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The Jew as Scapegoat? The Settlement and Reception of Jews in South Wales Before 1914

Geoffrey Alderman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jew as Scapegoat? The Settlement and Reception of Jews in South Wales before 19141 GEOFFREY ALDERMAN, M.A., D.Phil., F.R.Hist.S. Writing the history of the recent past is always a dangerous exercise. Writing the history of the recent Jewish past can also be a depressing one. And no Jewish historian, attempting to trace any facet of recent Jewish history, can, I believe, do so merely on account of the past's intrinsic value. We Jews live with our past; we cannot escape from it. We ought not to ignore its lessons, for we are burdened with its conse? quences. And those of us whose interests lie in the field of Anglo-Jewish history clearly have a special duty to write and explain that history, 'warts and all'. Too much of what, until fairly recently, had been written about the history of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom was family history, to the exclusion of communal developments. Too much communal history has been concerned with growth and achieve? ment, not enough with difficulties and shortcomings. Too much has been concerned with London, to the exclusion of provincial Jewry. Too much has, para? doxically, been concerned narrowly with Jews, not enough with the gentiles among whom we find our? selves. The story which I shall endeavour to tell is offered as a small contribution towards remedying these imbalances. Thejewish communities which developed in South Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century based themselves upon the growth of the coal, iron, and tinplate industries of that region. They were as much products of industrial South Wales as the min? ing and metallurgical industries, and the difficulties which confronted them ought to be seen, in part at least, as a by-product of problems attendant upon rapid industrialisation. The history of these communi? ties down to the First World War does, in fact, pro? vide a graphic illustration of the role which Jewish communities traditionally play as scapegoats for economic ills and industrial unrest. Historically, the earliest Jewish community to de? velop in South Wales after the Readmission was that of Swansea; according to the Standard Jewish Encyclo? pedia, German Jews settled in Swansea in the 1730s, though there is evidence that they were Lithuanian Jews intending to go to America.2 In 1740 David Michael, a founder member of the community, built a wooden synagogue behind his house in Wind Street, near the docks; it could hold about forty people. This structure served until 1789, when a new building, also of wood, was erected on The Strand near by. This was replaced in 1818 by a larger structure, with a capacity of sixty to seventy, in Waterloo Street, and this in turn gave way, in 1859, to the Goat Street Synagogue, the one which German bombs destroyed in 1940.3 When the Goat Street Synagogue was opened, Swansea Jewry could not have numbered more than about fifty souls.4 Within the next 40 years, the size of the com? munity increased sixfold.5 By far the greater part of this increase derived from immigrant Jews from East? ern Europe. And just as, in London, the immigrants shunned the cold formalism of the cathedral-like syna? gogues already established there, so in Swansea they founded their own Beth Hamedrash, in Prince of Wales Road, in 1906. Indeed, until the end of the Second World War, Swansea Jewry was divided into two religious groupings. And though, as the years wore on, the difference became more apparent than real, in the beginning it had a definite meaning. Goat Street was the spiritual home of the Jewish 'establish? ment'; Prince of Wales Road was the abode of the immigrants, Yiddish-speaking, poor (at least to begin with), but probably more Orthodox. The established Jews, though without doubt the descendants of pedlars, were themselves by now shopkeepers and tradesmen; the newcomers tramped the valleys of west Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, and Pembroke? shire, learning the language of the native Welsh, doing business with the rapidly developing mining com? munities, and very occasionally (as at Ammanford) deciding to live among them. Often they did not establish separate synagogues but met for prayer in a room provided by one of their number. The Port Talbot community was organised at the turn of the century by Raphael Levi, a Lithuanian immigrant, at Aberavon, but a synagogue was not erected till after the First World War.6 At Ammanford a synagogue was never built. Of these very small communities in south-central and south-west Wales, to which Swan? sea ranked as a large Jewish centre, almost no trace (except descendants) now survives. The one exception is Llanelli. There is no record of Jews in Llanelli before the 1880s. The nucleus of the community was provided by Isaac Benjamin Jeffreys, who arrived in 1887, and his two brothers, Lewis and Morris; they were all glaziers. Later arrivals were credit drapers and pawnbrokers; the first pawn 62</page><page sequence="2">Jews in South Wales before 1914 63 broker's shop in Llanelli was opened by a Jew in 1897. Religious services were held in the home of Harris Rubinstein, for the synagogue in Queen Victoria Road was not opened until 1909.7 By any standards the community was minute: 70 Jews, according to the Jewish Year Book of 1914, in a gentile population of over 25,000. Jews were attracted to Swansea, Llanelli, and Ammanford because the growth of the mining and metal industries in the second half of the nineteenth century had created new entrepreneurial opportuni? ties in a rapidly expanding population. The same is true of west Monmouth and east Glamorgan. Jewish pedlars