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The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893

Stephen Massil

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893* STEPHEN MASSIL The Anglo-Jewish Historical Society of Great Britain is the latest addition to the thriving body of learned societies. Its birth can scarcely be called premature. When Aubrey Newman and I were in Washington last year representing the Society at the centennial of the American Jewish Historical Society, whose inaug? ural meeting occurred on Monday 6 June 1892, their President alluded to their own precedence and to our own forthcoming Centenary Conference. It is worth recalling that their two anniversaries in the 1880s gave them a stimulus that our own founding fathers lacked. They can trace their foundation to an appeal in June 1886, regarding the appropriate form for an American-Jewish contribution to the 1892 Columbus celebrations that were already in hand. And this appeal, it is duly acknowledged in America, was firmly bolstered by reference in due course to the success of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition (from which indeed, although it too had its precursor in Paris, our Jewish museums and the whole subsequent tradition of Jewish exhibitions all stem). We can therefore claim a sort of primacy in that Isidore Spielmann's public announcements about the Exhibition date from letters in the Jewish World and the Jewish Chronicle on 23 April 1886. It is as well to make these matters clear at the outset, for this is not a matter of transatlantic rivalry (rather, as the sequel will show, of recognition of Continental primacy in the field); but that still does not settle the matter of origins. It is to Lucien Wolf that one has to trust for most of the salient details and emphases at play throughout the 'super-elephantine period of gestation' that brought this Society into being, as Cecil Roth noted in his seventieth-anniversary address in 1968.1 Roth, and more particularly the Revd S. Levy writing in the Jewish Chronicle in July 1914, provide the most significant later glosses on this history. Wolf's definitive account, given as his fifth inaugural address in January 1912,2 must be familiar to us all. If I cannot here fulfil his expectation of providing the history 'written in a compendious form', I hope that this reworking of his account will serve to add a flavour of the cultural and intellectual climate of the time, and of the personalities involved. * Paper presented to the Society on 10 June 1993. 225</page><page sequence="2">Stephen Massil My introductory epigraph comes from a notice in the St James's Gazette of Monday 6 June 1893. The reference to the 'body of learned societies' suggests that we are not to confine ourselves just to the Anglo-Jewish culture of the time. There was a general expectation that such a society should already have been on the scholarly stage, so its foundation was not unexpected. The account in the Gazette continues: The new society was formed on Saturday evening at a meeting held at the St James's Hall Restaurant. Mr Lucien Wolf, father of the scheme, was in the chair, and he was supported by a goodly array of Anglo-Jewish notables, with the Chief Rabbi at their head. Mr Wolf was elected first president of the new Society, with Messrs Joseph Jacobs - who has recently made a valuable contribution to Anglo-Jewish history in the shape of his Jews of Angevin England' - Isidore Spielmann, and Mr C. Trice Martin as vice-presidents. A strong committee was also formed and Mr J. [sic] Abrahams MA, one of the editors of the Jewish Quarterly Review, has accepted the honorary secretaryship. A similar account appeared in The Star on 7 June 1893: A notable addition has been made to the learned societies by the foundation of a Jewish Historical Society of Great Britain. The Society owes its origin to Mr Lucien Wolf, the historian of the old Jewish families and biographer of Sir Moses Montefiore. Mr Wolf, who is now a principal member of the staff of the Daily Graphic .. . Mr Joseph Jacobs who does the 'post mortem examinations' or literary appreciations of writers for the Athenaeum, and divides with Mr Wolf the literary domain of Jewish History, was elected one of the vice-presidents of the Jewish Historical Society. We shall come later to the account of the meeting given in the Jewish Chronicle, but we should note at this stage that we are dealing with practised journalists promoting a cause. I should also satisfy immediate curiosity as to the holding of a meeting on a Saturday evening - Sabbath would have ended at 9.05 p.m. and the gentlemen concerned (Roth calls them 'as brilliant a constellation as the Anglo-Jewish community could have brought together on one occasion at that time')3 would mostly not have come far, walking (if they did so) from Finsbury Square, Upper Gower Street, the West End, Westbourne Park Villas, Kensington, Abbey Road, St John's Wood and Brondesbury. The dining room in question was the headquarters of the Maccabaeans whose guests the gentlemen were on this and future occasions over the first years of the Society. Lucien Wolf's chief purpose when devoting the whole of his 1912 presidential address to the subject of the Society's birth was to put straight the record following a recent 'controversy in the newspapers'4 concerning both the Anglo-Jewish His? torical Exhibition of 1887 and the origin of the Society, and