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The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies

Aubrey Newman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 40, 2005 The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies AUBREY NEWMAN The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter in London came into existence as a result of the 'Great Migration'. I presented an initial paper on the Shelter and what I then termed 'Directed Migration' at the centennial conference of this Society in 1993, but a fuller and more rounded story can now be told. The patchy nature of the Shelter's records makes it necessary to analyse them comprehensively before even an outline of its activities can be presented. This paper presents a unique history that has never previously been told at any length. The great migration at the end of the nineteenth century transformed the face of Anglo-Jewry. The arrival of tens of thousands of immigrants into Great Britain, some of them seeking passage through the country but others intending to remain, presented a series of challenges to communal leaders less than enthusiastic about these arrivals and their impact on their own and the wider communities. In Britain, North America and even South Africa one of the immediate reactions among official bodies to these arrivals was to try to persuade them to return to their homes. Messages were sent to rabbis in Eastern Europe asking them to put pressure on would-be migrants, informing them that there were no jobs or opportunities for poor Jews with out skills or capital. But since they still came, something had to be done with the thousands perceived as clogging up the streets and imperilling the position of Jews who had created a position for themselves. One approach was to widen the number of institutions and societies intended to help the 'stranger poor' - those who were not members of exist ing congregations. The extent to which Hachnasath Orechim organizations already existed can be assessed from, for example, the Jewish Yearbook for 1896. These now became more prominent, attempting to provide immedi ate help to new arrivals or, if possible, to send them on their way. The major role of these organizations was to prevent migrants from becoming a burden on non-Jewish charities. Some provided meals and small cash gratuities, while others in Leeds, Manchester and London provided formal shelter. A short-lived institution in Liverpool was set up in 1881 to cope with the 141</page><page sequence="2">Aubrey Newman arrival of a large number en route for North America.1 Few if any of these bodies collected those they helped directly from the dockside. Separate organizations dealt with Sabbath meals. In Europe several organizations were established to deal with migrants. Vienna had the Israelitische Allianz and Berlin the Hilfsverein. The latter, at the centre of a German network, published pamphlets about immigration laws, the journey, as well as English phrase books, and also repatriated rejected emigrants, tracked down lost luggage and provided kosher food, shelter, clothing and medical care. In Rotterdam the Montefiore Vereiniging also played a significant role. Similar organizations existed in New York, Boston and other seaboard ports, some of them short-lived, such as the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, but others, like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, continuing for extended periods. The leading organization in Great Britain was known as The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter (PJTS), based in London. As in many organizations, certainly Anglo-Jewish ones, no one put down on paper how the organiza tion functioned or recorded its day-by-day operations. Even those execu tive- and general-committee minutes which have survived do not throw light on the decisions which must have been taken on a daily basis. The sole letter book to have survived, with fragments of correspondence, covers part of the year 1906 and shows the quality of what might have been lost. Not even a complete set of the annual reports has survived. The appearance almost out of the blue of a foolscap register of arrivals and departures for part of 1909 and 1910 raised questions of provenance and concerns for what else might still be in private ownership. What survives is a series of registers covering the period, broadly speaking, from 29 May 1896 to the outbreak of the Second World War, with some gaps. So little is known about the running of the Shelter that one cannot even be sure in which part of the reception process these registers were prepared. One source describes how 'after breakfast each new arrival was called to the office of the superintendent for registration. Each in turn was asked his name, where he came from, his trade, whether he had any relatives or friends in London, or elsewhere in England, and how much money he had.'2 But the registers include more information than that. Sometimes registration seems to have taken place later, however, for near the beginning of the first volume a page of entries appears out of date order, as though the names had been omitted by accident. Some eighteen volumes cover the period before 1914, all of which have been examined, transcribed and put onto a computer database. Some entries may be inaccurate, such as a 1 Report of the Liverpool Commission, Mansion House Relief Fund, Liverpool, 1882. 