and tradesmen were naturally attracted to the Welsh mining centres. The Merthyr Tydfd com? munity was founded in 1848; the Aberdare com? munity dates from at least the 1860s, and that at Pontypridd can be traced back to 1867.8 The develop? ing industrial areas situated in the Western Valleys of Monmouthshire formed a particular area of Jewish settlement. A synagogue was not opened at Newport till 1869, but the community there was then already ten years old.9 Similarly, the synagogue at Tredegar was founded in 1870 to serve a community which had been established several years before.10 Russian refu? gees who went to South Wales at first attached them? selves to these already-established communities, but soon spread outwards to Abertillery, Bargoed, Ebbw Vale, Rhymney, and the surrounding localities as far north as Brynmawr in Breconshire. For these Jews of Monmouthshire and east Glamor? gan, Cardiff fulfilled a role similar to that of Swansea in relation to their coreligionists in the west. Although there are instances of Jews having lived in Cardiff in the eighteenth century, a community was not estab? lished there until the 1840s: the land for the Jewish cemetery in Cardiff was presented by the Marquis of Bute in 1841. A permanent synagogue was soon estab? lished in a room in Trinity Street, near the market; then it was moved to larger premises in Bute Street. In 1858 a synagogue was opened in East Terrace to serve a community then numbering perhaps 150 persons. At the same time the community acquired its first Minis? ter, Nathan Jacobs. The Cardiff Jewish community, as it developed during the Victorian period, was a business one par excellence: watchmakers, jewellers, slop-sellers, tailors, pawnbrokers, and general dealers.11 It was pros? perous, tightly knit, and exclusive. Discipline of members, as revealed in the congregation minute books, was rigorous. In August 1880 it was decided that a policeman should be present at East Terrace during the forthcoming High Holy days 'to prevent non-subscribers entering the Synagogue'.12 Discon tent with the high-handed, overbearing attitude of the anglicised communal leaders eventually led to open revolt. One source of trouble was arrears of payments of subscriptions and seat-rentals; another was criticism of the spiritual leadership. In 1878 the Minister, the Rev. I. Lewis, had been given six months' notice to quit 'unless he conducts the service with more devo? tion'; in 1885 Mr. M. Lewis was appointed shochet and mohelzt ?70per annum, and two years later the Rev.J. H. Landau was appointed Minister and teacher at ?100 per annum.13 These appointments did not, how? ever, meet with universal approval. A group of 'seceders' had established their own chevra in Edward Place some time between 1889 and 1890, and had enticed to their side a shochet, the Rev.J. B. Rittenberg. The Delegate Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hermann Adler, was prevailed upon to withdraw his endorsement of Rit tenberg's shechita and to tell the seceders that animals slaughtered by him were trefa. But, reinforced by the adherence of recently arrived immigrants, the seceders were not to be put off so lightly. In March 1889 they made a formal approach to Adler to appoint for them a chazan and shochet. The Delegate Chief Rabbi inter? viewed representatives from both sides, but was un? willing to press the seceders to withdraw. 'Your deci? sion', Mr. I. Samuel, of East Terrace, wrote to him, 'can have but this effect, that instead of Cardiff having as now one good Congregation with an English minister and teacher, a school open and free to all poor children, it must revert to its former state of affairs, when a foreign Schochet will be thejewish representa? tive and the rising generation will be deprived of Jewish education.'14 But Adler would not apply further pressure. The Edward Place synagogue came into being, and in 1897 acquired its own marriage secretary.15 Although the breach between the two Cardiff com? munities was now complete, the East Terrace syna? gogue remained the more prestigious of the two; it was the synagogue of Cardiff's Jewish establishment. When Colonel A. E. W. Goldsmid came to Cardiff in 1894 as Colonel-in-Command, 41st Regimental Dis? trict, he naturally joined East Terrace, and was the prime mover in the project to build a new synagogue in Cathedral Road, opened by F. D. Mocatta and consecrated by the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hermann Adler, on 11 May 1897.16 Goldsmid's presence in the Welsh capital gave Cardiff Jewry some national prominence. The founder of the Jewish Lads' Brigade, he had become a devoted Zionist, was a founder of the English Zionist Federation, and took part in the El Arish expedition of 1903. When Herzl visited Cardiff, it was primarily to interview Colonel Goldsmid. He died, like Herzl, in 1904.17</page><page sequence="3">64 Geoffrey Alderman By the turn of the century, Cardiff was the undis? puted capital of South Wales Jewry. It had a Jewish population of around 1,500, two synagogues (and for a time, between 1901 and 1904, an immigrant-inspired Beth Hamedrash as well), a Board of Shechita, and, in 1905, a Jewish Naturalisation and Political Associ? ation. It also boasted a Board of Guardians, founded in 1900, which in that year alone relieved 230 cases, one-third of whom were alleged to be 'professional beggars'. The Board soon ran into financial difficulties and by 1904 had been wound up.18 At the other end of the social scale, well-to-do Cardiff Jews were making the familiar moves west and east to newer residential areas, to Grangetown, Riverside, City Road, and Newport Road. Louis Samuel, who died in 1906, provided the city with its first Jewish J.P., and Lionel Fine, born in Rhymney in 1865, was appointed a J.P. in 1904. The community, at least