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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in England 07: 1948-1970

300 years celebration of 1956 - changes and developments in British Jewry - Jacobs case - effect of Zionist wars - assimilation 1945-1970 and the effects - employment and cultural developments

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

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[1956: 300 years celebration of Jewish settlement]

In 1956, Anglo-Jewry celebrated the tercentenary of the resettlement, with a more or less united service at the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue and a dinner at London's Guildhall, in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh. But the sentiments (col. 765)

of communal solidarity - and of self-congratulation on communal self-discipline - engendered by these celebrations were short-lived.

[Changes and developments in the Jewish communities since 1945]

There had already been considerable changes within the main synagogal bodies. The character of the Federation of Synagogues changed as its membership, while hardly increasing, moved from the small hevrot [[group]] of the East End to live in the suburbs.

there they often attended local synagogues but retained membership in the federation for sentiment and burial rights. The old-fashioned minister (and even his clerical collar) had disappeared in the United Synagogue in favor of younger rabbis, often pupils of Jews' College under the direction of Isidore *Epstein, who strove to remodel it as a rabbinical seminary. The bet din [[Jewish court]], under the influence above all of the great scholar Ezekiel *Abramsky, steadily kept the religious orientation of the United Synagogue to the right; at the same time, however, the old lay leadership under the presidency of Frank Samuel and Ewen Montagu, tended toward religious flexibility. The influence of members of the older families must not be exaggerated, however. As early as the 1950s, a new generation of laymen - second-generation citizens, Zionist, and traditionally Orthodox - was maturing in the United Synagogue.

[Torah discussion leads to vetoes against Louis Jacobs - foundation of a new congregation (new synagogue)]

In all these changes lay the seeds of conflict, which crystallized around Louis *Jacobs, a rabbi of Orthodox practice who held certain modernist views. Minister of the fashionable New West End Synagogue (London), Jacobs was appointed tutor of Jews' College in 1959 with the consent of the chief rabbi. The latter, however, vetoed Jacobs' appointment as college principal and then in 1964 his reappointment to his former synagogue, because he held that Jacobs maintained parts of the Torah were not of divine origin and human reason should select which parts were divine.

The local management of the synagogue persisted in their desire to have Jacobs as minister and permitted him to preach, although the requisite certificate or special sanction had not been issued by the chief rabbi. The central body of the United Synagogue then constitutionally deposed Jacobs' supporters, who founded a new congregation in another area with Jacobs as minister. The "Jacobs Affair" received wide publicity in the non-Jewish press, but its significance may have been exaggerated.

Since the formation of the Reform Synagogue in 1840, Anglo-Jewry has not been very interested in theology or biblical criticism, as distinct from ritual or liturgy. There wee personal and social factors underlying the controversy, and a shift took place in the leadership of the United Synagogue in 1962, when the presidency was first filled from outside the circle of older families by the financier and industrialist Sir Isaac *Wolfson. The incident that led to the formation of a new synagogue was over a disciplinary issue not a theological one (preaching without the chief rabbi's certificate), and the new congregation has not yet inspired a wider movement.

The issues involved in the "Jacobs Affair" and its consequences could, however, be regarded as marginal to the much more important problem of Jewish religious life, i.e., the progressive alienation of growing sections of the Anglo-Jewish community from Jewish religious affiliation of any kind.

[The shadow of Herzl Zionism 1948-1967: Zionist wars in Palestine attract the Jews in England - Six-Day War]

The main countervailing factor to the trend away from Jewish identification was the influence of the State of Israel. Mobilizing support for Israel was a major communal and social activity and, to some extent, a substitute for the organized religious life of earlier times. But it actively affected only a minority of the community until the *Six-Day War (1967), when the danger to and triumph of Israel produced an emotional reaction unprecedented in intensity and affecting even many who were previously estranged from Jewish life. It is not clear however how (col. 766)

lasting the effect will be or whether it may weaken anglo-Jewry still further by adding to those numbers, previously inconsiderable, who have gone to settle in Israel. Anglo-Jewry made little impact on world scholarship in the second third of the 20th century.