1 T. Eyges, Beyond the Horizon (Boston 1944), quoted in W. Fishman, East End Jewish Radicals, '875-1914 (London 1975) 42. 142</page><page sequence="3">The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies migrant to South Africa who according to the records travelled there at the age of 167. But detailed analysis of the registers illuminates the Shelter's unique role as a short-term refuge for Jewish migrants and as a stage in the creation of the Jewish communities of South Africa. It has also led to a better understanding of the part played by shipping companies in the process of migration, and especially that of Sir Donald Currie, the manager of the Castle Line, later Union Castle Shipping Company, in the establish ment of South African Jewry. The Shelter developed out of the efforts of one individual to alleviate the distress of many new arrivals in London. The First Annual Report of the Shelter describes how it came into being: The Shelter was established to supersede and has effectively superseded an objectionable and long-existing refuge and has subsequently led to the closing of private resorts that were beyond question a scandal to the community. Long prior to that intensified Russian persecution of the Jews which led to the formation of the Mansion House Relief Committee the stress of foreign oppression had led to a constant flooding of the East End of London with our poor foreign co-religionists. These were harboured by their humble brethren in miserable hovels and even crowded for the night onto dingy places of worship belonging to the chevras that abound in the district.... Simon Cohen ... about six years ago allowed an unoccupied portion of his prem ises in Church Lane, Whitechapel, to be resorted to as a refuge, which gradually absorbed within its precincts a considerable portion of the homeless foreign Jews? Cohen, a baker — therefore often known as Simcha Becker — had opened the back of his bakery to new arrivals. This soon aroused opposition: 'At 19 Church Lane there is a refuge for Jewish people who are out of employ ment. ... It is obvious that this place of shelter cannot encourage people to be idle, because its abject misery is worse than any workhouse, and it provides less food. There is absolutely no sleeping accommodation except a wooden floor. The only kind of daily food they get is rice and tea and bread, and this is very irregular. . . . The place such as it is [is] maintained by two co-religionists in very humble circumstances. Let us get a "responsible committee" or ... let a few gentlemen see if they cannot get a few cheap mattresses for the older men to lie upon at night and some blankets or rugs.'4 Herman Landau later described it to a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1888: 'I visited their place and found it in a most insanitary condition. In fact it was a permission given by a Jewish baker to 3 First Report (London 1886) 5-6. 4 Letter by OJS [Oswald John Simon], Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 27 March 1885. 143</page><page sequence="4">Aubrey Newman whom the premises belonged, for those outcasts to lie down in a kind of loft; and as for undressing, that could never take place there.'5 As a result of such reports the original Shelter was inspected and closed down, but a combination of pressure from within the community in the East End and the reactions of individuals such as Samuel Montagu, Hermann Landau and three of the Franklin family resulted in a new insti tution being founded. The Shelter at first used a small house in Garden Street housing ten persons. Other individuals had to be boarded in local lodging houses. On 11 April 1886 a building in Leman Street formally opened its doors. It was run by a small executive committee, assisted by a wider general committee. The minutes of these committees show that its members were prepared to put a considerable effort into running it and keeping its finances in good order. When they were looking for furniture they received a quotation for beds from Maples at £1 is 3d per bed, but another firm, Lazarus, quoted 16s qd and received the contract. Tenders for the supply of food were carefully scrutinized, and the quality of food was carefully noted. A married couple were appointed to supervise the building and attend to the requirements of the inmates, and the committee established details of daily routines. Although there was a requirement that beds should be vacated at fixed hours during the day, and that religious services should be held as appropri ate, the committee did its best to ensure that the regime should not be too onerous. It decided for instance that 'on minor fasts such inmates as desired should be permitted to take the usual meals'. Passover was always a problem and there were references to the chief rabbi's decision as to what might or might not be permitted. The Shelter was also a centre for providing meals through the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor and the Society for Providing Strangers with Meals on Sabbaths and Festivals. Arrangements had to be made for issuing meal tickets, and the number of sittings. Leman Street had provision for forty-one beds, so a number of lodging houses were also associated with it. The committee was continually approached by lodging-house keepers offering meals and lodging for immi grants at fixed rates, and a small sub-committee was formed to inspect suit able lodging houses and to recommend them to immigrants with means. Such were allowed to advertise themselves as 'Recommended by the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter'. Other would-be operators approached the Shelter committee asking for help in purchasing suitable furniture and guaranteeing special rates in return for persons sent them by the Shelter. These houses were important to the Shelter's operations since its own 5 Evidence by Hermann Landau, House of Commons Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration, 1888 (305) XI, question 2157. 