as far as its leadership was concerned, appears to have been as integrated as any section of Anglo-Jewry at that time. Around Cardiff, meanwhile, to the north and west, a dozen or more Jewish communities had established themselves. Foremost among these were Merthyr, with a Literary and Social Society, a Naturalisation Society, and a branch of the Chovevei Zion, and Newport, which had its own Board of Guardians.19 At the turn of the century the Rev. Mr. Michaelson, Minister at Newport, was paying weekly visits to Tredegar and Brynmawr.20 But each of these latter communities had its own shochet, who presumably officiated at services in the synagogues which each possessed.21 Other Jewish centres in east Glamorgan and west Monmouth did not (with the exception of Aberdare) possess an exclusive shochet, but all had synagogues (usually converted houses or rooms) with a cheder attached. Fed by periodic influxes of refugees from Eastern Europe (who were invariably more observant22), South Wales Jewry spread itself into every major town and many minor villages and ham? lets. Yomim Noraim services were held at Barry Dock for the first time in 1904.23 The synagogue at Ebbw Vale was not formally opened till 1911, when its congregation numbered about eighty persons. In numerical terms all these communities were minute. In 1914 the 135 Jews of Brynmawr repre? sented 2.6% of the town's population. Tredegar Jewry, 160-strong, amounted to approximately three quarters of one per cent of Tredegar's inhabitants; in Abertillery there were 100 Jews, less than half of one per cent of the population, with Merthyr's 300 Jews representing roughly the same proportion; while at Newport there were 250 Jews, just over a third of one per cent of the inhabitants. Swansea's 1,100 Jews amounted to just over one per cent of Swansea's population. Even the largest number of Jews in South Wales, the 2,000-strong Cardiff community, com? posed only slightly more than one per cent of Car? diff's total population. Thejewish populations of the newer areas of settlement in Glamorgan and Mon mouth were too small even for the Jewish Year Book to bother to mention separately. It is very doubtful whether, on the eve of the First World War, South Wales Jewry amounted to 5,000 souls; the total may well have been nearer 4,500. That such small, well-ordered communities could have become the objects of antisemitic outbursts which, if they were not as long-lasting as those suf? fered by London Jewry at the time, were certainly more violent seems at first glance difficult to believe. Yet between the 'Jew Bill' riots of 1753 and the fascist-inspired outbreaks of the 1930s, the attacks upon South Wales Jewry in 1911 stand out as the only example of organised mass antisemitic violence in Great Britain since the Readmission. I have examined in detail elsewhere these anti-Jewish riots, which took place in August 1911 in the Western Valleys of Mon mouth.24 Here, at the risk of repeating some of my findings, I wish to place these riots in a somewhat broader context. Victorian Jewry in South Wales was a mercantile community which established itself and grew as a result of the expansion of trade and industry there. But this industrial revolution, which seemed to offer so many opportunities for Jewish trading talents, con? tained within itself the seeds of subsequent misfortune. The explosive growth of the coalfields in industrial South Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had attracted to Glamorgan and Mon? mouthshire thousands of migrants, at first from neigh? bouring Welsh counties, but later from South-West England and from even further afield.25 Of the total population enumerated in Glamorgan and Mon? mouthshire in the census of 1911, 35% and 37% respectively were returned as having been born out? side the county in which they resided; over 20% in both counties had been born outside Wales. At first the native Welsh were able to absorb the newcomers. But the process of assimilation was unable to keep pace with the continuing influx of migrants.26 There was a 'head-on collision' between different cultural identi? ties.27 When this confrontation was reinforced by strong ethnic and/or religious differences, open con? flict was difficult to avoid. In the case of the Jews, moreover, the process of assimilation was retarded by the continual flow of Yiddish-speaking foreign-born Jews, commercially ambitious but essentially inward-looking. To the native Welsh thejews, however few in number, how</page><page sequence="4">Jews in South Wales before 1914 65 ever well established, however worthy, however fluent in the Welsh language (as many of them were), remained foreigners and interlopers, 'a small and separate class, convenient for attack'.28 Thejews in South Wales, unlike the Irish, did not work longer hours, take lower wages, or accept inferior living standards, to the detriment of Welsh miners and fac? tory workers. Although Cecil Roth argued that the riots of 1911 were directed against 'Polish Jewish miners', I have been unable to find a single instance of a 'Polish Jewish' miner in my examination of this episode.29 Indeed, in every instance I have come across of Jews working in the coalmines in South Wales before the Great War, the facts, on investigation, reveal that the Jews concerned were merely taking on unskilled duties, such as looking after pit ponies or working as night-shift labourers, in order to earn enough money to set themselves up in business or help survive a period of financial stringency. They were not colliers?hewers of coal.30 So it was with other industrial occupations. On 31 August and 1 and 2 September 1903 there was an attack on what the Jewish Year Book for 1903 (p. 427) described as Jewish miners at Dowlais, a couple of miles from Merthyr. A large number of these unfortunates