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Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain: a report

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain: A Report AUBREY NEWMAN, M.A., D.Phil. Some three years ago the Jewish Historical Society discussed the possibilities of sponsoring a conference on Provincial Jewry, the intention being to involve a greater number of members of the Society in its activities and to draw attention to the impact of the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe on late Victorian Britain. Members of the Society were invited to register for the conference and at the same time to indicate if they were willing to prepare a paper for it on some relevant aspect. A great deal of interest was discovered, sufficient to justify a decision to proceed further. Dr. Aubrey Newman, of the Department of History at Leicester University, was invited to act as conference organiser. It was agreed that the conference should not be restricted to members of the Society and invitations to take part were sent to members of the Victorian Society, to the Urban History Group, and, through the Bulletin of the Insti? tute of Historical Research, to academic his? torians generally. It was also decided that the materials prepared for the conference should cover not merely each provincial community known to have existed between 1837 and 1901, but also various institutions or problems which affected the provincial communities as a whole but to which individual communities may have reacted in different ways. Almost until the last minute offers of papers were received from potential contributors; a substantial volume of material was prepared and circulated in ad? vance to all those registered for the conference and to a number of persons who had expressed their desire to receive papers even though they would not be able to be present. Over 120 attended the three sessions of the conference on 6 July 1975, and the guests included Professor Salo Baron, who was in transit between Israel and the U.S.A. and who attended the afternoon session. There were a series of interesting and full discussions and it became clear that the conference had provided an opportunity for a great deal of further work on the general subject of Victorian Provincial Jewry. While it would be premature to con? template full publication either of the papers offered to the conference or of the general dis? cussions, it was generally agreed that there should be some record kept of the proceedings, and notes of the discussions are appended. Nor was it possible to make further copies of the conference papers available for sale, but the Society has ensured that there are copies in the libraries of University College London, Jews' College, and the Leo Baeck College. It is hoped that there will be many willing to make addi? tions or corrections, and comments should be sent to Dr. Newman at the University of Leicester. Some further papers have already been sent as possible supplemental contribu? tions. The Society would wish to express thanks to all those who assisted in the preparation of the conference, and particularly to all who offered papers for presentation. Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain: Proceedings of a conference organised by the Jewish Historical Society of England on 6 July 1975' SETTING THE PROBLEM His Honour Judge I. Finestein opened pro? ceedings at 10.45 a.m., and welcomed the participants. He invited Dr. Levenberg to address the conference on behalf of the co sponsors, the Board of Deputies. The first speaker was Dr. V. D. Lipman. He wished to describe the first of the three chrono? logical strata of nineteenth-century Anglo Jewish provincial communities, the pre-railway age. The railways played a great part in 'de 1 These notes are not intended to give a verbatim account of the discussions. All the principal participants have, however, been included, and where any of the contributors of papers intervened the title or locale of the paper for which he was responsible has been included in parentheses. 222</page><page sequence="2">Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain 223 pedlarisation', and he instanced Morwenstow in Cornwall, which was the village furthest from a railway and which in the 1860s still depended upon pedlars for retail trade. He admitted that much of his own earlier work had been very much London-based, but having had an opportunity now of seeing the detailed provincial work he could see where, earlier, he had gone wrong in terms of the size of com? munities. Another point which needed further elucida? tion was the part played by navy agents. These were licensed by the Navy Board and were the only persons who could receive 'prize money.' In 1816 there were forty-six of them in Ports? mouth; the papers of G. B. Hulbut (1774? 