144</page><page sequence="5">The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies premises were used only for men, housed in dormitories with four-foot partitions between the beds. When a new building was established in 1906 the committee wanted these partitions to be no lower than five feet for the sake of privacy, but the London County Council's inspectors insisted on the lower height to comply with fire regulations. Families seem to have been accommodated in the lodging houses, and unaccompanied females in the Sarah Pyke Home, associated with the Society for the Protection of Unmarried Girls. The original intention had been to charge those who could afford to pay, but in 1888 the police gave notice that since payment was taken the Shelter would have to be registered and supervised as a common lodging house. The committee decided that it would take no money, and that those who could afford to pay would be sent out to private accommodation. Since the Shelter never had a solid basis of donations and subscriptions, and had to rely on private generosity and special appeals, it was at first always in financial difficulties. Several reports of meetings of the executive authorizing the signing of cheques note the secretary's comment that there was insufficient money to meet the payments. Appeals for donations mingle with decisions to hold special functions such as a special theatre evening or a charity ball. This resulted in a net gain of £142 13s 8d. Twenty years after the Shelter's foundation the Report stated: 'Subscriptions and donations maintain their usual low level and do not even cover the purely administra tive charges of the institution. . . . The Shelter remains as it has been for many years past practically a self supporting institution. The Committee must however call attention to the very large amount they have to spend annually on providing passengers with lodging outside the walls of the Institution.'6 There are expressions of gratitude to individuals on the committee for their generosity in meeting deficits. Meanwhile there was uneasiness about the objects of the Shelter and some antagonism. Agitation about the influx of undesirable foreigners led to the accusation that the Shelter was attracting such people to London. A leading opponent of such immigration was Arnold White who paid several visits to the Shelter and recorded his feelings in the Visitors' Book: 'The admirable administration of the Shelter must prove one more inducement for the immigration of foreigners. I am glad to leave my mite for the poor souls who have arrived.'7 White was invited to attend a meeting of the exec utive committee and promised that when he led a delegation to the Prime Minister protesting about the waves of immigration he would certainly mention that the principal cause of the immigration of foreign Jews was the 6 Nineteenth Annual Report (1903-4) (London 1905) 8-9. 7 Visitors' Book, comments by Arnold White, 25 December 1897. 145</page><page sequence="6">Aubrey Newman persecution they suffered in certain countries. That did not stop him continuing to serve as the mouthpiece for several organizations opposed to immigration. There was fear even among supporters of the Shelter that Jews were coming to London precisely because they knew they could get help from the Shelter. The Board of Guardians refused poor relief to anyone who had been in the country for less than six months - unless they wished to return home immediately. Representatives of the Shelter were aware that the name and address of the Shelter was being widely sold on the Continent. In the First Report, for instance, the President wrote of his desire to remove 'any erroneous impressions that may still be lingering . . . that this Institution is a mischievous innovation calculated to encourage . . . the unhappily continuous immigration of destitute foreign Jews ... The Committee beg to announce that, with a view to provide a further whole some check to the immigration of any pauper adventurers who might be attracted hither from a misapprehension of the character of the Shelter, as well as in order to discourage habits of indolence amongst those already here it is in contemplation to institute a Labour Test of such a character as not to interfere with the already overstocked labour market.'8 The Third Report, covering the years 1888-9, mentions that there had been 1322 inmates compared with 1162 the previous year, and added: 'Had the Shelter not been available for these hapless wanderers to our shores