decided in conse? quence to migrate to Canada. But the attack (perpe? trated by the Irish) was not against Jewish 'miners', but against Jewish labourers, of whom there were about 200, working in the ironworks of Guest, Keen &amp; Nettlefolds Ltd. Reading between the lines of the warning issued by the Rev. Mr. Raffalovich, the minister at Merthyr, it is clear that the Dowlais Jews did not regard themselves as members of the working classes; they had merely been prepared to undertake any sort of work to make ends meet until something more congenial came their way.31 Indeed, though it is impossible to say for certain that, before 1914, no Jew in South Wales was a coalminer, or a blastfurnaceman, or a tinplate-worker, it is equally impossible to deny that very few Jews living there in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods belonged to the classic Marxist proletariat. They were poor, often very poor, but poverty alone was not sufficient to bind them to the working-class populations in whose midst they lived. And when, in the summer of 1911, the eleven-month old Cambrian Combine strike collapsed, to be fol? lowed by the first-ever national railway strike, with its own consequent effect upon the collieries and blastfur? naces, the mining communities of the Western Valleys erupted into an orgy of violence in which the Jews were the prime and generally the sole targets. There has been a tendency among some writers to minimise the extent of these disorders. Michael Wal? lach asserts that 'the anti-Jewish element was marginal, an optional extra', and that 'in any case, the riot did not spread to neighbouring Jewish communities'.32 The late Abraham Weiner stated that 'the series of riots was not due to any real deep-seated or wide? spread anti-Semitism . . . there had never been any trouble in this region before'.33 In fact, the anti-Jewish element was central to the riots; antisemitism in South Wales was widespread and had a long history; and the area of rioting was extensive, beginning in Tredegar but spreading to Ebbw Vale and Rhymney, and then down the valleys to Cwm, Waunllwyd, Abertys swyg, and to Brynmawr, Bargoed, Gilfach, and Senghenydd. The disturbances left behind a trail of destruction and disruption the financial cost alone of which was estimated at over ?16,000.34 The initial reaction of prominent members of Anglo-Jewry, and the Jewish press, was to stress that the riots, far from being antisemitic, were the product of spontaneous outbursts by hooligans in search of plunder.35 The Liberal Daily News reported one un? identified Jewish Liberal M.P. as saying: It is not a religious movement. . . We do not as? sociate this outbreak with any hostile spirit against Jews as Jews.36 Stuart Samuel, Liberal M.P. for Whitechapel, con? cluded that his coreligionists in Monmouthshire had become 'the outlet of the lust of criminals and the vulgar'. The Jewish Liberal Unionist M.P. Sir Edward Sassoon explained the disturbances as 'only transient manifestations of sordid motives', while Alfred de Rothschild thought 'that the whole object of the affair was thieving and robbery'.37 Jewish spokesmen, in fact, though expressing natural indignation at what had taken place, and organising relief for the victims, were quick to play down the 'Jewish' aspect of the affair, and to assert 'that the newspapers . . . had exag? gerated the significance of the attacks'.38 The Jewish World instructed its readers thus: Rioting and looting would have taken place, Jews or no Jews. There happened to be unoffending Jews as well as unscrupulous hooligans, and the fact that Jews have been the victims must not. . . lead us into the error of unduly magnifying the Jewish aspect of what has occurred.39 This view of events was bolstered by early attempts to identify the rioters. Such descriptions as 'young hooligans', 'gangs of hooligans', and 'roughs' were used by Welsh newspapers and picked up nationally.40 The London dailies enlarged on this theme, and quite correctly pointed out that non-Jew? ish property had not entirely escaped the attentions of the 'mob' either.41 At the same time explanations of</page><page sequence="5">66 Geoffrey Alderman the riots in terms of the national railway strike were quickly discounted.42 Nor, it was said, was the affair connected with the Cambrian Combine strike; the trouble, The Times declared, was 'superficial rather than malignant'.43 Yet the coincidence of the riots with the railway strike, which itself came just as the Cambrian dispute was reaching its climax, is too great to be dismissed so lightly. For although the Western Valleys were not immediately implicated in this affair, no pit in South Wales remained unaffected by the Cambrian strike and the arrival of the military. For some months the blastfurnaces at Ebbw Vale were closed down, throw? ing thousands of ironworkers out of employment. A direct result of the railway strike was that coal wagons became difficult to obtain; in consequence work was stopped at some Monmouthshire collieries, while at others miners were put on short time.44 Tension built up in these areas throughout the summer. In June 1911 the Miners' Federation of Great Britain withdrew its financial support of the Cambrian strikers, who were forced to return to work in August on terms they could have agreed to months before. The bitterness of the miners was deep. Although the Executive of the South Wales Miners' Federation decided to end the dispute on 14 August, some pits remained on strike throughout the autumn.45 The national railway strike began on 17 August; it was settled in London on Saturday 19 August, but not before two men had been shot dead by soldiers during fierce rioting at Llanelli that afternoon. The week-long attacks on the Jews of the Western Valleys began the same evening.46 The material effects of