JCR-UK

Provincial Jewry
in Victorian Britain

 

 

   
 


Extract from papers on
Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain

Papers prepared by Dr. (later Prof.) Aubrey Newman for a conference at University College, London, convened on 6 July 1975 by the Jewish Historical Society of England
Reproduced here with Prof. Newman's kind consent)

  

Page created: 25 May 2017
Latest revision: 25 May 2017

ZIONISM IN PROVINCIAL BRITAIN

by Dr. S. LEVENBERG

(For reasons of space this paper was cut severely in length by by the editor of the Conference papers.
The editor stated that he assumed full responsibility for these unavoidable cuts.)

I

Although most of the early Zionist activities in Britain were most obvious in London, there was a great deal of activity in the provincial communities as well, sometimes related to events in London but very often completely independent. There were at various times in the middle of the nineteenth century a number of early 'Zionist' societies, but it was not until the early eighties that the work for Jewish resettlement in the Holy Land acquired a more systematic character. This was due to the increased Jewish persecution in Czarist Russia, the publication of Leon Pinsker's famous pamphlet Auto-Emancipation and the establishment of 'Chovove Zion' Societies in various countries.

The new movement in its initial stages was of a religious-philanthropic character. The first society in Britain was founded in London by Kalman (Charles) Woolrauch, who had come to England from Central Europe and was active in Whitechapel. The first conference of 'Chovove Zion' societies was held in Kattowitz in Prussia. There were 22 delegates from Russia, six from Germany, two from England, and one each from France and Roumania. The Kattowitz Conference decided to establish the 'Montefiore Association' for the support of Jewish settlement in Palestine in honour of Sir Moses Montefiore's hundredth birthday. The London 'Chovove Zion' society, established 'to colonise the Holy Land of our fathers by Jewish toil' did not achieve much in the financial field nor in the sphere of organisation, and a new attempt was made in 1887 when Russian immigrants formed in Whitechapel a 'Kadimah' group. Some of its members advocated Jewish settlement in Palestine, and others were mainly interested in educational work. The arrival in London of Chaim Zundel Maccoby (the Kamenitzer Maggid) played a tremendous part in rousing the enthusiasm of the masses in the revival of Jewish life in the Land of Israel. He was a great scholar, a pious Jew, and a man of considerable eloquence; his addresses attracted large audiences, and he showed them that the ideas of 'Chovove Zion' and strict orthodoxy were compatible.

At first the movement was confined to Whitechapel, but it gradually spread to the West End where it attracted well-established Jewish personalities of British stock. The Jewish Chronicle of 8 May 1891 contained a report of a meeting in Bloomsbury presided over by Sergeant Sir John Simon, a pillar of the Reform Zionism Synagogue, and attended by Sir Philip Magnus, Herman Landau, Sir Francis Montefiore, and Colonel Albert Goldsmid. Among other sympathisers were Dr. Hermann Adler, Dr. Moses Gaster, Eikan Adler, Albert Jessel, Herbert Bentwich, Rabbi Professor H. Gollancz, Joseph Nath, Louis Schloss, Chaim Guedalla, Captain H. Lewis-Barnard, Bernard Birnbaum, S. R. Rubinstein, and E. W. Rabinowicz. Some of these, or their children, left their mark in the history of Anglo-Jewry; some later joined the Zionist Federation, some lost interest, and others became sharp opponents of political Zionism.

The British 'Chovove Zion' movement had a number of outstanding leaders, but the publication of Herzl's pamphlet, The Jewish State, led to a division amongst them. Some of the leaders feared that the ideas of political Zionism would upset the Sultan of Turkey and endanger the existing Jewish settlements in Palestine. Herzl's first visit to London was in November 1895, but in July 1896 he came again defending the aims of political Zionism. He declared: 'smaller people than Jews dared to demand a piece of land; they had courage and obtained their aim.' He added: 'A people cannot be helped through philanthropy but by political means.' His negotiations with the leading figures of the 'Chovove Zion' did not bring any results; they maintained their cool attitude and kept aloof.

Why did many leaders of the 'Chovove Zion' oppose Herzl's ideas? There were a variety of reasons. Some feared competition; after all, they were first in the field as the advocates of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. Some feared that the ideas of political Zionism would endanger the Jewish community in Palestine which greatly depended on the goodwill of the despotic Sultan of Turkey. There were those who worried about the attitude of Baron Rothschild of Paris, who made large financial contributions to the Yishuv and whose motivations were of a philanthropic nature. The 'Chovove Zion' advocated slow 'infiltration' into Palestine through 'quiet work'. Herzl was anxious to make the Jewish problem 'an international issue' and strove for 'a Jewish Home' secured by 'Public Law'. Some of the Orthodox elements among the 'Chovove Zion' considered Herzl a free-thinker; others were frightened of his progressive ideas (he spoke about a 7-hour work day) and branded him 'a Socialist'. There were also leading figures among the 'Chovove Zion' for whom the whole idea of a 'Jewish return to Palestine' was either an outlet for their philanthropic instincts or a reply to their search for romanticism. Some of them believed that Herzl's approach could remove the accusations in 'dual loyalties' and lead to an increase of anti-semitism.