they would inevitably have got into the toils of those merciless sharks who watch for the arrival of such poor foreign immigrants, take them to their dens misnamed lodging houses, retain them until their scanty means are exhausted and then cast them upon the streets friendless and penniless.'9 As late as 1903 the president repeated this argument to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration: 'I was instrumental in founding the Shelter in the year 1885 with the view primarily of providing a temporary refuge and protection for those immigrants who were proceeding to America, Africa and other countries and were waiting in London pending the departure of their ships. . . . Many of these people had previously been obliged to sleep in lofts and other miserable places of temporary rest. They were made the easy victims of crimps and of persons who offered to act the part of the Good Samaritan by assisting them to their destination but were only too eager to take advantage of their ignorance to rob them of all they possessed. In some cases they were made the prey of the sweater and some times the womenfolk were practically sold to brothels.'10 Another theme was that these immigrants were not the aged and sickly 8 First Annual Report (see n. 3) 7. 9 Third Annual Report (London 1888-9) 6. 10 Hermann Landau, evidence to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, 1903, Cd 1742, question 16721. 146</page><page sequence="7">The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies refuse of Eastern Europe. The reports emphasize the trades and occupa tions of its inmates and that they were healthy individuals who were actively looking for work and well fitted to a place in the local economy. Many of them were anyway not intending to stay in the United Kingdom but to move overseas. Virtually every report emphasized many inmates' intention of travelling on, adding that some of those apparently not in transit needed only to collect tickets from shipping agents in London. From an early stage the Shelter authorities devised plans to protect Jews arriving in London from crimps at the dockside. The Sixth Report stated: 'Under the present arrangements notification is sent by telegram of all ships from Hamburg entering the Thames stating the time of their expected arrival in London and at any hour day or night these ships are met by the officers of the shelter who bring all Jewish passengers and their belongings to the institution when they are conveyed to their several destinations at the cost a of a few pence whilst those without addresses to go to but who possess means are taken to respectable lodging houses.'11 The arrangement was extended to the docks at Grimsby, the port authorities there agreeing to send telegrams to London notifying the Shelter of the despatch of trains with immigrant passengers intended for the Shelter so they could be met on their arrival in London. By 1893 the Shelter was in poor condition. Thomas Hawkey, an examin ing officer in the Customs, reported that: 'The Shelter, 84 Leman Street, is a charitable institution furnished with 60 beds, its object being, as its name implies, to shelter and supply with food needy Jews who arrive here without addresses. If this were done the institution would be a boon, not only to Jewish immigrants but also to London as the immigrants would be protected from crimps and sweaters to a great extent and much of the misery occasioned by the activity of these persons saved. I regret to say that this is not done. The beds of the Shelter have not been occupied for years the reason being, as the superintendent Mr Smith himself told me, that the immigrants were so dirty that the committee found it better to hand them over to lodging-house keepers who, he remarked, were glad to have them.'12 This state of affairs did not last long, for Superintendent Smith was replaced by a more painstaking official. In the spring of 1893 the Shelter committees decided that 'Steps should be taken to obtain agencies to such steamship companies as would facilitate the booking of immigrants at the Institution.' The 'normal' clientele of the Shelter had originally been poor immigrants, but there were now 11 Sixth Annual Report (1890-91) (London 1892) 6. 12 Dr H. Williams, evidence to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, 1903, question 7071, quoting T. Hawke. 147</page><page sequence="8">Aubrey Newman significant numbers of'transients', transmigrants who either already held tickets to extra-European destinations or who had paid for them in their native towns and were intending to pick them up from one or other of the major shipping agencies in London. Since the sub-agents who sold tickets in Lithuania were unlikely to be able to supply the names of ships or dates of sailing, they issued vouchers to be exchanged in London. Equally, those in New York who had purchased pre-paid tickets for family left behind could only send vouchers to be exchanged at the shipping companies. There was an obvious need for a staging place for these travellers, and the Shelter had already helped to provide one. The Shelter also began to make itself available to shipping companies and to approach them to attract a wider market and some income. In addition, ticket agents near the Shelter were prepared to sell tickets to inmates