these events on the mining communities of the Western Valleys are difficult to assess. The Daily News, in trying to explain the anti Jewish riots, spoke of 'men in hastily developed col? liery districts [living] . . . under such unrelieved conditions of bestial housing, heavy toil, and sordid social life as prevail in the mining valleys of South Wales'.47 Certainly there was a widespread feeling of economic insecurity in the Monmouthshire mining towns, a feeling heightened, in Tredegar at least, by a serious housing shortage. At Ebbw Vale rents which had not formerly been objected to were suddenly felt to be oppressive.48 It seems certain, moreover, that on the eve of the riots the suspicion grew that local shopkeepers would take or had already taken advan? tage of the railway strike to raise food prices. Since some Jews in the affected areas owned houses, and since many more were tradesmen, the majority of whom, like their non-Jewish counterparts, gave cre? dit, an economic explanation for the riots was quickly suggested.49 There is certainly some evidence to support such an economic interpretation. When the riots began at Tredegar 'frequent and angry references could be overheard in the crowd respecting the alleged rent grabbing propensities of a certain Jew, and it was alleged that this was the main point which incited the mob'.50 Soon allegations of rack-renting were made against all Jews who owned property in the riot areas.51 These charges were taken seriously by the Jewish authorities and newspapers. But investigators who were sent to identify the miscreants found the allegations to be generally baseless.52 It is possible that at Tredegar one Jew was charging an exorbitant rent for an insanitary property; curiously, however, he suffered nothing in the riots.53 Similarly, statements that Jewish shopkeepers had been unnecessarily harsh in dealing with debtors proved, on examination, to boil down to a few instances 'far out-numbered by those of nominal Christians indulging in like con? duct'.54 Nor did allegations that Jewish shopkeepers had engaged in profiteering turn out to be any more substantial.55 Yet, though they lacked real substance, stories of financial skulduggery on the part of Jews were widely believed in the riot areas. It is in this sense that the riots can be explained to some extent along economic lines. As has so often happened, thejews became scapegoats for economic distress. A correspondent of the London Evening News accused 'the inhabitants of Tredegar?I mean the classes who ought to have known better?of a lack of tolerance, of fostering a spirit of envy, which is really the germ that produces the scandal'.56 The riots were, in fact, attended with a fair amount of 'rich-Jew anti-semitism' such as had for some years been preached by some British Socialists.57 And there is evidence that local Independant Labour Party agita? tors in Tredegar had been at work on the day the riots began.58 But since poor Jews suffered alongside well-to-do Jews it is clear that an economic interpretation is partial only. Jews at all levels of prosperity fled from the riot areas in substantial numbers to Aberdare, Merthyr, Newport, and Cardiff.59 They were, or at least felt themselves to be, under general attack. Had this attack been the work only of hooligans, the arrival of the military and the efforts of the local police might have been expected to dispel at once any temporary feelings of unease. This did not happen. In the first place, the rioters were not hooligans. Secondly, the riots had not been as spontaneous as they appeared to be to outside observers. There is very little evidence about the identity of individual rioters. But the reports of court proceed? ings suggest that they were largely composed of men and women from the 'respectable' working classes.</page><page sequence="6">Jews in South Wales before 1914 67 Addressing the Tredegar magistrates on 5 September 1911, the prosecuting solicitor observed: The people charged [46 in all] were not hooligans. They were people who were generally considered respectable, the majority being colliers in regular employment and the wives of colliers.60 Rioters prosecuted at other centres were also de? scribed as colliers.61 This evidence is confirmed by the report of the general manager of the Tredegar Iron &amp; Coal Company to the Liberal M.P. Sir Arthur Mark ham, a director of the company, in which the culprits were described as 'respectable people to all appear? ances' and 'respectable working men'.62 Some further indication of the social status of those found guilty may also be gained from the fact that their conviction was followed by local protests which, it is reasonable to assume, would not have been made had those sentenced been mere hooligans, for whom there were certainly no apologists.63 Local feeling against Jews continued to run high, so much so that the Executive of the Tredegar Hebrew Congregation felt it prudent to curtail the Rosh Hashonah services which took place at the synagogue there on 23 and 24 Sep? tember.64 At the same time Christian ministers deter? mined to hold 'humiliation services' to press home to their own congregations the gravity of the situation.65 Evidence that the riots were premeditated did not come to light until newspaper correspondents began probing the background to the disorders. A Times correspondent at Tredegar reported on 22 August that 'open threats have been made for the past month or more against the Jews'.66 Some Welsh newspapers spoke of the attacks as 'apparently organised', and it was this feature especially which led to comparisons with pogroms in Russia.67 The Jewish minister at Cardiff, the Rev. Harris Jerevitch, went further, and declared: There is no doubt that the attacks were planned. Some of thejewish inhabitants were informed a day or two