to do justice to some of the persons concerned. His address turns on the roles of Alfred Newman, Isidore Spielmann, Asher Myers and Israel Abrahams and to giving honour where honour was due. He refers to 'the fortunate circumstance that my friend, Sir 226</page><page sequence="3">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 Isidore Spielmann, and I ... with memories unimpaired and - what is more important - with conclusive documentary evidence in our possession . ..' were able to dispose of the erroneous version substantially but not completely, for it surfaced again in April 1914 (following a report5 of the twenty-first-anniversary meeting presided over by Lord Reading) and was finally laid to rest only through a well-documented account by the Revd S. Levy on the eve of the War.6 Our first concern, I believe, should be to consider the sardonic tone in that quotation from the Gazette: 'Its birth can scarcely be called premature'. If in 1893 the Society was a late-comer, when would it have been timely? The answer is probably in 1886, and we have already touched on that date. The documentary evidence that Wolf alludes to is scanty today, reduced to a thin file in the Society's archive at UCL, but like Gibbon putting himself into the trusty hands of Amm ianus Marcellinus for the period of his history, Wolf's file (BA28) must be our starting point. Some of the correspondence it contains is amusing as well as illuminating. (What it does not include is a note that David Feldman informed me is found in the Wolf files in New York, to the effect that Lucien Wolf and Joseph Jacobs 'tossed up' for the presidency in 1893! This is referred to by Wolf himself in his address to the twenty-first-anniversary dinner of April 1914 reported as above.)5 The cuttings from the Gazette and The Star also appear. But the clue is given by a series of chits giving single dates. These, when tracked back to issues of the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish World prove to be references to some of the primary public statements (I have included others) proposing, urging and encour? aging the foundation of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Society, as it was generally referred to over those years. The first of these is to 2 December 1859, and here there is a letter, dated 28 November 1859: 'Dear Sir, I trust you will give your influential aid to the proposed foundation of a Jewish Historical Society. As a preliminary step I would urge that those gendemen who are interested in the establishment of the society should send their addresses to the Jewish Chronicle office for the purpose of being invited to a meeting.' It is signed in Hebrew; Wolf refers to the author as 'the Gleaner' and the reception accorded this proposal as 'frigid'. Wolf mentions a string of potentially significant but isolated events, start? ing with Hirschell Filipowsky announcing his intention in 1843 ?f 'writing a history of the English Jews from bedrock sources'. In 1849 Dukes called attention to the wealth of unexplored material in the Record Office, and in 1859 Drach 'urged that at least the Hebrew Shtaroth should be copied and published'. It was in 1857 that the Record Office inaugurated the publication of original records preserved in the national archives including the Rolls series and Calendar of State Papers. Co-incidentally, 1843 was the vear when Sussex Hall was founded (by Hananiel de Castro among others) and, while following our lead to December 1859, perusing issues for November 1859, one comes across a letter signed by one Joseph Newton in the issue for 4 November 1859 that reads: 'As a member 227</page><page sequence="4">Stephen Massil of the Jews' and General Literary and Scientific Institution, I am anxious to express the regret I feel at the prospect of its dissolution.' This was followed by a report that 'the Jews' and General Literary and Scientific Institution has expired'. By linking these two quotations I may seem to be implying that the enterprise of Sussex Hall constituted the 'learned society' of its time, but it, its counterparts and successors - mechanics' and working men's Institutes, and the other educational, literary and cultural organizations of the Victorian era - formed the background of that culture in which the body of learned societies flourished. All the while, the pages of the Jewish weeklies carried announcements for all manner of lectures, writings and addresses, and reports of the activities of societies which can be taken as a sign of the intellectual expression and ferment of the time. Such lectures were reprinted in extenso on a regular basis. There was no lack of opportunity for discourse and the pursuit of scholarly attention to historical matters; there was no lack of cultivated enquirers and always an assured audience (educated, as we shall see, and self-educating) for public discussion of literary and historical matters. What was missing, and from time to time deplored, was a coordinated plan and systematic approach to the sources, a deliberate strategy for garnering the archives and artefacts, promoting and reporting research, systematic delivery of papers, their publication and the maintenance of correspondence, together with an organizational structure to sustain these efforts - all, in short, the prerequisites and features of a learned society. We can cite a few of these societies and their dates of foundation: the Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge, i860; the Jewish Working Men's Club and Institute, 1874; the Bethnal Green Free Library, 1876; the Sir Moses Montefiore Art and Literary Society, 1876; the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1885; the People's Palace of the East End, proposed at a meeting at the factory of Messrs Abrahams and Gluckstein on 5 February 1886; the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society, 1888 (the last surviving of all comparable organizations and still flourishing); the Glasgow Jewish Literary Society, 1893, that proved, through the growth and diversification of the community not experi? enced in Edinburgh, not nearly so long-lived; and the Jews' College Literary and Debating Society, 1887, which figures directly in this story, along with the Maccabaeans, founded only in 1891, though it was apparently only called a 'Soci? ety' by courtesy. The background can be embellished7 by reference to the increasing educational opportunities available to Anglo-Jewish society. The ancient universities finally followed London by admitting non-conformists to study and take degrees in 1871 (Jews went predominantly to Cambridge rather than Oxford in the early years) and women followed Hertha Ayrton (to Girton) and Amy Levy (to Newnham) in quick succession. Schooling was directed increasingly to schools such as St Paul's, City of London and guild schools like the Merchant Taylors', or University Col? lege School and Manchester Grammar. Polack's House opened at Clifton in 228</page><page sequence="5">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 1878; girls, who were given private tutoring, also went to Queen's College in Harley Street, the North London Collegiate and elsewhere, including Hutchesons in Glasgow. The products of this sort of education became members of the professions, the constituency for membership of the Maccabaeans. Herbert Samuel, incidentally, was taking his final examinations in the History School at Oxford in June 1893 or would otherwise have been present at the inaugural meeting, as he mentioned in his vote of thanks at the Jubilee meeting of June 1943.8 Rufus Isaacs, who had a year at UCS in 1876 and went on eventually to Lincoln's Inn, joined the Society only following his presiding role at the twenty first-anniversary dinner of 1914. The interests of such people were perhaps wider than the as yet unconsidered field of Anglo-Jewish history, and it fell first to the amateur historians to take the subject up. Wolf pays tribute to the systematic labours of Myer Davis, a 'one-man society in himself, precursor and mentor for himself, Major Goldsmid and Alfred Newman among others, who from 1869, writing in the Jewish Record and especially as editor of the Jewish World from 1873, 'kept the papers supplied with historical articles', fruits of his own labours among the records, and of others he judiciously commis? sioned throughout his editorship. 'He stands at the head of the movement which culminated in the foundation of our Society', and up to the later eighties he 'had the field of Anglo-Jewish history to himself. There is little else to report for the period between 1859 and the early 1880s, although it is worth noting that Hermann Adler gave a series of lectures on Anglo Jewish history in 1870 and Picciotto published his Sketches in 1875. In Lucien Wolfs file, by way of an aide-memoire, there is a solitary cutting of 1880 detailing 'The Publication Society IP: Let us first consider the history of Jewish publication societies in England. The Hebrew Antiquarian Society was established in London in 1851. Its leading spirit and founder was H. Filipowski. Its object .. . was the publication of 'the most ancient and most important Hebrew mss hitherto yet unprinted' ... The Society, or rather Mr Filipowski, had no desire to popularise Hebrew literature, but to publish unedited Mss. Dr. Raphall aided by writers of the stamp of Theodores, did more two decades before in the few volumes of his Hebrew review than the entire Antiquarian Society with all its retinue of scholars. Two decades later steps were taken to establish another literary society . . . The Society was duly established with Sir David Salomons M.P. as President. Its publications were varied, so far as the miscellany series was concerned, but its Ibn Ezra literature and the first volume of Maimonides' Moreh, however scholarly, hardly served to whet the appetite .. . The Moreh discomfitted its patrons, and after four lingering years, it died past all resurrection. We are promised ten years later, a literary revival, under the name of the Jewish Quarterly Review but its projectors are not over sanguine of its success. Meanwhile, as in Dr Benisch's time, the Chronicle is proving a kind of publication society by itself, and many of its articles reprinted in separate book and pamphlet form are diffusing useful and timely information. The English public is fortunate in possessing a good coterie of Jewish literary workers. There is no excuse if men like Drs Adler, Neubauer, Gaster, Loewe, Schiller-Szinessy, revs. Lowy, Marks, Simmons, and Singer, and laymen of the 229</page><page sequence="6">Stephen Massil calibre of Claude Montefiore, Joseph Jacobs, Israel Davis, ... and Lucien Wolf cannot do something permanent to popularise Jewish literature. To these names Wolf also added Mathias Levy and the Revd A. L. Green, whose library at one time was to