1825), in the National Maritime Museum, show sometimes how they worked. In Ports? mouth, for instance, Abraham and Lewis Moses acted as agents, claiming money, supplying clothing to seamen; further research would obviously throw light on the economic basis for many seaport Jewish congregations. The first official list is that of 1815, and subse? quent lists show a decline in numbers. In 1827, out of 48 agents 36 were Jews; in 1837 out of 26 in all 15 were Jewish. It may be that the decline of the navy agents was a factor in the decline of Jewish seaport communities. The volume of papers for the first time established a detailed and scientific basis for the study of Jewish provincial communities in the nine? teenth century. He pleaded that in due course there should be a volume covering the papers and the contributions which would be made in discussion. Professor Gartner drew attention to the importance during the middle of the century of the 'Germanic' element in Anglo-Jewry, and particularly to the fact that they were not the Bavarian village Jews but the 'Germanised' Jews from the larger industrial areas. A second element in the expansion of provincial com? munities was internal migration from the older, 'decaying' communities such as Plymouth to the newer ones such as Birmingham or Man? chester. He commented also on the method? ology evident from the papers already circu? lated, and particularly drew attention to the use that could be made of such endemic aspects of Jewish communal activity as synagogue dis? putes. It was too easy to discuss institutions and also people outside the institutions; the two ought to be brought closer together and there ought to be a series of analyses of those who took part in these disputes, why they arose, and above all an examination of the real underlying causes of such disputes. In the general discussion which followed, Mr. D. Spector (Brighton) commented on the archives of the Brighton community. Mr. K. Lunn (Sheffield) added some points of detail to his own paper, having had the chance of read? ing the papers dealing with Manchester. It was clear, for example, that one factor in the growth of the Sheffield community had been a steady trickle of immigration during the 1850s and 1860s. There would have to be a closer look at the transmigration between Hull, Sheffield, and Liverpool, and he had had no real chance of examining at first hand the congregation's minute-books. There was also a need to check the indexes of the Jewish Chronicle and to re examine the various census records. Miss Joyce Weiner made a short comment on the papers on South Wales, and drew attention to an eye? witness account of the 1911 pogroms as pub? lished in the Menorah Journal. Dr. Owen added a few words on the site and fate of the Tredegar synagogue. Mr. W. Williams (Manchester) spoke about the activities of the research unit of which he was the director. He stressed the need to attract non-Jewish historians to study the period, and emphasised the need to study census returns. He agreed with Professor Gartner that syna? gogue conflicts were not to be dismissed as trivial, since they were often based on deep social conflicts which their study revealed. He also emphasised the uses which could be made of 'oral history'. Professor Gartner queried one aspect concerning the Manchester community, and particularly of the disruption there between the 'free members' and the newcomers, won? dering whether this was an instance of 'new wealth' versus 'shopkeepers'. Mr. Williams commented that the 'rebellious' group of 1844 did not represent a commercial plutocracy per se; new immigrant wealth found little difficulty in becoming accepted, but those who spear</page><page sequence="3">224 Aubrey Newman headed the revolt were those who had begun humbly and had then become wealthy. Mr. J. Shaftesley reminded the participants that there now existed a cumulated index of the Jewish Chronicle for the period from 1841 to 1890, and that at an earlier stage nobody had thought it worth while mentioning the pro? vinces in an index. He also commented on the German-Jewish element in the population, and mentioned an editorial which attacked their desire to remain anonymous; this element was larger than might have been thought. Dr. A. S. Diamond (Leeds), on behalf of Anglo-Jewish Archives, emphasised the need to record and photocopy provincial archives, even if they were not deposited in London. Even where communities were not actually neglectful of their archives they were often reluctant to allow their use. Various other participants gave instances of synagogue officials who insisted on regarding the minute-books as being virtually their private property and of stuffing them into cupboards or cellars. Mrs. Zoe Josephs (Bir? mingham) reported that one Birmingham congregation had been persuaded to deposit records in the local City Library. Dr. Levenberg commented on the method? ology of the subject. It was important that there should be some study of