before the outrages that people intended to wreck and loot their shops.68 It is indeed difficult to avoid the conclusion that, though relations between the leaders of thejewish and non-Jewish communities in the Western Valleys were at all times cordial, among the general population Jews were regarded with animosity. Though some non Jewish property had been damaged in the riots, there was really no disguising the fact that Jews were the prime target of the attacks. At Tredegar only Jewish shops were attacked.69 At Ebbw Vale 'the cry of the mob was. . . one long denunciation of Jews'.70 In view of this evidence, pointing to hostility to Jews as Jews, as a distinct group apart from the general popu? lation, it seems better to view the unrest caused by the industrial troubles in South Wales in August 1911 as merely the trigger which unleashed a strong antipathy to the Jewish communities in certain areas there. Like? wise, the instances of rich-Jew antisemitism were a symptom of the antipathy, not a cause of it. And it is clear that 'the general feeling of contempt for things alien, especially the Jewish alien' was a root cause of the troubles.71 This contempt for things alien was part of the price paid for the growth of industrial South Wales. Yet if it was the misfortune of the Jews to have come into South Wales at a time of social upheaval, and to have received its backlash, they were still more unfortunate to have entered a land seething with re? ligious bigotry. Here the Welsh Baptists were well to the fore. The abduction and conversion of Esther Lyons, in 1868, which created such a storm of indigna? tion in Jewish circles, and which was compared with the Mortara case, was carried out by a Cardiff Baptist minister, Nathaniel Thomas, and his wife; the sub? sequent legal proceedings revealed that Esther Lyons had not been their first Jewish victim.72 There is no evidence to suggest that the Welsh Revival of 1904 was itself philo- or anti-semitic; but it is known that some converted Jews were brought to Llanelli to preach as part of the revivalist effort there73, and it may not have been pure coincidence that attempts were being made at Llanelli at about the same time to ban shechita without prior stunning.74 A year before, at Pontypridd, the Jewish community had been the victim of a particularly ugly disturbance involving the notorious blood libel, spread, curiously, at Rosh Hash onah rather than Pesach.75 In 1904 Pontypridd was the scene of an 'incident' involving Jewish voters, and the Cardiff community took the precaution of forming a Jewish Vigilance Society.76 When the riots of 1911 broke out at Tredegar, they began with a mob of 200 attacking Jewish shops and singing 'several favourite Welsh hymn tunes'.77 And when the Monmouthshire Welsh Baptist Association, meeting at Blackwood, near Bargoed, on 6 September 1911, was asked to pass a resolution expressing sympathy with the Jews, several ministers and others took exception to the motion; one delegate argued that 'Resolutions did more harm than good, and they encouraged the Jews. There were about 100 Jews at Tredegar now, and if they had many more resolutions they would have 500 there'.78 The resolution was not passed. It would be interesting to know what picture of the Jews was being painted by Baptist ministers in South Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen? turies; at all events, it cannot have been a uniformly</page><page sequence="7">68 Geoffrey Alderman favourable one. The Revival, certainly, turned many Welshmen's minds towards social problems. In this respect it had a long-term effect which can be seen at work during the Cambrian stoppage of 1910-1911 and which may well have contributed towards the concern with bad housing which was a marked feature of the 1911 riots. That thejews of the Western Valleys were the victims of religiously inspired as well as economically motivated mobs is beyond doubt. They returned to the Valleys in due course, but the memories of 1911 sank deep, and at the end of the Great War many of them, prompted no doubt by the contraction of the pawnbroking business, moved per? manently to Cardiff, where, incidentally, they appear to have had a noteworthy revivifying effect upon Orthodox religious observance there.79 I am painfully aware that the picture I have painted of South Wales Jewry in the Victorian and Edwardian periods is a sombre one. It is in the nature of Jewish history that its darker periods are more faithfully and more fully recorded than its happier moments. In the context of Anglo-Jewry as a whole, thejewish com? munities of South Wales were too small at that time to have made a marked impact or to have created a decisive image. In the context of South Wales the newspapers of the period mentioned them only when their sufferings merited column-space; Tredegar was more newsworthy than Kishinev. Were it not for the events of 1911, the history of Jews in South Wales before 1914 would be dominated by Cardiff, as that of Anglo-Jewry as a whole is dominated by London. As it is, the records tell us precious little about the daily lives of these Jewish people, their hopes and fears, their family circumstances, their economic and social status. It is easier to ask these questions than to answer them. Why, for instance, were the western communi? ties?in Llanelli, Swansea and its environs?appar? ently unaffected in 1911? Why were Cardiff and New? port untouched? Had relations with the gentile com? munities in these areas been of a different, more amic? able order, or did antisemitic rabble-rousers find it easier to do their work in small, isolated towns and villages than in the larger urban centres? And what was it about life in South Wales which managed to sustain communities which must have been among the most Orthodox of the Victorian era, and which