have come to the Society but in the event was lodged at Jews' College. Let us come now to Lucien Wolf and 1886. The 1912 lecture explains that it was a plot between him and Newman (disciples, as I have said, of Myer Davis) hatched in December 1885, for Lucien Wolf published the following letter in the Jewish World on 15 January 1886: It is, I think, time that some efforts were made to produce a serious and exhaustive history of the Jews in England. Tovey, Blunt and Margoliouth have only dallied with the fringe of the vast material for such a work and Mr Picciotto has avowedly done little more with our synagogue archives. In Germany, France, Italy, Holland and Russia, almost every Kehilla has had its historian and our cultivated kinsmen in those countries are now not only projecting more comprehensive treatments of their own records, but they are even beginning to do our work for us. He cites Schwab in Paris, whose piece on 'The Jews in England from 1182 1294' appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on 25 December 1885, and Goldschmidt in Berlin, omitting only the society in Ottoman Adrianople, and goes on: These enterprises are a tacit confession of the hopelessness felt on the continent of ever obtaining from the English Jews any worthy historical account of themselves. It only requires organising ... to unite in a private society and devote a year or two to overhauling, examining and critically discussing the materials, somewhat in the same way as the Histor? ical Commission appointed by the Gemeindebund at Berlin is now doing. I shall be glad to hear from gentlemen willing to join such a society and to undertake a share of the work. This was supported by an editorial article (by Lucien Wolf, of course!) in the same issue. The article dilated on the scheme for the New English Dictionary then under way as a model for the proposal, and cited Dr Neubauer at work on the Starrs, and the work of Sidney Lee, Gollancz and Israel Davis: 'There are plenty of cultivated men in the Anglo-Jewish community who would be glad of such an opportunity of employing their leisure.' On 22 January, Alfred Newman, upholding his role in the plot, 'cordially endorsed the expressions of Mr Lucien Wolf, hoping that an Anglo-Jewish Historical Society may soon ensue', and offering to place his collection (which Wolf describes in glowing terms) at the disposal of the society. At another time, Lucien Wolf traces Alfred Newman's interest and first communication on the subject back to 1884 in a letter preceding their first meeting.9 The Moses Mendelssohn centenary, early in 1886, the death of Leopold Zunz and the consequent elevation of Steinschneider on his seventieth birthday as the 230</page><page sequence="7">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 doyen of Continental scholars, must have galvanized Wolf's sense of the contrast between Continental and English values. The first issue of the Gemeinde Zeitschrift was published in June of that year and noticed in the Jewish World at the time. When in July there came the announcement of the establishment of the Montefiore Trust and Endowment, there was at last something positive of Anglo Jewish heritage to note, as well as his own publication of 'Old Jewish families in England'. The project foundered almost immediately, but what Wolf did not mention at this point is the fact that a meeting at Bevis Marks in December 1885 had unanimously accepted a plan for the sale of the site and the demolition of the synagogue. It was this demolition scheme, or rather the Anti-Demolition League (under Newman's organizing zeal) that it provoked, that filled the pages in the following few weeks until the scheme was revoked, definitively, by the time of the editorial of 9 April 1886, when 'the Bevis Marks question is settled for some time to come'. Lucien Wolf thought that the vandals, or at best apathy, prevailed, because his scheme came to nothing at the time, but the progress of the League is worth recalling. There were editorials on 29 January and 19 February 1886 and several hotly contested meetings, one at the Jewish Working Men's Club on 14 February. In 1912 Wolf linked 'our success' with the Anti-Demolition League, but in Janu? ary 1886, as we have seen, his inspiration had not actually come from that quarter. An unsigned note in ike Jewish World on 2 April 1886 is graphic: 'Prevailing ignorance of Anglo-Jewish history was perhaps never more strikingly exemplified than in an article on Bevis Marks Synagogue published in the Pall Mall Gazette last week.' It was precisely at this time that Isidore Spielmann also made the crucial connection, and in his letters to both the Jewish World and the Jewish Chronicle on 23 April explained how the Bevis Marks issue 'has served to prove the existence of a very remarkable and wide-spread interest in Anglo-Jewish history. It has occurred to me that this feeling might be utilized ... by the promo? tion of a temporary Archaeological Exhibition of Records of Anglo-Jewish His? tory'. ... An executive committee is now in course of formation ...'