The 'Chovove Zion' were by no means united in their approach. Some were anxious for compromise and unity; others declared an uncompromising struggle against Herzl, whom they considered a self-appointed spokesman of a new movement. A notable example was that of the banker Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling) the Member of Parliament for Whitechapel; he was keenly attached to the Holy Land, but avoided public identification with Political Zionist ideas, which he considered dangerous. It was mainly among the foreign-born section of the community that Herzl found his supporters. Chief among them was Dr. Moses Gaster, the Haham of the Sephardi community, who combined scholarship and oratory with a strong personality; he played an important part in the history of British Zionism and in the events leading to the publication of the 'Balfour Declaration'. It was in the East End of London that Herzl met with his first enthusiastic welcome.

Jacob de Haas was one of the few British-born Jews who joined Herzl. He was the Assistant Editor of the Jewish World and a contributor to the general Press. From 1897 to 1905 he was a member of the World Zionist 'Action Committee'. Inspired by Herzl, Herbert Bentwich, another British-born Jew and a leader of the 'Chovove Zion', organised a 'Pilgrimage' to the Holy Land (April-May 1897); among the 21 participants were Israel Zangwill, Asher Feldman, the painter Isaac Snowman, the writer Ben-Susan. The venture played a valuable part in furthering Zionist ideas in Britain. When the first Zionist Congress was convened in August 1897, a sharp controversy ensued between its supporters and opponents. Leaders of the 'Chovove Zion' refused to participate; they denounced the venture as an 'irresponsible act'; they stressed the importance of practical work in Palestine which was being endangered, they claimed, by political adventurers. The Jewish Chronicle, too, opposed the Congress idea. Among those who went to Basle were a number of observers; only a few went because of Zionist convictions. The 'Chovove Zion' were divided; some continued their opposition against the World Zionist Organisation formed at the Basle Congress; others - led by Bentwich and Gaster - were anxious for cooperation. Internal discussions led to the famous Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference on May 6th, 1893; its purpose was to consider the possibility of unity between the supporters of Herzl and the 'Chovove Zion'. The Clerkenwell Conference was attended by delegates from 27 'tents' of the 'Chovove Zion' and from 15 non-affiliated Zionist Societies. It was chaired by 3 leaders of 'Chovove Zion': Col. Goldsmid, Joseph Prag and Herbert Bentwich.

It was resolved at the Clerkenwell Conference to appoint a Committee consisting of 6 representatives of the 'Chovove Zion' and 6 from the non-affiliated bodies to draw up a scheme for the formation of a Zionist Federation. It looked that the Movement was on the way to unity. But very soon Col. Goldsmid and a number of other leaders of the 'Chovove Zion' had second thoughts; they were not prepared to give up the existence of their organisation. At the end of August 1898 the Second Zionist Congress assembled in Switzerland. Fifteen delegates came from Britain where there already existed 26 Zionist soeieties. Among the delegates was Herbert Bentwich whose participation signified a rift with the 'Chovove Zion' and his adherence to Herzl's camp.

The Second Zionist Congress did not end the clashes between the supporters of the World Zionist Organisation and the 'Chovove Zion'. With each successive visit of Herzl to London, however, his following increased. This process was intensified through the establishment of the Zionist (Colonial) Bank. The rich Jewish bankers took a negative line but the Jewish masses responded with great enthusiasm. 10,000 people came to Herzl's meeting in October 1898. The foundations of the bank were laid with James Loewe as Secretary. Zionist leaders felt that the time was ripe for the implementation of the decision taken at the Clerkenwell Conference - the setting up of a Federation.

The new Federation started to organise its forces in the provinces where Zionist speakers received an enthusiastic reception. Still, the opposition against the new movement was strong. There were frequent clashes with the 'Chovove Zion' who arranged occasional meetings and sent delegates to an international Conference of similar groups held in Paris.

The official leaders of Anglo-Jewry including Dr. Hermann Adler were strongly opposed to the new Federation. Prominent intellectuals like Claude Montefiore, Israel Abrahams, and Lucien Wolf advanced every conceivable argument against political Zionism. Their opposition was reinforced by the Jewish Chronicle which was sharp in its criticism until 1907 when it passed under Zionist control.

The Zionist Federation encountered, too, the hostility of the strictly-orthodox sections. The 'Kamnizer Magid' who had played such a great part in rallying the Jewish masses to the banner of the 'Chovove Zion' disliked Herzl's ideas and lost no opportunity to attack the leaders of the Federation. There was also vigorous opposition from the anti-Zionist Labour circles who saw in Zionism a 'nationalised diversion' from the struggle for the Social revolution.

The first Annual Conference of the British Zionist Federation took place on June 26, 1899; it was attended by delegates from London, Birmingham, Blackburn, Belfast, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, Limerick, Manchester and Sheffield.