who might be persuaded to continue their journeys outside the United Kingdom. These agents were anxious also to exchange foreign money into whatever currency suited the travellers. The Shelter had always been will ing to allow agents access to the Shelter, leading to disputes over exclusive rights. But it then decided to approach the shipping companies on its own behalf, offering to act as agent on behalf of the inmates, making it clear that commissions payable by the shipping companies would be returned to the traveller. Haimsohn of Whitechapel Road, who complained, with his brother Rev Hyamson and another brother in Johannesburg, that the Shelter was undercutting his business, consistently challenged the manage ment. The committee decided to pay no attention, and confirmed its inten tion to give immigrants the benefit of any deductions or commissions received. When Haimsohn again asked for immigrants to be sent to him to change money and purchase tickets, he was told he would not be given pref erence over other offices in the neighbourhood. The committee had no desire to interfere with his business, but were equally anxious that he should not interfere in the administration of the Shelter.13 The general committee agreed to support the idea of acting as shipping agent and requested the executive committee to confer with the Russo-Jewish Committee on the question of returning the commissions. That body was of the opinion that a proportion of the commission granted by the shipping companies should be retained by the Shelter for its current expenses and the balance put into a special fund for indigent cases. The committee, however, stuck to its guns and it is clear that payments were returned to the inmates. The decision to approach the shipping companies radically altered the nature of the Shelter and distinguishes it from all other such institutions. 13 Executive Committee Minutes, i May 1893, 3 January 1894, 17 February 1894; General Committee Minutes, 19 February 1893, 30 August 1893, 12 November 1893. 148</page><page sequence="9">The Poor Jews'Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies Increasingly the Shelter found itself looking after a substantial transmigra tion from Lithuania to South Africa, first referred to in January 1893 in the minutes. A letter was received from the chief rabbi asking the Shelter to look after the wife of the shochet of the Durban community who was en route to join her husband, and promising to reimburse the Shelter's costs. The same page records a donation of two guineas from Donald Currie, general manager of the Castle Line, the first mention of his name. The Annual Report for 1892-3 records for the first time figures of inmates in transit for South Africa. If there were any before November 1892, they may have been subsumed into the category of'other', but thereafter the figures mount. In November 1892 thirteen were reported, the total for that year having been 453 out of a total of 1951. That trickle became a flood, and from November 1895 to October 1896 there were 2134 people in transit out of a total of 3450 inmates. Board of Trade figures for migration from British ports to South Africa that year indicate for a parallel jump both of British and foreign nationalities. The importance of the Shelter is indicated by the fact that the proportion of Shelter inmates going to Africa represents between 13 and 37 per cent of the total alien migration. Shelter records indicate that the ships involved were invariably those of the Union or Castle Lines, or, after the amalgamation in 1900, the Union Castle Line. These companies held the Royal Mail contracts between the United Kingdom and South Africa, boasting in contemporary advertisements that they were the only ones to convey steerage- and third-class-passenger fares to Cape Town. Between 1891 and 1900 the Union Line ordered and brought into service no fewer than twelve new passenger ships, between them capable of carry ing some 800 third-class passengers, in addition to whatever else might have been available in steerage accommodation - usually some 400 passen gers each. At the same time the Castle Line brought into service twenty four new ships, many of them capable of carrying between 100 and 150 third-class passengers in addition to several hundred steerage passengers.14 They came into service gradually, but the orders for their construction must have been given in the late r88os when the Board of Trade figures demonstrate a jump from some 7500 passengers to more than 16,000 going to South Africa a year. The minutes of the executive committee record the regular appearance of cheques from the two companies, important for the cash-flow of the Shelter, while the annual reports indicate that a high proportion of the Shelter's income came from these payments. The shipping companies 14 Duncan Haws, Merchant Fleets in Profile III (Union and Castle &amp; Union-Castle Lines) (Cambridge, 1979) passim. 