. Editorials followed on 30 April and 21 May, where there is reference to a prospect of: 'a permanent association for the cultivation of Anglo-Jewish Archaeology. ... It will be regarded as the inauguration of a permanent movement for the prosecution of Anglo-Jewish historical research.' In the Jewish Chronicle, on 30 April, it was noted that 'Mr Mocatta has headed the list of guarantors'. The writer welcomed the fact that 'We are beginning to take a more lively interest in the history of the Anglo-Jewish community ... It involves no religious question ...', which seems to have been an important consideration; as was, on 25 June, the fact that 'The committee is thoroughly representative and quite catholic in its character'. Refer? ence is made on 30 April to what 'the work of Sir John Lubbock and the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments have done for the country at large' 231</page><page sequence="8">Stephen Massil (that is, since the Act of 1882). It should encourage: 'An organised effort to rescue from oblivion and destruction the numerous objects in the possession of English Jews.' There were favourable outside interventions welcoming the 1887 Exhibition; one, with reference to the celebration of the Palestine Exploration Fund's twenty first-anniversary celebrations due in June, comes in the form of a letter from J. MacGregor asking: 'if the two societies could work in harmony on such a common field ...'. In employing the word 'society', he was making that leap beyond the immediate plan for the Exhibition, that only arose in 1893. M. Isidore Loeb writing in the Univers Israelite praised the initiative (JC, 27 August 1886). The Chronicle reciprocated in an editorial about the Fund on 16 July. It carried a review of Goldschmidt's A history of the Jews in England on 9 July 1886: 'Dr Goldschmidt's efforts ought to put English Jews on their mettle. It is not creditable to us that a task which ought long since to have been performed by Anglo-Jewish hands has at last been attempted and thus far, considering the paucity of the available materials, successfully attempted by a German writer.' The pressure was maintained through what was already being called the 'silly season'. On 20 August 1886, there is a letter from 'C' who 'desires that the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition should lead to some practical advantage. The society if properly conducted with zeal and spirit would be a useful addition to the many other special 'learned' societies which exist in London and the provinces. The Transactions of the society would be a valuable contribution towards a satisfactory history of the Jews in England .... The work is great and perhaps the real workers few but the stimulus afforded to investigation by the foundation of the society would lead to a rapid increase of inquirers.' The Exhibition of 1887 was a great success. The Revd S. Levy remembered how trudging from St George's-in-the-East to the Albert Hall on a Sabbath 'killed his dawning interest in Anglo-Jewish history', but since that recollection was entered in his presidential address of December 1907, the death was not final.10 Perhaps the cardinal event from Lucien Wolf's point of view was the intervention by Heinrich Graetz, whose 'brilliant address' for the Exhibition was published in the Jewish Chronicle on 24 June 1887. In this he exhorted the com? munity to establish a 'Jewish academy to promote Jewish science'. A series of lectures was a significant adjunct to the Exhibition and dealt with all its aspects, including Anglo-Jewish history. It was after the Exhibition, and the next round of efforts, that Wolf should have said: 'Somehow or other nothing happened', rather than in January 1886. The following is a manifesto for the establishment of the Society prepared for or following a meeting in November, chaired by Trice Martin (of the Record Office) (or is this the draft prospectus of April 1888?): It is proposed to found a society to continue the valuable work begun by the recent Anglo Jewish Exhibition. During the progress of the Exhibition much was done to show how 232</page><page sequence="9">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 large an amount of material is accessible for the study of Anglo-Jewish history, and a beginning was made with the work of collecting and publishing. The close of the Exhibition has brought this work to a standstill, and the whole movement would be nullified if the interest aroused were allowed to die away, and the work begun permitted to lapse. The history of the Jews in this country has many claims to recognition. The recent tendency of Jewish historical research is towards such specialisation. No portion of the general history of the mediaeval and modern Jews can be placed on a satisfactory footing till their local histories have been established on a scientific basis. So fully is this recognised, that societies for such special study have been founded in Germany, Russia, Roumania, Turkey and the United States, while in other countries great attention is being paid to the local history of the Jews, with excellent results. In England such investigations would contribute not alone to the general history of the Jews, but also to English history. Thus for its own sake, for the light it would throw on general Jewish history, and for the additions it would make to the annals of England, Anglo-Jewish history is a subject eminendy fitted for organised and scientific study .... Advertisements for Frank Haes's publications of the Exhibition appeared on 25 November 1887 and there was a positive letter from Picciotto on 9 December. On 16 December there appeared the following squib: Sir, It is sincerely to be hoped that the community will pause before it offers encouragement to a movement which