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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in England 05: 1914-1933

Activities in England - Zionism fantasy and Balfour declaration 1917 - Jewish developments in England

from: England; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[Anti-German activities during World War I - clothing boom - Jews in the English army]

The outbreak of World War I (1914) ended the great immigration, although the refugees from Belgium included a considerable number of Jews of East European origin. The high-strung xenophobia of the early war years, in which everything related to Germany was attacked, created some anti-Semitism and some curious anti-German reactions in the Anglo-Jewish community.

The demand for uniform clothing produced an economic boom which benefited small Jewish entrepreneurs. On the other hand, because their civilian occupations were generally not essential enough to defer them from military service in the national interest, the proportion of Jews in the armed forces was higher than in the general population. Genuine loyalty, however, was also responsible for this factor: there were 10,000 casualties among the 50,000 Jews serving, and 1,596 were decorated including six recipients of the highest award, the Victoria Cross), which was also probably above the general average. Of special significance was the raising of Jewish battalions of the Royal Fusiliers to serve in the campaign to liberate Palestine from the Turks.

[Zionism fantasy in England - Herzl - Montefiore as president of English Zionist Federation - anti-Zionists - Balfour declaration]

The outstanding event of the war, however, was the attainment of the *Balfour Declaration in 1917.

Zionism in England originated with the *Hovevei Zion in 1887, led by Elim d'Avigdor and Colonel Albert *Goldsmid. Although some of the older members of Anglo-Jewry were interested in the Jewish national movement, the recent immigrants provided the mass of support, particularly after the development of political Zionism in 1897.

*Herzl visited England on a number of occasions and the offer of *Uganda was made to him by Joseph *Chamberlain, then colonial secretary. Although Sir Francis *Montefiore became president of the English Zionist Federation, formed in 1899, many leading figures of the established community, notably the first (col. 760)

Lord Rothschild, Sir Samuel *Montagu (Lord Swaythling), and Hermann *Adler, the chief rabbi, opposed it. The turmoil World War I brought to the Middle East and the desire to influence American Jewry on behalf of the Western allies provided Chaim *Weizmann with the opportunity to persuade the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration. To some extent, Weizmann had been anticipated by Herbert Samuel, a member of the government until 1916, in a pro-Zionist memorandum to the prime minister.

The official leadership of the community was now much more disposed to Zionism: the new chief rabbi, Joseph Hertz, the Haham of the Sephardim, Moses *Gaster, and the second Lord Rothschild (who succeeded his father in 1915) were all actively associated with Zionism. The issue of the declaration had been preceded by a letter to The Times from the presidents of the Board of Deputies (D.L. Alexander) and the Anglo-Jewish Association (Claude Montefiore) dissociating themselves from Jewish nationalism.

The declaration precipitated the resignation of Alexander and the victory of the pro-Zionists, whose views were henceforth the official policy of the Anglo-Jewish establishment. The events of 1917 thus served as a catalyst within the Anglo-Jewish community and promoted it into a new role in world Jewry, since Britain was to become the administering power for the Jewish National Home.> (col. 761)

[1920s: Economic development of the English Jewish communities - new Jewish middle class - industrialist Cohen founding new synagogues]

The 1920s was a period of deceptive political calm and relative intellectual stagnation for Anglo-Jewry. Socially the decade saw the progressive Anglicization of the community and its increasing upward mobility from the working to the middle class. Small businesses prospered; the new generation turned to professional callings as lawyers, doctors, dentists, and accountants; and university education, even in the established institutions, began to be the practice for the middle class, instead of the prerogative of virtually the upper class alone.

Social change was reflected in the steady exodus from the crowded Jewish quarters in London and the main provincial centers as middle-class families acquired a house and garden in the expanding residential suburbs. A distinctively Anglo-Jewish middle-class way of life began to develop there, and Golders Green became as characteristic a milieu of interwar Anglo-Jewry as Maida Vale had been in the 1880s.

An attempt to finance a massive education renaissance as the Jewish memorial to World War I fell far short of achievement, but the United Synagogue, under the effective paternalism of the industrialist Sir Robert Waley-*Cohen, continued to expand as an efficiently run religious organization and founded new synagogues in the developing districts of London. During this period, the Board of Deputies was led by Sir Osmond d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, a founder of the "mixed" *Jewish Agency, on which both Zionists and non-Zionists served. Although the Zionist victory of 1917 [[Balfour declaration]] had changed the community's political trend, it had not yet effected a social revolution and removed control from members of the older establishment.> (col. 762)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 759-760
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 759-760
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 761-762
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 761-762