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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in England 06: 1933-1948

Jewish immigrants from continental Europe with much capital provoking new developments - Mosley - evacuations 1940-1945 - English Jewry and Palestine 1933-1947

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

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[1933-1945: Jewish refugees from continental Europe - capital from Germany - new professions, fur business - intellectuals and artists]

The 1930s were overshadowed by the rise of fascism, which produced an immigration of 90,000 refugees (73,000 from Germany and Austria, 10,000 from Czechoslovakia, 4,000-5,000 from Poland, and 2,000 from Italy and elsewhere). Of this number, 10,000-12,000 left Britain in 1940, 2,000-2,500 were transferred as internees to Australia and Canada and did not return, and 15,000-20,000 left after 1945 or died during the period, (col. 762)

so that some 40,000-55,000 prewar refugees, mostly but not exclusively Jewish, were counted in Britain by 1950.
Quantitatively, this was a substantial intake for a community of between 300,000 and 400,000, though a much smaller one than the Russo-Jewish immigration of 1881-1914. Qualitatively, its impact was almost as great.

The Central European immigrants were essentially from the middle class, unlike the originally proletarian Russo-Jewish ones. Before drastic restrictions were imposed on the export of property from Germany, the refugees of the 1930s brought considerable capital: it is estimated that up to mid-1938, £ 12,000,000 were transferred from Germany to Britain.

The immigrants created or transplanted many businesses, particularly in the fashion trades, pharmaceutical production, and light engineering, and made London the European center of the fur trade in place of Leipzig. Equally important was the influence of the many professionals, intellectuals, and artists upon British scientific, literary, and cultural life.

[Effect of the new Jewish immigrants from continental Europe: Shifts in the religious structure - development of new institutions]

The effect of this immigration upon Anglo-Jewry was even more dramatic. Both branches of religious life were strengthened. Ministers and scholars trained in the German Reform movement revitalized progressive Judaism; the Frankfort-inspired Orthodox expanded the separatist Orthodox movement in England and also produced a shift to the right in the United Synagogue. The Jewish day-school movement, the *Gateshead yeshivah (founded in 1927) [[Jewish religious school for Torah studies]] and associated institutions and, after 1945, a number of other educational institutions (especially in North and North-West London) were strengthened by German and Hungarian Jews.

The Central European immigrants virtually created a cultural revival in the academic sphere. They took part in every aspect of activity from rabbinic studies to Anglo-Jewish historiography, and postwar institutions like the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College, London, would have been unthinkable without them.

[Mosley fascists stopped by Public Order Act of 1936 - more solidarity under the Jews]

Continental fascism was imitated in England on a smaller scale and fostered by the economic depression of the early 1930s. Attacks on Jews and Jewish property by the "blackshirts" led by the English fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, provocative processions through the Jewish areas, and street clashes with left-wing elements followed, but were checked by the 1936 Public Order Act, which, inter alia [[among others]], banned the wearing of political uniforms. The need to defend the community against these attacks induced a feeling of solidarity that was intensified by the need to raise funds for the relief of refugees and the work of settlement in Palestine. Fund raising again became a primary communal commitment that served as a unifying force as well as an engrossing organizational and social activity.


[Evacuation: Jewish children and women spread on the countryside - little communities on the countryside - one synagogue lost]

The outbreak of war in 1939 had a centrifugal effect on Anglo-Jewry. At first schoolchildren and some mothers were evacuated from London and other large centers of population; the heavy bombing which began in the autumn of 1940 brought about a more general dispersal. Service in the armed forces took away women as well as men, and in 1940 refugees were subjected to large-scale, though temporary, internment.

Religious and communal life in London continued on a smaller scale, and the dispersal of the population was followed by a regrouping in new communities in the evacuation areas. The countryside and small towns, which had hardly known a Jew, became the homes of thriving communities for the duration of the war, and some of these new communities maintained their existence even after the war.

The main effect of the war on the distribution of the Jewish population, however, is seen in the East End of London and in some of the other Jewish quarters in the main provincial cities, where the bombing (col. 763)

destroyed the physical environment. The Ashkenazi Great Synagogue in Duke's Place, London, was only one of the Jewish monuments and institutions that was lost. In the East End of London, the old Jewish residential area was never rebuilt though some of the older people remained or returned and many others continued to come in daily to work.> (col. 764)


<The need to provide for the education of children dispersed in the 1939-45 evacuation led to the formation of a joint emergency organization. In 1945 Jewish education was substantially reorganized on this basis with a central council for the whole country and an executive board for London, representing the United Synagogue and other Orthodox institutions. Jewish education during the evacuation had been limited to an average of one hour a week, and improvement of standards after the war was slow. The new organization was responsible for the reconstitution of the Jews' Free School and two other of the prewar private schools that were closed during the war, one of which was a secondary comprehensive school in a central location with a planned complement of 1,500 pupils.