have produced a half-dozen or more rabbis and ministers of religion? Was it simply that the Jews who settled in South Wales were staunchly Orthodox anyway? Or was it also, as I suspect, that the normal pressures of social and religious conformity in a small community were, in this case, reinforced by unspoken fears? Although Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport Jewry were well established before the 1880s, the Jewish com munities of South Wales owed their growth and de? velopment largely to immigrants arriving in the last two decades of Victoria's reign. It seems likely that these people saw in the religious fanaticism of some Welsh nonconformists echoes of Russian Christianity at its worst. Theodor Herzl wrote in 1895: I believe that I understand Anti-Semitism, which is really a highly complex movement... I believe that I can see what elements there are in it of vulgar sport, of common trade jealousy, of inherited preju? dice, of religious intolerance, and also of pretended self-defence.80 The history of the settlement and reception of Jews in South Wales before 1914 is indeed another instance of the truth of this verdict. NOTES 1 I should like to express my appreciation of the advice given to me by Dr. Kenneth Morgan, Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford, in the preparation of this paper (presented to the Jewish Historical Society of England on 12 January 1977, and a short version of which was presented to the July 1975 conference of the Society on 'Provincial Jewry in Vic? torian Britain'), for the contents of which I alone am respon? sible. 2 C. Roth, ed., The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (London, 1959), p.1884; S. Wilson, 'The Romantic Story of Llanelly's Jews', Llanelly Star, 16 October 1965, p.4. 3 Rosalie G. Lewis, 'Swansea Jewish Community: A Study in Growth and Development' (unpublished thesis, 1967) (in the possession of the Swansea Hebrew Congrega? tion) . 4 C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry (London, 1950), pp.110-111. 5 Jewish Year Book, 1896, p.89. 6 I. Factor, 'The Jewish Communities of South Wales: Port Talbot', Cajex (Magazine of the Cardiff Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women), xi (December 1961), 65. 7 Wilson, loc. cit.; H. M.Jaffa, 'TheJewish Communities of South Wales: Llanelly,' Cajex, ix (December 1959), 71. 8 Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry, pp.24-25, 104; Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, p.1884; H. E. Samuel, 'A Short History of the Aberdare Jewish Community', Cajex, ix (June 1959), 88 9 Ibid., pp.2&amp;-21. 10 Jewish Year Book, 1910, p.212; H. H. Roskin, 'The Tredegar Community', Cajex, viii (June 1958), 65. 11 M. Dennis, 'The [History of the] Cardiff Jewish Com? munity', Cajex, i (April 1951), 28-30; (July 1951), 26-30. 12 Ibid., xv (March 1965), 40. 13 Ibid., xvi (September 1966), 16-17. 14 Ibid., xix (September 1969), 14,16; the reference to the education of the children is a little obscure, but may refer to the fact that the seceders intended to instruct through the medium of Yiddish. 15 Ibid., xx (December 1970), 27. 16 Ibid., ii (March 1952), 27. 17 C. Bermant, Troubled Eden (London, 1969), p.65; W. Laqueur, A History of Zionism (London, 1972), p. 157.</page><page sequence="8">Jews in South Wales before 1914 69 18 Minutes of Evidence taken before the Royal Commis? sion on Alien Immigration, Parliamentary Papers, 1903, ix (Cd. 1742), 596; M. Dennis, loc. cit., ii (July 1952), 66. 19 Jewish Year Book; L. D.Jacobs, 'Merthyr Tydfil Syna? gogues', Cajex, xix (December 1969), 70. 20 Ibid., ix (June 1959), 27. 21 H. H. Roskin, 'The Jewish Communities of South Wales. I. The Tredegar Community,' ibid., viii (June 1958), 65-6; 'II. The Brynmawr Community,' ibid. (September 1958), 61-63. 22 In April 1976 Mr. Fred Hopkins, born in Tredegar in 1906 and a miner for 50 years, was kind enough to record for me, on cassette, his reminiscences of Tredegar Jewry; he recalled that those Jews who had been born in Britain 'were not particularly liked by those who had been born outside of Britain, as the British-born Jews were not considered to be devout enough in the Jewish faith ... It was, so I am in? formed, not unusual for one section to be ignored [by] or to ignore the other when they met in the street.' 23 Dennis, loc. cit., ii (July 1952), 65. 24 G. Alderman, 'The Anti-Jewish Riots of August 1911 in South Wales,' Welsh History Review, vi (1972), 190-200. 25 B. Thomas, 'The Migration of Labour into the Gla? morganshire Coalfield (1861-1911),' Economica, x (1930), 275-294. 26 Report of the Commission of Enquiry into Industrial Unrest, Parliamentary Papers, 1917-1918, xv (Cd.8668), 15. 27 P. N. Jones, 'Some Aspects of Immigration into the Glamorgan Coalfield between 1881 and 1911,' Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1969 (part 1), pp.92-93; E. D. Lewis, The Rhondda Valleys (London, 1959), pp.236-237. 28 Jewish Chronicle, 8 Sept. 1911, p. 12, quoting West? minster Gazette. The London Committee (Board) of Deputies of British Jews, in its Report for 1911, p.52, stated its opinion that 'the attack was premeditated, and that the Jews were chosen as the victims. . . with the idea that, as many of them were foreigners, they would be an easy prey and would not find many sympathisers'. 29 C. Roth, 'The Anglo-Jewish Community in the con? text of World Jewry', inj. Gould and S. Esh, eds., Jewish Life in Modern Britain (London, 1964), p.99. 