[V.D.L.]> (col. 767)


[1945-1970: Assimilation and declining numbers of memberships at the Jewish communities - intermarriage rate - low birth rate]

The number of Jews in Britain, which was estimated to be 410,000 in 1967, is declining in absolute terms. World Jewish population figures show that during the 1960s Britain's Jewish community has slipped numerically from fourth to sixth place. This decline is being felt acutely in the provinces, in both very small communities and larger centers. Greater London, on the other hand, has maintained its level of 280,000 Jewish inhabitants (61% of the total Jewish population of the country).

Close to 75% of the Jewish population of Britain is concentrated in the country's five largest cities. The most significant trend in the last two decades has been the migration of the Jewish population from the urban central areas - the old ghetto quarters - to the new suburban districts surrounding big conurbations. The exodus from the older districts has not, however, been characterized as a transplantation of old communities in new areas. A concomitant phenomenon has been the wider distribution of the Jewish population in places more distant from urban centers and settlement in a more scattered fashion among a predominantly non-Jewish population.

In these areas Jews lack effective community organization and are isolated from the more developed forms of Jewish life found nearer the cities, exposing them to the potent forces of assimilation. the influence of assimilation must be regarded as one of the factors contributing to the numerical decline of the community. In purely demographic terms, the most visible symptom of this decline, and one reflecting the speed with which it is taking place, is the drop in Jewish marriages, and the intermarriage rate has been estimated to be between 12% and 25%.

The drastic change can be seen when the synagogue marriage rate of 4.0 per thousand in the period 1961-65 is compared with the marriage rate in the general population, which was 7.5 in the same period. This very substantial difference may be attributed to two main causes:

(a) the rise in the number of Jews who marry by civil ceremony only, a phenomenon which might also signify a rise in the rate of intermarriage;

(b) the decline in the Jewish birthrate over the last few decades

In the second half of the 20th century a strong tendency had set in among Jews in Britain not to go through a religious ceremony in the synagogue, the causal factor for which might be the increase in the intermarriage rate.> (col. 767)

[Table. Jews in England]
"some numbers" (England, vol. 6, col. 747)
mid-12th cent.xxxxxx "communities [...] in most of the greater cities" (England, vol. 6, col. 747)
1189-1190xxxxxx crusade fanatism, massacres, massive reduction
(England, vol. 6, col. 748)
1263-1266xxxxxx Barons' Wars, massacres, massive reduction
(England, vol. 6, col. 750-751)
1 Nov. 1290xxxxxx expulsion, 0 Jews
(England, vol. 6, col. 751)
1553xxxxxx Marranos from Spain and Portugal 100
(England, vol. 6, col. 752)
1650 approx.xxxxxx Marrano colony from Rouen and Canary Islands
(England, vol. 6, col. 752)
since 1698xxxxxx immigrants from Holland, Spain and Portugal
(England, vol. 6, col. 753-754)
1880xxxxxx 65,000
(England, vol. 6, col. 758)
since 1881xxxxxx huge Jewish immigration from anti-Semitic Russia
(England, vol. 6, col. 758)
1914xxxxxx 300,000
(England, vol. 6, col. 758)
1914-1918xxxxxx -- 50,000 Jews in the English army
-- 10,000 casualties
-- 1,596 decorated
(England, vol. 6, col. 760)
1931xxxxxx 300,000 (Population, Bd. 13, Kol. 890-892)
1934xxxxxx fewer than 300,000 Jews in Britain (England, vol. 6, col. 768)
1930sxxxxxx 90,000 immigrants from NS continental Europe
(England, vol. 6, col. 762)
April 1933-May 1939xxxxxx 40,000 German Jewish immigrants
(Germany, vol. 7, col. 491)
1967xxxxxx 410,000 Jews in Britain estimated (England, vol. 6, col. 767)

Map of the
                  contemporary English Jewish communities 1970
Map of the contemporary English Jewish communities 1970
(from: England; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 6, col. 749-750)


[1925-1960s: more self-employment and high professions - comparison with "USA" and Canada - low Jewish women employment rate]

The occupational trends in the second quarter of the 20th century (up to the 1960s) have been as follows: large numbers have abandoned the semi-skilled and manual occupations; increasing proportions have entered occupations with opportunities for self-employment, such as shopkeeping, hairdressing, and taxi driving; and there has been a continuous rise in the number of Jews entering the professions. The number of economically active persons in the community has declined, but one explanation for this turn is the greater number of Jewish students who remain in school after age 15 and proceed into the professions.