As Jewish education regained importance, the schools took various forms: the Jewish secondary schools movement, begun in 1929 by Victor Schonfeld; the day schools begun in the 1950s under Zionist auspices; independent Orthodox day schools with Yiddish as a language of instruction; the long-standing provincial day schools; and Carmel College, a private school in the country, founded by Kopul *Rosen.> (col. 765)


[since 1939: English Jewish efforts against White Paper policy - question of citizenship]

The relations of the developing Jewish community in Palestine with the British government as a mandatory power increasingly concerned the Anglo-Jewish community, which expressed opposition to the policy set down in the White Paper of 1939, limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine. Support for a Jewish state was the policy of the Zionist bodies and the *World Jewish Congress, but not of the *Anglo-Jewish Association nor of its splinter group, the anti-Zionist Jewish Fellowship, headed by Sir Basil *Henriques (which dissolved in 1948).

The Anglo-Jewish Association enjoyed great prestige for its distinguished membership and 70 years of concern with foreign affairs. The wish to mobilize the support in the representative body of Anglo-Jewry for Zionist policies was combined with a desire to make its leadership reflect the changing character of the community as a whole. These aspirations were symbolized by the 1939 election of Selig *Brodetsky, a first generation Russo-Jewish immigrant, educated in Britain, as president of the Board of Deputies.

They were realized in 1943 by a carefully planned campaign to secure the election to the board of a majority committed to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The newly elected board dissolved its joint Foreign Committee with the Anglo-Jewish Association. As in World War I, the problems of Palestine effected a polarization in the Anglo-Jewish community between those who put primary emphasis on Jewish national ideals and those who stressed the overriding claims of British citizenship.

[Reserved attitude to Israel - anti-Semitism in England provoked by criminal Zionist actions in Palestine]

Although this dichotomy was unrealistic in many respects, it sharpened communal tensions. After the creation of the State of Israel, the Anglo-Jewish Association adopted a policy of goodwill toward the new state, but stressed the responsibilities of Anglo-Jews as citizens of Britain who were identified with its national life. Communal tensions were also heightened by some anti-Semitism, which resulted from the conflict between the mandatory administration and the yishuv [[Jews living in Palestine]], beginning with the assassination of Lord *Moyne in 1944 and culminating in the hanging of two British army sergeants in August 1947.

The latter was followed by minor disorders in some provincial cities and some attacks on Jewish property. Normalcy was restored after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the British government and the new state.> (col. 764)

[[Herzl's aim to drive all Arabs away as the natives in the "USA" had been driven away, and the border of the Euphrates River as the borderline of a "Greater Israel" according to the First Mose chapter 15 phrase 18, and the violence and terror of the Jewish army against the Palestinians with violations of women and desert concentration camps are not mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Judaica]].

Contemporary Period.

[since 1945: Reinforced orthodox Jewry by Jewish refugees from Poland and Hungary - reform and liberal congregation with Leo Baeck College]

Chief Rabbi Hertz died in January 1946 and Israel *Brodie succeeded him in May 1948. The first chief rabbi to be both born and educated in Britain, Brodie found the religious spectrum of Anglo-Jewry not only growing stronger at either end but also tending to disintegrate in the middle. Orthodoxy, combining strict observance and exact learning with secular culture, had been strengthened by the Central European refugees of the Frankfort school and, particularly after 1945, was also increased by refugees from Poland and Hungary, many of whom were Hasidim.

The Reform and Liberal congregations, while still a minority, probably increased their membership at a greater rate than the United Synagogue, opening numerous new congregations and founding the Leo Baeck College to train their own ministers. Although their leadership was clearly strengthened by the Central European immigration of 1933-39, much of their postwar membership could only have come from the ranks of the nominally Orthodox. The Spanish and Portuguese Congregation also increased with the immigration of Jews from Egypt, Iraq, and Aden.> (col. 765)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in
                              England, vol.6, col. 761-762
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 761-762
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 763-764
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 763-764
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 765-766
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 765-766