149</page><page sequence="10">Aubrey Newman agreed they would pay the Shelter 5s a head 'for meeting and seeing-off as well as is 6d a day (later increased to 2s a day) for their board and lodging. When in 1906 the Shelter built new facilities next door, the secretary wrote to the Union Castle Line: 'Kindly pardon me for taking the liberty of reminding you of your kind promise to me some time ago of a donation from Messrs Donald Currie and Co towards the Building Fund of the new Shelter. This matter has undoubtedly slipped your memory, but as we are about to open the new Shelter in the course of a few weeks and we are sorely in need of funds for furnishing the same, may we hope that Donald Currie and Co will take into consideration the good work we have done in connec tion with the South African emigration and furnish us with the promised donation now as it will arrive at a most opportune moment.' A little later he wrote: 'The Committee rejoice to think that their efforts in looking after the transmigrants holding your tickets have met with your appreciation and they hope that the greater opportunity the new building will afford them will enable the Shelter to continue for many years to come the happy rela tions which have existed and now exist between this Institution and the Union Castle Line.'15 The link with the South African shipping trade came quickly to domi nate the Shelter's activities. By early 1896 the committee felt that it could not provide such service on a large scale for other destinations. One agent in Libau wrote to ask the Shelter to receive passengers coming from Libau to London and to see them off at Liverpool for America. The committee replied that it could not undertake further work of this kind, especially when the agent was not recognized by the London shipping companies. Handling migrants was not its sole activity. The port authorities in London feared that new arrivals might be carrying diseases contracted in the Baltic ports or places of transit such as Hamburg. Cholera was dreaded, and if there were an outbreak overseas the port sanitary authorities would check on recent arrivals, impose embargoes on ships coming from particular ports or hold them in quarantine. The importance of the Shelter was recognized by the medical officer of the Port of London Authority, and in February 1893, during an outbreak of cholera in various Continental ports, the chief medical officer agreed that his office would notify the Shelter in advance of the arrival of any 'immigrant' ships at Tilbury in time for them to send an official to meet the boat at the docks. He would take responsibility for listing the arrivals, bringing them either to their stated addresses or to the Shelter and keeping a note of the addresses to which they eventually moved. There were continual problems over the implementation of the agreement since the medical officer was never sure that it was being implemented by the Shelter. Letterbook, io May and 13 June 1906, pp. 127, 235. 150</page><page sequence="11">The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies In 1895 he gave notice of its termination, but by this time the Shelter had become accustomed to receiving prior notices, important in making sure that all the passengers scheduled to go to South Africa actually got to the Shelter. The arrangement was revived in 1905 to meet a further outbreak of cholera in the Baltic states. Evidence of these arrangements can be seen in the so-called 'Supplementary Volumes' of the Registers, which give names of arrivals with their nominated London addresses, and sometimes indicate that they were not accepted at those addresses and ended up in the Shelter. The Shelter occasionally faced emergencies. In February 1900 it was given two hours' notice by the Board of Guardians of the arrival at Southampton of 253 Jews expelled from Johannesburg by the Boer govern ment. They had fled to Cape Town, where the local Jewish community had attempted to provide for them, but the military governor of Cape Town had ordered their removal to the United Kingdom. The Shelter had to meet them and find accommodation on a Friday afternoon, and then decide on their future. Some returned to Lithuania or went to America, while others remained in Britain. Five months later the Shelter dealt with 650 arrivals from Romania, the so-called Fussgeyers, who had crossed Europe - many of them partly on foot - and had been dumped at the quayside. Some went back to Romania, but most travelled on to Winnipeg, where Romanian Jews had already settled. In addition, at the height of the Russo-Japanese War tens of thousands of young Russian Jews flocked to London to escape conscription precisely when the Aliens' Act was in the public eye. The records show that between November 1902 and October 1905 the Shelter coped with nearly 16,000 persons seeking help. Between May 1904 and September 1905 more than 9000 arrived, while in November and December 1904 alone there were more than 2400. The superintendent of the Shelter, Abraham Mundy, described how 'Enormous crowds of refugees, who dribbled into the Institution through channels other than the London docks, waited daily outside the Shelter clamouring for admission. [The Shelter had to book a special ship to take many of them to America.] Passage tickets had to be written out and entered up in the Shipping Registers, luggage had to be labelled, rail tickets to the ports of embarkation had to be got ready, and the distribution of $25 to each emigrant had to be made before departure.'16 This pressure came during an Atlantic rate war when competing shipping companies cut their fares to the bone. At one stage it was possible to cross