the places from which the immigrants had come, not merely their country but also their 'st?tP. Unless there could be given some general picture of their towns of origin, and unless there could be gained some general pattern of their occupations, all dis? cussion of the parts played by immigrants in this country would be in isolation. If Britain was to a large extent a transit centre there emerged the question of the connections be? tween the Jewish immigrant into various British cities and those who went to the U.S.A. He urged the need to study local British newspapers as well as reactions in Parliament, and he reminded participants of various aspects of provincial life as revealed in Chaim Weiz mann's letters. Dr. R. Barnett asked a question about Brad? ford and the extent to which German merchants had settled there after the European political upheavals of 1848. Mr. M. Slowe (Aldershot) drew attention to the way that smaller com munities not only looked to London and the Chief Rabbi for assistance, but also to the other small communities, showing for instance that Aldershot was able to give advice to South Shields on how they had obtained their cemetery. This was probably because the Jewish Chronicle had been publishing a great deal of information at that time about the smaller provincial communities. Professor Sef ton Temkin indicated connections between provincial communities and English literary sources. Instancing Bradford, he drew atten? tion to J. B. Priestley, Humbert Wolfe, and Sir Jacob Behrens. Historians should not confine themselves to synagogue records but, for example, could consult Unitarian churches to trace various German-Jewish families. He did not think that interrelationships between Jewish immigrants in this country and those who settled in the U.S.A. were particularly strong. Mr. M. A. Shepherd wondered if partici? pants were being sufficiently aware methodo? logically ? There were new techniques and fresh sources to be tapped. There were fresh ques? tions which could be easily framed and which were equally important concerning social mobility and comparisons with non-Jewish historians. He wondered too if there was not too much concentration on the Jews who had 'made it', and too little on the failures not only as individuals but as communities. Mr. Con way (Blackburn) raised the ques? tion of a Jewish proletariat. Commenting on South Wales, he drew attention to Jewish workers at Guest Keen Nettlefold's being attacked by Irish workmen who felt that they were being undercut in their wages. Dr. Alder? man (South Wales) stated that he was aware of the Guest Keen Nettlefold incident, but stood by what he had written. He urged even greater concentration on Jewish provincial history, reiterating too that Jews living in the provinces were minority communities surrounded by Gentiles and that there ought to be as much attention paid to Gentile resentment as to local internal disputes. He stressed the importance of the local newspapers, a laborious process which, however, would repay dividends. He also instanced his own study of 'The Jewish</page><page sequence="4">Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain 225 Vote'; the idea that the Jewish vote tended to be Liberal was true only of London, and in the provinces there was a strong Tory vote among the Jewish communities. He also demon? strated that traditional orthodoxy was strongest in the provinces; the smaller the community the greater the degree of orthodoxy. Mr. Nigel Grizzard (Board of Deputies), commenting on the South Wales communities, claimed that they were far from being organised on a regular basis and that there were dangers in relying too greatly on the Jewish Tear Books. He drew atten? tion to the appearance in the 1850s of a group of Hassidim who came with their Rebbe to work in the steel-works of Merthyr. Mr. Rose inter? vened, however, to point out that they did not stay there for long but moved on elsewhere. Mr. A. L. Shane continued a discussion on South Wales. After 1900 there was a gradual migration of manual workers from London to the South Wales area. At Dowlais there was a small group of manual workers, becoming merchants, shopkeepers, etc. Some became very important merchants, but their origins were humble. His own family had started work in the mines, and others had been steel-workers or dock labourers. Historians had been looking for the wrong things in Wales, looking for com? munities with organisations and hierarchies. In South Wales one must look for individual families. In Newbridge the synagogue con? sisted of a room in a house, occupied for Sab? baths and Festivals. Miss Anne Ebner pointed out that very little had been said in this period on communities connected with agricultural industries, and asked whether or not the smaller communities had been affected by the agricultural depres? sion. Mr. Loewe asked whether it was possible to rediscover any