30 Mr. Hopkins (see note 22 above) informs me that during his career he knew of no instance of a Jew working as a collier, and only two instances of Jewish colliery workers: both were night-shift labourers; one had apparently 'married out', the other took to colliery work to earn money to pay a fine. 31 Jewish Chronicle, 4 Sept. 1903, p.25; 11 Sept., p.15; 18 Sept., p.26; South Wales Daily News, 3 Sept., p.6; 4 Sept., p.5. The motive for the attack is obscure. The Welsh newspaper stressed that the Jews earned the same rate of pay as other workmen, about 2s. 8d. per day. As well as Russian Jews there were also Russian Catholics employed at the works, but the Irish do not appear to have discriminated between the two groups. Perhaps, therefore, this is a case of pure xeno? phobia. 32 M. Wallach, 'How "greeners" came to the Valley,' Jewish Chronicle Colour Magazine, 28 Nov. 1975, p.29. 33 A. M. Weiner, 'Tredegar Riots,' Cajex, xxvi (April 1976), 22. 34 The Times, 31 Aug. 1911, p.6; 12 0ct.,p.l2. ?16,000 is equivalent to about ? 192,000 in present-day (1976) values. 35 Standard, 24 Aug. 1911, p.7. 36 Daily News, 28 Aug. 1911, p.2. 1 37 Jewish Chronicle, 1 Sept. 1911, pp.10-11. ] 38 Daily Chronicle, 28 Aug. 1911, p.3: interview with 'a leading orthodox Jew' in London; Jewish Chronicle, 3 Nov., p.17. 39 Jewish World, 1 Sept. 1911, p.7. 40 New Tredegar, Bargoed and Caerphilly Journal, 24 Aug. 1911, p.l; South Wales Argus, 21 Aug., pA;Jewish World, 25 Aug., p.5. 41 Daily Chronicle, 23 Aug. 1911, p.l; Standard, 23 Aug., p.7; Monmouth Guardian, 25 Aug., p.5. . 42 South Wales Argus, 22 Aug. 1911, p.2; Daily Chronicle, 24 Aug., p.l. 43 The Times, 24 Aug. 1911, p.4. 44 D. Evans, Labour Strife in the South Wales Coalfield 1910-1911 (Cardiff, 1911) p.25; South Wales Argus, 21 Aug. 1911, p.6; Brecon County Times, 1 Sept., p.7. 45 Evans, op. cit., pp.190, 242-243; Lord Ask with, Indus? trial Problems and Disputes (London, 1920), pp.144-145; R. P. Arnot, South Wales Miners: A History of the South Wales Miners' Federation 1898-1914 (London, 1967), pp.232-268. 46 Alderman, loc. cit., 192. 47 Daily News, 24 Aug. 1911, p.4. 48 Jewish Chronicle, 8 Sept. 1911, p.12, quoting the views of'a local Labour leader'. 49 Ibid., 25 Aug. 1911, p.5. 50 South Wales Argus, 21 Aug. 1911, p.6. 51 The Times, 23 Aug. 1911, p.6; Daily News, 25 August, p.5; Jewish World, 25 Aug., p.5. 52 Daily Chronicle, 25 Aug. 1911, p.l. 53 Jewish World, 25 Aug. 1911, p.5; Jewish Chronicle, 8 Sept., p. 12, quoting the views of the Westminster Gazette's special correspondent. 54 South Wales Argus, 25 Aug. 1911, p.2. 55 Manchester Guardian, 24 Aug. 1911, p.12; Jewish Chronicle, 8 Sept., p. 12. 56 Quoted in Jewish Chronicle, 1 Sept. 1911, p. 10. 57 J. A. Garrard, The English and Immigration 1880-1910 (London, 1971), pp.l89-196;&gt;tw/i Chronicle, 15 Sept. 1911, p.14; Jewish World, 25 August, p.12, quoting South Wales Daily News. See also the letter from Keir Hardie to Rabbi Berendt Salomon, of Manchester, printed in the Manchester Guardian, 28 Aug., p.5. 58 Mr. Hopkins (see above, note 22) recalls that a work? mate, a member of the I.L.P., told him that the I.L.P. in Tredegar intended to hold a meeting on 19 August 1911 to protest against the (possibly illegal) action of a Jewish land? lord in converting houses into two flats each, and thus obtain? ing double rent for the same property, a practice which had caused much local resentment. The police refused to allow the meeting to be held, and this caused further bitterness. 59 South Wales Argus, 23 Aug. 1911, p.3; Daily Telegraph, 24 Aug., p.7; 26 Aug., p.9. 60 The Times, 6 Sept. 1911, p.8. 61 Jewish World, 8 Sept. 1911, p.9 (Hengoed Police Court); The Times, 19 Oct., p. 10 (Glamorgan Quarter Ses? sions) . 62 Commons Debates, 5th series, xxix, 2364: speech by Markham, 22 Aug. 1911. 63 Jewish Chronicle, 15 Sept. 1911, p.14; The Times, 13 Sept., p.6; 16 Oct., p.4. 64 Jewish World, 22 Sept. 1911, p.13; 6 Oct., p.20. 65 Jewish Chronicle, 29 Sept. 1911, p.21. 66 The Times, 23 Aug. 1911, p.6. See also Daily Telegraph, 24 Aug., p.7; Daily Chronicle, 24 Aug., p.l.; Standard, 23 \ug., p.7. 67 South Wales Argus, 21 Aug. 1911, p.6; 22 Aug., 3.2; Brecon County Times, 25 Aug., p.3; The Times, 5 Sept., ).8. 68 Daily Telegraph, 26 Aug. 1911, p.9. A victim of the</page><page sequence="9">70 Geoffrey Alderman Tredegar riots confirmed this to a Daily Telegraph reporter: ibid., 29 Aug., p.ll. 69 The Jewish Chronicle's 'Special Commissioner' in Tre? degar came across one boot-shop displaying notices offering ?50 reward if it could be proved that the shop was owned by Jews; the manager 'disclaimed anti-Jewish feeling, but said that the notice was a precautionary measure. "I've got to protect my property," he said shrewdly': Jewish Chronicle, 1 Sept. 1911, p.9. 70 Daily News, 21 Aug. 1911, p. 1. There were threats that the synagogue at Ebbw Vale, not yet formally opened, would be burnt: South Wales Argus, 23 Aug., p.3. 71 Jewish Chronicle, 1 Sept. 1911, p. 10, quoting the Lon? don Evening News. 12 R.Woolfe, 'The abduction of Esther Lyons,' Cajex, ii Quly 1952), 14-23. The abduction took place in March 1868, when Esther Lyons was 18. Nathaniel Thomas and his wife were put on trial in Cardiff in July 1869, and found guilty of enticement. Barnett Lyons, Esther's father, was awarded ?50 damages, but his daughter was never returned to him, being instead spirited away to a Christian institution in Germany. 73 South Wales Daily News, 24 Nov. 1904, p.6. 74 Ibid., 23 Sept. 1904, p.4; shechita was a subject of national debate at that time, following the Liverpool shechita case (February 1904) and the hostile report produced by an Admiralty committee five months later: see B. Homa, A Fortress in Anglo-Jewry (London, 1953), pp.61-64. 75 Jewish Chronicle, 25 Sept. 1903, p.28; 2 Oct., pp.15 and 17. 76 Dennis, Cajex, ii (July 1952), 66. 77 Jewish World, 25 Aug. 1911, p.9; Jewish Chronicle, 25 Aug., p.8. 78 Ibid., 8 Sept. 1911, p.l 1; the meeting was briefly reported in the London Times, 7 Sept., p.6. 79 Dennis, Cajex, ii (October 1952), 42. 80 T. Herzl, The Jewish State (5th edn., trans. S. D'Avig dor, London, 1967), p. 15.</page></plain_text>