the Atlantic for £2 ios, although it is not clear whether food was included in this. The Annual Report stated that 'The Committee must call attention to the very large Abraham Mundy, unpublished memoirs, ch. 26A. i5i</page><page sequence="12">Aubrey Newman amount they have to spend annually on providing passengers with lodging outside the walls of the institution. This arises from the dilapidated condi tion of the existing building on the repairs of which in view of its age and unsuitability the Committee feel they ought not to expend any money.'17 It was therefore decided to purchase the next-door premises at 82 Leman Street and to rebuild them for the needs of the Shelter. The new Shelter was opened in July 1906 and dedicated by the chief rabbi, clearing the way for further expansion of the Shelter's activities. The implementation of the Aliens' Act at this time restricted and regu lated immigration to the United Kingdom, bringing mass immigration from Eastern Europe virtually to an end. Transmigrant traffic, on which many shipping companies had come to rely, was protected, by allowing passengers to pass through on condition that the companies made them selves responsible for their departure. Bonds had to be deposited and strict checks made that each immigrant left the country. In consequence, inmates now came to the Shelter with pre-booked tickets rather than buying them on arrival in London. This enhanced the role of the Shelter, and correspon dence between the secretary and several companies shows how the Shelter quickly took advantage of the new situation, offering its services and explaining that it would be following the pattern laid down by the Union Castle Line over the previous fifteen years. The letter to Cunard &amp; Company might well be taken as an example: Perhaps I may be permitted to state that the Institution on whose behalf I am now writing is entirely a philanthropic organisation whose object is and has been for the last twenty-two years to look after and protect the interests of the large number of continental Jewish transmigrants who annually pass through this country for the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Africa and all parts of the world. Our officers meet all boats arriving in any part of the docks in London and have also made arrangements whereby we are advised of the arrival of travellers at the various railway stations. For the reception of such we have just built a new and commodious building registered by the London County Council complete with every sanitary detail, lavatories, bathrooms, disinfecting chambers, etc. I may perhaps be permitted to add that although the Institution is mainly intended for Jewish transmigrants we make no distinction in the matter of creeds. Our officers sometimes find that transmigrants holding your tickets are not met on arrival and are left to make the best arrangements they can for getting from here to the port of departure. In cases even where an agent is employed the charges entailed on the transmigrants are considerable, and often they are Nineteenth Annual Report (see n. 6) 9. 152</page><page sequence="13">The Poor Jews'Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies housed temporarily under conditions which have aroused the resentment of the local sanitary authorities. If any confirmation be required of these state ments may we ask you to write to the sanitary authorities in question, the London County Council and the Stepney Borough Council. For many years we have acted as the receiving institution of the Union Castle Line, meeting their passengers, housing and feeding them, till the time comes for them to leave when we see them off either at the steamer at Black wall or at Waterloo, our representative at Southampton conducting them to the steamer. For the sake of the poor transmigrants and in their interests alone - we are not a busi ness organisation - we ask you to enter into a similar arrangement with us, whereby we shall be authorised to take charge of the passengers holding your tickets with a view of either housing them here till your boat is ready to sail, with a due observance of their religious susceptibilities, or of sending them on at once to your Liverpool boarding house. The charge we would make would be no more than the actual cost entailed on the Institution. We trust that you will give this matter your early and favourable consideration as we shall be very happy to answer any other ques tions you may feel disposed to ask. I venture to enclose a copy of our last annual report and you will observe that among the members of the committee are men who are known for their philanthropic endeavours all over the world.18 A similar letter to Allen and Company comments: 'You will appreciate the fact that we are not a trading corporation and that our only object is to further the interests of the immigrants. Should we find we are able to reduce our charges we shall gladly do so.' And the superintendent reported: 'We have already received two small batches of Allen Line passengers and the Allen Line wish to extend our arrangements to English passengers coming in from the country and remaining in London pending the sailing of the Canadian steamers that leave London every fortnight. Mr Gordon [the secretary] thinks that we should not enter into any arrangements about English passengers as the Shelter has been established for only foreign emigrants.'19 Although the registers do record a small group of such English passengers, the Shelter did not normally deal with them. By 19 io the Shelter had acquired such an expertise that it was invited by the Thompson Line Company to handle several thousand non-Jewish migrants from the Balkans passing through London en route either to North America or Australia. The minutes record: 'During the past week the Shelter has taken charge of about 1 too transmigrants belonging to the Thomson Lines there being no other receiving house for them. The Jews 18 Letterbook, Ii June 1906, p. 215. 