is being initiated for the establishment of an Anglo-Jewish Historical Society. It has by no means been made evident that the Jewish Exhibition lately held at the Albert Hall, and misleadingly styled the 'Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition', has discovered a sufficiently wide interest in that 'untilled field' of Anglo-Jewish history to warrant the establishment of such a body. As a matter of fact, the original design to fund an 'Anglo-Jewish Archaeological Exhibition' was considerably modified as the movement progressed. .. . The lectures on Anglo-Jewish history proper, the only section of the undertaking by which the interest aroused in the subject could well be gauged, were but poorly attended. The letter was signed by (the Revd) Isidore Harris, of Jews' College, who is later reported in the Chronicle (23 April 1893) as giving a paper to the Jews' College Literary Society on Buddhism! Both Lucien Wolf and Joseph Jacobs replied on 23 December, and as Wolf reported, early in 1888 steps were again taken to form a society. F. D. Mocatta presided over a meeting, which Wolf thinks occurred in April and at Spielmann's house in Westbourne Crescent, which approved 'a draft prospectus': 'It was resolved to call a larger and more representative meeting for the organisation of the Society at a later date. For some reason which I cannot now remember, or perhaps for no reason at all, this second meeting was never held, and the idea passed into another slumber which lasted five years.' More delay ensued until Mr Israel Abrahams entered in the spring of 1893 with the idea that he had had for reviving the scheme in connection with the newly established Maccabaeans. In view of Lucien Wolf's reference to Alfred Newman's zeal and organizational skills at the time of the Demolition Affair, and the fact that Newman's death occurred early in 1887, coupled with his praise for Abrahams' 'energy and tact, and for the devotion with which he nursed us through 233</page><page sequence="10">Stephen Massil our not too robust babyhood', it seems that what had been lacking throughout the i88os was someone to carry the idea through to a resolution. That energy was found in the summer of 1893, although 'the preliminary work was not easy. ... At the last moment we had to encounter a formidable opposition which we were unable to overcome by negotiation, and the result was that the public meeting called to decide on the foundation of the Society was an unusually excit? ing affair. It was held in the rooms of the Maccabeans in St. James's Hall on June 3, 1893, and was, as the reporters say, very numerously attended. I had the honour of occupying the chair, and after a very stiff fight, we carried all our resolutions by large majorities.' For an account of that meeting we can go to the Jewish Chronicle of 9 June 1893, with its three-column report and three paragraphs in the 'Notes of the Week' column. According to the announcement on 2 June, the meeting was being held to establish 'a Jewish Historical Society with Anglo-Jewish history as its distinct speciality'. In the event: The result of the spirited and prolonged discussion on Saturday last was the foundation of a Jewish Historical Society of England. Mr Lucien Wolf who occupied the chair and will be the first President .. . opened the proceedings with a retrospect in which he recapitulated the difficulties that had hitherto stood in the way of founding an Anglo Jewish Historical Society. This work will be of a two-fold character. On the one hand there will be scientific and scholarly research, on the other popular exposition. The promoters of the new society propose that research and publications of the Society shall deal exclusively with Anglo Jewish history. Over this proposal, the main debate was expended. F. D. Mocatta and Claude Goldsmid Montefiore argued for an extension of the sphere of the work. The report mentions the various communications 'from foreign scholars and gen? eral historians hailing the formation of the new society with interest and approval', and reports that a cablegram was also received from Dr Cyrus Adler conveying the best wishes of the Jewish Historical Society in America. It then gives verbatim reports of the speeches made by Lucien Wolf, the Chief Rabbi and Joseph Jacobs in favour of the motions, and by F. D. Mocatta and Claude Goldsmid Montefiore against them (both of whom, we should note, became presidents of the Society in due course). The misgivings of the opposition would have been allayed by the recognition that 'the new society would be doomed to failure if it came before the public with a large demand for money'; while the demand made by the opposi? tion for broadening the field of study, to ensure an English contribution to the wider estate of Jewish study, was roundly rebutted by Herbert Bentwich who pointed out 'that the gentlemen who had expressed fear as to the financial position of the Society were those who encouraged the view of enlarging its field of opera? tion and that while recommending economy, they suggested a course which would necessarily lead to a great expenditure.' 