Anglo-Jewry do not constitute the primary focus of these enquiries, but because the community was so closely concerned (officially and unofficially) with the style and substance of the British administ? ration in Palestine, its social and political historians can benefit considerably from the labours of their colleagues whose interests are more strictly diplo? matic. One obvious example concerns evidence on the activities of various pressure groups within Anglo Jewry, whose members sought to influence the pace and direction of official British policy on matters of international Jewish concern. The British Govern? ment's reactions to these efforts can, of course, best be studied in the British sources.29 But the process of communal planning for such deputations, as well as the internal Anglo-Jewish debate to which they occasionally gave rise, can only be studied in internal Jewish sources, of which a large proportion are to be found in Israeli archives. i. The Zionist lobby in its various manifestations is particularly well represented in Israel, thanks to a number of crucial collections of private papers of persons who were most active in promoting and forming a Zionist 'caucus' in communal affairs. Herzl, Sokolow, Weizmann, Jabotinsky, and Ben Gurion, all interested themselves at one stage or another in the affairs of the Anglo-Jewish com? munity, which they each attempted to employ as a lever on British Government policy. Their efforts were not of equal intensity: Sokolow, for instance, was primarily concerned with matters of 'high policy' (cementing the diplomatic contacts which he was adept at forming); Ben Gurion, who never stayed in Britain for any length of time, with