patterns of synagogue seating, instancing one congregation where the seating had made a clear division between congregants originating in Salonika and in Istanbul. He felt that such divisions might give a clue to the 'st?tP background. Others who participated in the discussion included Mr. L. Olsover (New? castle), Mr. M. Carr, and Mr. Lankaster, who made some comments on Chatham and Sheer ness, and Mr. I. Goldberg, who drew com? parisons with the U.S.A. In his closing comments Dr. Lipman dis? cussed in particular the connection between orthodoxy of some communities and their pro? letarian character. He saw parallels between South Wales and some of the North-Eastern communities. In these poorer areas the mer? chants were trading on credit and since Friday was usually pay-day they had to be present then to collect their weekly payments. As a consequence they would be too late to return to their larger community, and therefore they tended to establish themselves in smaller groups than might have been considered normal. Professor Gartner took up the issue raised by Miss Ebner and developed the issue of why communities in general declined. Sometimes it was for technological reasons; as ships grew larger the small ports declined and often their Jewish communities went elsewhere. He drew parallels here with the U.S.A. Some had men? tioned an influx of immigrants as a result of '1848'; he felt that 1848, like 1881, was a code? word. It was not that people came as an im? mediate and necessary result of the events of these particular years, but that the atmosphere which followed these events gave rise to the migrations. In the U.S.A., for instance, the period of significant growth is that of the early 1850s. His major concern, however, was with further work on the Jewish industrial prole? tariat. It was important, he felt, to indicate the extent to which the Jews had been not so much factory workers as chamber-workers. He too drew the lesson of South Wales; a community was not merely the sum of its institutions. In South Wales there was a strong sense of com? munity without institutions. The decline began in provincial Jewry when the institutions be? came stronger than the feelings supporting them. The session closed with thanks being given to the various speakers. INSTITUTIONS OF ANGLO JEWRY Mr. Raphael Loewe opened the afternoon pro? ceedings and welcomed the participants in that session. He made some initial observations on the various themes of the afternoon, wondering,</page><page sequence="5">226 Aubrey Newman for example, at what point 'Zionism' became an institution. Dr. Newman introduced these themes, making some observations on each of them. He discussed the way in which the Chief Rabbinate and the Board of Deputies changed character during the century, pointing out how they were seen from the provinces and the ways in which they affected communities out? side London. The second group represented problems affecting all communities?the prob? lems of relief of the poor and of giving an education in both religious and secular subjects. In both these cases the activities of the com? munities reflected the patterns of the non Jewish community; the Boards of Guardians for the Jewish poor even took their titles from the parochial organisations, while educational patterns were affected by the various Education Acts which demanded universal education. As for 'Zionism', it was less that it was an 'institu? tion' than that the Choveve Zion movement had suddenly become very widespread; this was a phenomenon which had needed some further explanation. Mr. D. Spector (Brighton) commented on the connections between Brighton and the Chief Rabbinate. Brighton had looked to Rabbi Herschell for guidance and for various rulings. There were local rulings about charity?each member of the congregation had to give relief on a communal basis?and there was a local school. Mr. W. Williams (Manchester) raised the issue of the extent of the Chief Rabbi's authority; he disagreed with the notion that the extension of this authority was the creation of Dr. Nathan Adler. He asked whether the centralising authority exercised by Dr. Adler stemmed from his German experience or whether the Chief Rabbinate of Dr. Adler was a gradual evolution from the actual structure of Anglo-Jewry as it had emerged from the end of the eighteenth century. Some of the smaller communities were willing to look to London for guidance, but there was the issue whether the authority at the centre had deliberately exerted itself in order to contain Reformist tendencies in the provinces. He argued that the Chief Rabbinate of the nineteenth century did not arise from Dr. Adler's ideas but from the way in which Anglo-Jewry had already evolved. Mr. D. Silk asked why there were no Sephardi communities in the provinces? He also asked whether there was a possible con? nection between the Choveve Zion movement and the Maccabeans. Judge