234</page><page sequence="11">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 Lucien Wolf seems to have acknowledged some of the ambivalence that had prompted the seven-year gestation of the Society by remarking that: 'Man cannot live by Anglo-Jewish history alone - the professional bias of most of us in this respect is distinctly centrifugal.' But he stressed that: 'The history of the Jews of England can only be written by English Jews who can examine, calendar and publish the private and public records bearing on the Anglo-Jewish community'; and concluded roundly: 'The movement of which I have been speaking has done something more than save our ancient synagogue in Bevis Marks, start an exhibi? tion and found an American society.' F. D. Mocatta, erstwhile guarantor of the Exhibition, chairman of the meeting of April 1888 and future eponym of the JHSE Library, 'threw cold water on the proposals'; as Jacobs said: 'England, perhaps, presents the least attractive field of any for historical research when compared to other countries; and I cannot but believe that an Anglo-Jewish Historical Society would, five or six years after its creation, die of inanition'. - (Applause).' It was Montefiore (reflecting on the small support received by the Jewish Quarterly Review) who argued that a contribution to wider Jewish scholar? ship was what was needed. In this he would have been fully supporting Graetz' proposal for a 'Jewish academy to promote Jewish science', whereas Lucien Wolf was concentrating on history and archaeology and the 'Corpus Historicum Judaicorum' for which local study of Jewish history by local historians was essen? tial. In the event, Wolf's view prevailed and the resolution was carried (to more applause and loud cheers!). We can better understand the emphasis on learned societies in these reports when we take note of this statement from the same issue of the Jewish Chronicle: 'The birth of the Jewish Historical Society preceded by only a few days the formation of a Naval Historical Society ... It is not inconceivable that the two societies may prove useful to each other.' As it happens, the Naval Record Society celebrated its centenary on June 2 last with a dinner at St James's Palace, where H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh was guest of honour. More to the point, between the inaugural meeting and the first meeting of the Society proper on 11 Nov? ember, the following public statements appeared: 'A society has been founded for the purpose of publishing documents and researches on the history of the Jews in the British Empire, and of organising lectures on the general history of the Jews'; and: 'These lectures will be organised throughout the country, and, where possible, in connection with the local branches which the Society hopes to estab? lish in all the Jewish congregations of the Empire.' It is the extension of the programme to the Empire, or at least to the provinces, which must have been the subject of the 'negotiations' alluded to by Lucien Wolf. There are suggestions, too, that the new Society might affiliate with the Macca baeans and the Jews' College Literary &amp; Debating Society. It certainly soon took over the historical lectures that the Jews' College programme offered. The early scheme of cooperation with the 'Macco', as Israel Abrahams was wont to say in 235</page><page sequence="12">Stephen Massil his letters to Wolf, included proposals to subsidize JHSE publications,11 and co-opted membership for their respective committees, but substantive cooperation never materialized. (The next event at St James's Hall after the JHSE inaugural in November happened to be a Smoking Concert for the Maccabaeans.) Israel Abrahams was instrumental in having the following letter published in \ht Jewish Chronicle on 23 June 1893: 'Sir, I beg to offer myself as a member of the JHSE. My experience convinces me that the Society will do great good with regard to the obscure period of Anglo-Norman history. The Domesday Com? memoration [in 1886] stimulated .. . and last week at Norfolk House ... we engaged in the formation of the Anglo-Norman Cartularies Society .... (Signed) Hyde Clarke, Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society' (who was, as the Chronicle noted, one of its oldest living correspondents). This takes us back to 1886 and the wider historical inspirations of that year. The Royal Historical Society in its annual review of Progress in History for 1893 mentions the arrival of the Naval and the Cartularies, but not the JHSE; on the other hand, Mr Jacobs' History of the Jews of Angevin England is noted. The Royal Historical Society had had a paper on the 'The expulsion of the Jews by Edward F in its 1890 programme, delivered by George Leonard, who added a topical appendix on the current wave of anti-Semitism in Europe,12 a subject Jacobs had brought to public attention in an article in The Times in 1882, which inspired the Mansion House Fund of that year. There is a further note appended to these Jewish Chronicle items: 'The season being far advanced it is not proposed to hold a general meeting of the Society until the Autumn, but a meeting of the Council will be held on Wednesday afternoon next at Tavistock House.' So it is clear that they now got on with the work. Israel Abrahams was already drafting letters to synagogues on headed paper on 19 June.13 And then, the first circular was sent to members: The Jewish Historical Society of England Notice is hereby given that the First Meeting of this Society will be held on Saturday evening, November nth, in the Rooms of the Maccabaeans, St James's Hall Restaurant, Piccadilly. The chair will be taken at 8.30 Agenda i. The Constitution of the Society will be submitted. Notice of Motion by the President Lucien Wolf Esq. ii. The President will deliver an inaugural address. iii. S. Schechter Esq. M.A. Reader in Rabbinics in the University of Cambridge, will read a paper on 'A Hebrew elegy concerning the massacres of 1190'. iv. C. Trice Martin Esq. F.S.A., Assistant Keeper of HM Records will exhibit and describe photographs of the Rolls Chapel and Facsimiles of acquittances of convents. Each member is permitted to invite two friends, ladies or gendemen. 