The disproportionate Jewish interest in finance has drastically decreased and preoccupation with manufacturing has increased substantially. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the predominance of Jewish-owned merchant banks had declined, while Jews have become more prominent in enterprises of large-scale production, particularly of consumer goods. On the whole, information concerning industrial distribution shows that remarkable similarities (col. 767)

exist between Jews in Britain, the United States, Canada and continental Europe. In all cases large concentrations of Jews are found in the clothing and textile trades, distributive trades, and light industries, and to an increasing degree in professional and administrative services. There is an under-representation of Jews, however, in agriculture and heavy industries.

The fact that the younger generation has largely avoided the traditional Jewish industrial setting of tailoring and furniture making in the last three decades has resulted in a decline of the Jewish labor and trade-union movements that florished at the turn of the century. The Jewish worker in the 1950s exhibited a strong tendency to leave the ranks of the working class and become self-employed. It has been estimated that Jewish students compose 3% of the total student population of Britain, whereas Jews account for less than 1% of the population of the country. In addition, only 11.4% of the Jewish women were economically active, compared to 33.9% in general population.


[Assimilation and lower attendance rates]

Organization life in Britain boasts a wide array of charitable, religious, educational, recreational, and political groups. These often overlap both in function and membership, which makes it difficult to estimate the proportions of Jews associated with particular types of organizations. Some figures are available, however:

in London 61% of the Jews are members of synagogues, as are 75% in Liverpool; in Leeds more than 43% contribute to the *Jewish National Fund; in the Willesden district of London, 72% of the boys and 53% of the girls are members of Jewish youth groups.

Youth organizations are divided into the following categories:

-- various clubs offering social and sports activities, the best example of which is *Maccabi;

-- Zionist organizations offering educational and recreational programs and strengthening cultural and personal ties with Israel, such as *Habonim and *Benei Akiva

-- organizations providing study courses and the Jewish Youth Study Group movement;

-- and societies for Jewish students at universities and colleges.

The larger representative youth organizations are the Jewish Youth Council, on which nearly 40 organizations are represented; the Association of Jewish Youth, with some 15,000 members; and the Inter-University Jewish Federation, with some 30 affiliated societies in most universities and in many other higher educational establishments.

Some of the basic constituents of religious identification seem to have remained stable since the 1930s. Thus, in 1934 there were 310 registered synagogues in England and Wales and 400 in 1962; however, considering that there wer fewer than 300,000 Jews in the country in 1934, the number of synagogues per thousand Jews had not changed.

In London more than a third of the Jewish population is not affiliated with any synagogue, while in Leeds and Liverpool less than a quarter of hte Jews were found to be similarly unaffiliated. All the surveys taken in this area point to the fact that the vast majority of Jews still ascribe to religious burial.

Synagogue attendance compared with prewar years has been low, except for the Hith Holidays; however, fragmentary statistics on this point suggest that attendance runs parallel to church attendance among the general population, i.e., between 13-15% of the population attend services weekly.

Some religious practices, such as barmitzwahs [[confirmation]], are observed by a subsdtantial majority, and other practices, such as circumcision, are almost universally maintained. There can be no doubt, however, that on the whole the influence of religion on Anglo-Jewry has declined. Immanuel *Jakobovits, who was elected chief rabbi in 1966, declared after taking office in 1967 that the survival of Judaism was the primary challenge, in view of "staggering (col. 768)

losses by defections, assimilation and intermarriage." He drew particular attention to the estimate that 85% of the students and 90% of the 2,000 academics were outside organized Jewish religious life.



The leadership of the community agrees that the key to the preservation of Jewish identification in general, and religious practice in particular, is education, although Jewish education in and of itself will not insure identification without the maintenance of a jewish atmosphere in the home. Statistics also reveal a continuing desire on the part of Jews to associate mainly with fellow-Jews. Education has been constantly highlighted, therefore, and in the past 15 years much effort has gone into the establishment of Jewish day schools, especially after it became evident that Jewish education imparted through talmud torah classes after school hours was becoming less and less satisfactory.