Finestein com? mented on the battles between the Political Zionists and the Choveve Zion movement, and he also indicated the part played by Dr. Adler in backing the desire by the lay leadership in London to westernise the community. He picked up the concept of the Jewish Chronicle as an institution of Anglo-Jewry in the late 'sixties, commenting on the way in which it had become much more than merely 'a Friday night must', and that this was in part a reflec? tion of the influence of Lionel Louis Cohen as well as of the editorials. Mr. J. Fraenkel made some comments on the rise of the Choveve Zion movement. Mr. W. Wolfson drew attention to the exis? tence of a Sephardi congregation in Manches? ter from the late nineteenth century, and the extent to which it had come there because of commercial reasons and the cotton industry. He drew attention also to the need to study 'oral' history. Dr. Alderman (South Wales) com? mented on the reactions of the provinces to the Chief Rabbinate in London; the provincial communities on the whole did not need this authority either for weddings or for kosher meat. Indeed, many felt that the institution had been created by the London Jewish establishment. Mr. J. Reich believed that the Chief Rabbi wished to prevent any other Kehilla from emerging at all; the extent of this issue would emerge when the second volume of the History of Manchester appeared. Mr. Simpson (Derby and Nottingham) declared that the Nottingham Day School of 1880 failed because of low standards of educa? tion and because London took very little interest in education in the provinces. He also pointed to the importance of the Provincial Ministers' Fund, and claimed that without it many of the provincial communities could not have survived. On the other hand, these com? munities were very independent-minded and wished to work along their own lines. Mr. G. W. Busse declared that East Europe had had very little idea of a Chief Rabbi, and had very</page><page sequence="6">Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain 227 little respect for such an office; accordingly, when the Jews from East Europe arrived in this country they were against such institutions. These feelings were shown in the controversies at the end of the century over weddings and the licensing of kosher meat. Mr. Shepherd concentrated on the issues raised by 'charities'. He asked to what extent charitable records survived and where they were situated. He disagreed with the idea that Jewish charities copied non-Jewish models, drawing attention to the book by Stallard, and asked whether the various histories of charitable organisation societies carried any parallel comments on Jewish charities. There was obviously participation by rich Jews in charity work, but also in other non-Jewish secular institutions such as movements for Saturday closing or for Temperance. Mr. Williams, speaking on behalf of Mrs. Steiner (Manchester Board of Guardians), thought that few of the Jewish charities had been based on Gentile models; the new Poor Law was a greater factor. Mr. Fraenkel regretted that there had been no index to the Conference volume; he also thought that there should be more attention paid to the Jewish press in the provinces and to various literary societies. Professor Gartner agreed on the importance of the Jewish charity organisations. He thought that there should be investigation of the reasons for Jewish poverty and particularly of the reasons for the poverty of Jews as compared with non-Jews. Such issues as seasonal un? employment were significant. One of the important distinctions, however, between Jew? ish and non-Jewish organisations was that the Jewish Boards of Guardians could not establish workhouses, and therefore they had to be more liberal in giving financial support than the non Jewish Boards. That was one of the features dwelt upon by Stallard. Mr. Olsover (North East England) showed how communities in the North-East looked after poor immigrants on entry and how each set up its own Board. So far as education was concerned there were few schools before the Education Act. In Sunder land, however, the Rev. A. A. Green organised night schools for the teaching of secular subjects to immigrant children. Mr. E. Samuel com merited on the Sephardi immigration; it was a matter of numbers. The poor Sephardi immigrants came mostly in the 1860s, settling for the most part in London. Rabbi Dr. de Lange asked for help in the recording and preservation of the details of early cemeteries. Most of this material dated from the early nineteenth century, and he needed help in noting the whereabouts of Jewish cemeteries and whether there were any surviving records. He invited anyone interested to get in touch with him in Cambridge. Dr. Lipman reverted to the question of charities, drawing a parallel between the Jewish and the Victorian-Gentile middle classes. He also considered that it might