236</page><page sequence="13">The foundation of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1893 Members who have not already remitted their subscriptions (ios6d) are reminded that these are now due. I. Abrahams, Hon. Sec, 70 Brondesbury Road, N.W. The date of that first meeting was deliberately chosen by Lucien Wolf, as he pointed out in his first address, to coincide with the anniversary of the hearing Cromwell accorded Manasseh ben Israel, which led to the Whitehall Council of December 1655. (Wolf's predilection was for a 'Middle Period' following Sidney Lee, and the Resettlement, rather than for the Anglo-Norman, or else he might have selected 1 November and the anniversary of 1290.)14 That first meeting was a 'social and literary success and enrolled 200 members' (Jewish Chronicle, 17 November 1893). Lucien Wolf's presidential address was of course published in the first volume of Transactions in 1894,15 but it too appeared first in the Chronicle under the title 'A plea for Anglo-Jewish history'. Its reflections on the debate concerning the establishing of the Society make it worth selective quotation: 'We were told that Anglo-Jewish history was a very small affair, that it was not likely to add much to the general history of our race, and that it would throw no light on the annals of our country.' But 'A community which knows not its history can have no enthusiasm for the future and little of the elements of moral cohesion ... I cherish the hope that our new organisation will be a fruitful source of intellectual life and of virile Judaism to the great body of our co-religionists.' Just as the 1912 address attempted to set the record straight, there were in 1914 comments in the Jewish Chronicle which Ornstein (Secretary of the United Synagogue) was anxious to dispute on Spielmann's behalf.16 I have already referred to the Revd S. Levy's confirmation of Spielmann's central role in this history.17 Certainly, the concerns that activated the founders of the Society are still potent. Those who attended our 'Centenary Evening' at Jewish Book Week on 21 March 1993 will have realized that. Enjoying as I do Israel Abrahams' role of 'being responsible for the [society's] lecturing proposals', I claim a subterranean role in managing that event, fulfilling duties both for the Jewish Book Council and the Society, by having convened a panel of speakers that brought together our leading spokesmen on Anglo-Jewish historiography, and modern academic historians in the cause of British Jewish archives and monuments. All these strands were to the fore during the 18 80s when the promotion of an Anglo-Jewish Historical Society finally came to fruition; just as they are to this day. NOTES 1 Trans JHSE XX (1964) 255. 2 Trans JHSE Vll (1915) 206-21. 3 Trans JHSE XV (1946) 167. 4 Correspondence in the Jewish Chronicle, January 1908 and August 1910. 5 Jewish Chronicle, 1 May 1914. 237</page><page sequence="14">Stephen Massil 6 Jewish Chronicle, 17 July 1914. 7 I am grateful to Raphael Loewe and to Margaret Drukker for their guidance on this aspect of Anglo-Jewish education of the period. 8 Trans JHSE XV (1946) 181. 9 Jewish Chronicle, 3 January 1908. This is a belated response to A. Levy's presidential address of December 1907 published in the Jewish Chronicle at the time. 10 Trans JHSE VI (1912) 1. 11 19 February 1894: ALS from Israel Abrahams: 'Dear Wolf, The "Macco" propose to subsidise definite publications of the Historical Society. This seems to me admirable.' He goes on, 'I marry March 6th and shall be away during the whole of March. I suppose we can't have another meeting of the Society before March 6th?' 12 Trans RHist. Soc. New series, 5 (1891). 13 Draft letter in the possession of Mr A. Schischa: 'Moreover, the Council is anxious to hear from you what documents and records your Congregation possesses. ... The Membership now numbers 100, but the list must be largely increased before the work of the Society can fairly begin.' 14 One of Wolf's initiatives was 'Resettlement Day', which he set at 4 February 1656. From 4 February 1894, when Hermann Adler gave a public address on the subject, this became a feature of the Anglo-Jewish calendar for a few years. 15 Trans JHSE I (1894) 1-7. 16 TLS, 11 May 1914: Ornstein to Spielmann: 'historical facts are distorted by a recent writer in the Jewish Chronicle. No one knows better than I . . . that not only the success of the movement, but that the Historical Society as its off-shoot, was due to you .... If you think of contradicting the incorrect statement . .. you are at perfect liberty to make use of my testimony.' (In the possession of Historicana, Burlinghame, California, at present offering for sale Spielmann's personal copy of the catalogue of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition together with a series of autograph letters tipped in.) 17 See no. 6 above. 238</page></plain_text>

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