In 1962 it was estimated that in London and the provinces, at any one time, only about 57% of Jewish children of school age were receiving Jewish instruction. Despite the efforts to extend day-school programs to larger numbers, the achievement is less impressive than it might  at first appear. In the whole of Britain in 1963 there were some 8,800 children in the 48 Jewish day schools (of which only 12 were secondary schools), a figure that represented a doubling of students compared with the situation ten years before. Progress since 1963 has been rather slow, although a certain amount of consolidation in the day-school movement has taken place. (See also *Education, Great Britain).

Higher Jewish and Hebrew *education can be obtained in yeshivot [[Jewish religious schools for Torah studies]] and colleges with specialized departments in these fields. A survey published in 1962 showed that in the eight yeshivot  in Britain, there were 392 full-time students (many of whom were from overseas). Jews' College had 31 students in its combined degree and minister's-diploma course during the 1959-60 session.

[Publications - Yiddish dying out in England]

Similarly, the numbers associated with cultural bodies such as the Jewish Historical Society or the Friends of Yiddish are relatively small. The larger Jewish public is reached, however, by the Jewish press, which has a strong influence on the measure of individual identification.

The leading position is taken by The Jewish Chronicle, which has the widest circulation in the community. A number of smaller newspape3rs also cater to some of the provincial towns and to some sections of the community more actively connected with Israel and its specific political parties. Two leading academic journals, The Jewish Journal of Sociology (1959-   ) and The Journal of Jewish Studies (1949-   ), are published, and two social (col. 769)

science units, one at the Board of Deputies and the other at the Institute of Jewish Affairs, are specifically engaged in research on Jews. there is no regular Hebrew publication in the form of a journal or a newspaper, and the almost total decline of Yiddish is reflected in the closing of the last Yiddish newspaper in 1967.

[Assimilation and anti-assimilation trend - some discriminations in clubs - Jewish quotas in certain schools]

The trend in Britain toward an open society and the existence of equal citizenship rights has closed the social distance between the Jewish minority and British society, and in turn has been eroding Jewish identification. There can be no doubt that progressive emancipation has been leading to a greater degree of assimilation.

The persistence of prejudice and some degree of discrimination against Jews has worked, however, in the opposite direction. During the 1950s and 1960s Britain was not free of such anti-Jeiwsh prejudices. They have been promoted by tiny anti-Semitic groups, who in 1959 and again 1965 engaged in desecration and arson against synagogues and have spasmodically disseminated virulent anti-Semitic literature. Less extreme or overtprejudice has also been evident in the business world; for example, in some insurance firms and other commercial enterprises. Quotas exist for Jewish pupils in some elite schools, and Jews have been excluded from the membership of some recreational clubs. At the same time forces more favorable to gentile-Jewish relations have been growing in the postwar period. Special efforts made by the Council of Christians and Jews, established in 1942 and functioning through its 20 branches, have succeeded in fostering better Jewish-gentile relations in the 1960s.> (col. 770)

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6,
                  col.772, medal 300 years Jews in England 1656-1956
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col.772, medal 300 years Jews in England 1656-1956


from: Discrimination; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 6

The American pattern of social discrimination was paralleled, at least to some extent, in the United Kingdom. In the early 1960s it was estimated that approximately one-half of British golf clubs prevented, as far as possible, the admission of Jews to membership. Usually a quota system was applied, although in Manchester nearly 100 clubs adhered to an unwritten "Aryan (col. 70)

paragraph" providing for total exclusion. Whether and to what extent there was a decline in club discrimination from the middla and late 1960s was never studied. Private school (called "public" school in England) enrollment was also characterized by a form of snobbish discrimination effected by the quota system. A London newspaper study in the late 1950s showed that the best-known boys' "public" schools limited the number of Jewish students to 10-15%. Some girls' "public" schools excluded Jews entirely, while others placed a 10% quota on them. The absence of careful studies on "executieve suite" discrimination made judgment about employment practices in England difficult, although in the 1960s relatively few Jews were found in finance and heavy industry. It can be surmised, however, that this problem and related forms of social discrimination were less pressing than in the United States. As in America, the political sphere was virtually devoid of discrimination. The basic motivation of discrimination in England appeared to be social, a vestige of patrician snobbishness perhaps reinforced by religious considerations. The extent to which the American pattern of social discrimination was present in other Western and Latin American countries was not made the object of any scientific study.> (col. 71)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col.765-766
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col.765-766
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col.767-768
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col.767-768
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col.769-770
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col.769-770