19 Ibid. 19 July 1906, p. 307; letter to Hermann Landau, 10 August 1906, p. 369. 153</page><page sequence="14">Aubrey Newman and some of the non-Jews were accommodated at the Shelter whilst the bulk of the other passengers were boarded and lodged out in registered lodging houses in the neighbourhood with however unsatisfactory results as the proprietors were unable to cope with this influx.'20 The strains imposed by this episode were revealed when one of the ships involved in the contract, the Caronia, caught fire off Dover, leaving its passengers without injury but also without their possessions, and the Shelter staff had hastily to receive them back, provide them with clothing, and redespatch them on a later ship. As a result a series of resolutions was taken by the general committee: 'Reported that the Executive Committee decided to notify the shipping companies that whilst the shelter officials will gratuitously render them assistance at the docks the shelter will in future take charge of Jews only. Agreed that except with the authority of the General Committee no arrangement shall be made with any shipping company to house or be responsible for any transmigrants or passengers other than Jews but that in the event of the Shelter accommodation not being fully utilised such numbers of non-Jews may be housed as the author ities of the Shelter may think fit. That the foregoing resolution be not applied to Union Castle Line passengers.'21 Another aspect of the work of the Shelter was dealing with would-be immigrants who had been rejected by the immigration authorities. An appeals system had been established under the Aliens Act, and the Shelter quickly became involved in finding legal advice and representing appel lants. The Annual Reports illustrate how far they were involved, and to what extent the flood of immigration was reduced by the Act, as distinct from factors such as the slowing down of the American economy and the numbers of those who appeared to be would-be immigrants but were in practice transmigrants. The role of the Shelter changed with the outbreak of the First World War, which halted migration from the Baltic. The establishment of new regimes in Eastern Europe and new worldwide restrictions on immigration then brought migration to an end. The arrival of Ukrainian orphan children and refugees from Germany after 1933 was handled by the Shelter, as was the flight of Jews from Iraq, Egypt and Aden. But increasingly it found itself involved in social welfare in the East End of London. Its move to Willesden led to a search for a new role in the twenty-first century. This paper shows how the Shelter began as a philanthropic project and became involved in a remarkable episode of modern Jewish history, the transplantation of Lithuanian Jews to the Veldt. Jews of South Africa have 20 General Committee Minutes, 6 April 1910. 21 Ibid. 6 April and 11 May 1910. 154</page><page sequence="15">The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter: an episode in migration studies for generations boasted of their origins in Kovno guberniya. It has now been shown how that process worked. Acknowledgements A number of people and organizations have made this work possible. Dr Riva Krut's thesis on the growth of South African Jewry before the First World War was the first to show the potential of these records for further analysis. Professor Lloyd Gartner alerted me to the existence of volumes of registers dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries recording the passage of several hundred thousand Jewish migrants through and into London. The Committee and successive secretaries of the PJTS have facilitated my use of these registers and of several fragments of minute books and correspondence. My colleagues in the School of Modern History in the University of Leicester, and in particular its computer expert, Dr Graham Smith, created computer programmes without which the work could never have been undertaken. Without the enthusiasm and financial support of Dr Mendel Kaplan of South Africa and Israel I could never have gone as far as I have. I must also mention over three hundred of my students at Leicester University who with greater or lesser enthusiasm transcribed the records onto a computing database. From this have emerged undergraduate dissertations, an MA thesis and, still in progress, a doctoral thesis by a student working in migration studies who has presented a paper to this Society. This team has made it possible to understand in depth many aspects of the Shelter and its work. 155</page></plain_text>

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