be possible to discuss a general pattern of Jewish settlement. Sometimes the pattern was obvious, such as the connection between Krottingen and Sunderland. Sometimes it was as a result of Jewish immigration being funnelled through particular ports of entry, such as Hull. But he thought, too, that there ought to be some examination of the various economic oppor? tunities which opened at this period. How and why was it that immigrants founded congrega? tions in very small mining and industrial com? munities at a time when other congregations in the rural and agricultural market towns were decaying? Obviously the economic oppor? tunities provide the key. He thought it was time for some further general analyses to bring together all the various papers presented for this conference. Mr. Loewe, introducing Professor Salo Baron, invited him to address the conference. Professor Baron drew parallels between British and American experiences, citing certain basic problems common to both. He was interested to trace the patterns of the rise and decline of individual communities and explained that there were close links between economic factors and the communities, Jew and Gentile, which lived off these economic activities. As the non Jewish community declined, so did the Jewish one too, but equally significantly some? where else another community developed. After a short break for tea Judge Finestein reiterated the need to preserve Jewish archives of all sorts and even the need to establish</page><page sequence="7">228 Aubrey Newman archive officers in the larger provincial com? munities. Dr. Newman closed this stage of the dis? cussions, trying to pull together all the various threads of the two sessions. The conference had never been intended as the 'last word' on Provincial Jewry; rather it was intended to serve as a springboard for further research. It had succeeded in developing new insights into the various subjects which had been examined, and it had also disclosed not only the need to re-examine existing material and techniques, but also to employ new approaches and new techniques. He again invited anyone who wished to make alterations or comments or who wished to fill in the various gaps and omissions to send material to him for inclusion in an eventual subsequent piece of work. Mr. Loewe closed the afternoon session with a series of thanks to the various individuals and institutions responsible for the organising of the conference and its various aspects. MAJOR TRENDS IN ANGLO JEWRY, 1870-1900 In the evening Dr. Newman was in the chair for an address by Judge Finestein, Q.C., on 'Major Trends in Anglo-Jewry, 1870-1900'. Dr. Lipman proposed a vote of thanks and hoped that there might in the comparatively near future be a conference on the East End of London and its daughter communities, cover? ing the period 1840 to 1940. ATTENDANTS AT THE CONFERENCE Dr. and Mrs. Alderman Mrs. P. Allin Dr. R. D. Barnett Professor Salo Baron Mr. S. Bayme Mr. and Mrs. C. Bloom Dr. J. Braude Mr. G. W. Busse Mr. and Mrs. M. Carr Miss S. Gaselberg Mrs. M. Chesler Mrs. R. Cohen Mr. S. Cohen Dr. E. Con way Mr. B. Courts Mr. H. I. Courts Dr. and Mrs. A. S. Diamond Miss A. Ebner Mr. J. Eisenmann Mr. R. Emanuel Mr. T. Endelmann Mr. and Mrs. E. Ettinghausen Judge and Mrs. I. Finestein Mr. and Mrs. J. Fraenkel Dr. and Mrs. J. Fry Professor L. P. Gartner Mr. and Mrs. M. Glaskie Dr. I. S. Gold Mr. I. Goldberg Mr. and Mrs. B. Goldblum Miss M. E. H. Gollancz Mr. and Mrs. A. Goodman Mr. P. S. Gourgey Dr. I. Gottlieb Mr. J. W. Green Mr. N. Grizzard Mr. and Mrs. Grizzard Rabbi H. Gryn Mr. D. Hackner Mrs. D. Harrison Mr. A. Hertzberg Mr. Horowitz Dr. J. Israel Mr. A. P. Jacob Mr. D. Jacobs Dr. A. P. Joseph Mr. G. Joseph Dr. and Mrs. H. Josephs Mr. R. Kaufman Mr. and Mrs. I. de Keyser Dr. B. Kosmin Mr. G. Lancaster Rabbi Dr. N. de Lange Dr. A. E. Laurence Rabbi Michael Leigh Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Lentin Mr. P. R. Lesser Mrs. T. Levi Mr. and Mrs. S. S. Levin Dr. V. D. Lipman Mr. R. Loewe Mr. K. Lunn Miss M. Maccoby Mr. L. Marks Mr. P. May Mrs. G. Mendoza Miss S. Mommet Mrs. J. Moonman Dr. A. Newman Miss R. O'Brien Mr. and Mrs. L. Olsover Mr. R. Oppenheimer</page><page sequence="8">Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain 229 Dr. and Mrs. A. Owen Mr. E. Philipp Mr. A. Rae Mr. J. Reich Mr. A. P. Rose Mr. J. A. Rosen Dr. J. Rosenwasser Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Rossiter Mr. A. Rubens Mr. and Mrs. L. Rubin Miss S. R. Rubin Dr. S. Sacks Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Samuel Mr. A. Schischa Mr. and Mrs. S. G. Schwab Mr. J. M. Shaftesley Mr. A. L. Shane Mr. M. A. Shepheard Mr. and Mrs. S. Shipton Mr. D. Silk Mr. S. Simpson Mr. and Mrs. M. Slowe Mrs. M. Smith Mr. and Mrs. D. Spector Professor S. D. Temkin Mr. A. G. Tucker Professor G. Weiner Miss J. Weiner Miss M. Weiner Mr. W. Williams Mr. W. Wolfson</page></plain_text>