The Zionist Federation had difficult 'birth-pangs'. When it was formed toward the evening of the 19th century few people in Britain considered the likelihood that they were witnessing the emergence of a political movement which would transform the Anglo-Jewish community and play an important part in World Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish State.

II.

Several pro-Zion Societies were established in provincial cities during the 80's of the last century; at first, they were inspired by developments in Eastern Europe and had little contact with London or neighbouring towns. It was at a later date that these provincial groups joined the 'Chovove Zion Association' in Britain.

Palestina - the official organ of the new movement - reported in its first issue - published in October 1892 - the existence of 22 branches in the following provincial cities:

Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin, Limerick, Sunderland, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Sheffield, Grimsby, Tredegar, Newport, Henley, Hull, Merthyr Tidfyl, Plymouth, Cardiff.

The anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia; the persecution of Jews in Romania; the influx of Jewish immigrants into Britain; the emergence of 'Chovove Zion' Societies in Eastern Europe; the First Aliyah into Palestine; religious motivations; the search for new social values; romantic ideas about the restoration of the 'Jewish Kingdom' - all tnese factors combined were the driving force behind the establishment of the new movement.

The membership of the 'Chovove Zion' Societies in the provinces was a mixture of various elements. Some were poor immigrants, living in the world of the 'old home', and others were well-established. Some were motivated by philanthropic considerations, others were keen on diverting the influx of Jewish refugees from Britain to Palestine and some were ardent believers in the Jewish national idea and the restoration of Judea, On the whole, there was more co-operation between various sections of Anglo-Jewry within 'Chovove Zion' Societies than any other communal endeavour.

Jacob de Haas reported to the First Zionist Congress (1897) that there existed in Britain 30 Zionist Societies with a membership of 3,000 and a yearly income of 250.

After the Basle Assembly, the 'Chovove Zion' movement disintegrated in the course of a few years; a number of its active supporters joined the new Zionist Federation, others either lost interest or joined the opponents of the Jewish national movement (several, later, backed the 'territorialists' led by Israel Zangwill).

After its establishment - in June 1899 - the Zionist Federation carried out an intensive propaganda-campaign in the provinces.

In his Trial and Error, Chaim Weizmann presents the following vivid picture of the Zionist Movement in Manchester and the other provincial cities at the beginning of the present century:

The leadership of the Manchester Jewish Community rested between Charles Dreyfus and Nathan Laski ... Mr. Laski was of Russian origin, and his interest in the Zionist movement was therefore more natural. The great majority of German Jews in Manchester were dissociated from their people, and many of them were converts to Christianity. Dreyfus and the other members of his family, who came from Geneva, were honourable exceptions. There was also in Manchester a considerable settlement of Sephardic Jews, important because of the role they played in the cotton trade with India and Egypt. But by far the largest part of the community was made up of Russian Jews who were, as usual, very poor, very Jewish, and, to me, very attractive. With them I felt most at home.

In the other towns - that is, in Leeds, Halifax, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bradford ... I found communities modelled very much on the Manchester pattern: a handful of devotees to the cause among the lower-middle classed, indifference or hostility among the upper classes, whether of British, German or Russian origin, but with the largest number of exceptions in the last. With some of the well-to-do Russian Jews one could at least talk, though they, like the others, displayed their Jewish interest chiefly in the founding of hospitals and orphan asylums, and in other local philanthropies - visible and tangible enterprises which redounded to the credit of the communities and the glory of the patrons. The Rabbis and Hebrew teachers were friendly to us; so was the Jewish press - what there was of it. The old English-Jewish families might just as well have belonged to another world.

On the whole the communities were sombre and drab. There was rarely a decent hall to hold meetings in; Usually we gathered in an room in some gloomy building.

At the end of the 19th century the ideas of Labour Zionism were brought to England by immigrants from Eastern Europe; they tried to combine - in an organic way - the ideas of Jewish national revival with general Socialist outlook. But already in the 80's of the last century there were prominent Jewish revolutionaries who - as individuals - joined the 'Chovove Zion' and, later, played an important part in the development of the Zionist Federation.

Manchester

The Hebrew weekly Hamaggid - published in Lyck, East Prussia - mentions in its issue of Elul, 5643 (1883) the formation of a 'Love of Zion' Society in Manchester. Money collected by members of the group was sent to David Gordon, the editor of the periodical who was an ardent advocate of the Return to the Holy Land. It was Gordon - he lived in London as a young man and was, later, a correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle - who was chosen in 1884 by the 'Chovove Zion' Societies in Russia to present Sir Moses Montefiore with a special album on his 100th birthday. The Manchester Society was formed on the initiative of Rabbi Menachem Dagutsky, who was, later, a delegate at the Third Zionist Congress (1899); his close co-worker was Benjamin Halevi Tarshish, who was previously engaged in the formation of a Society for Hebrew-speaking people. The formation of the Manchester 'Love of Zion' group was a response to the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and the reports from Palestine about a crisis in the settlements of Rosh Pinah and Zichron Ya'akov.

The first supporters of the new Society were immigrants who had more contact with the Hebrew weekly Hamaggid than with like- minded Jews in London or other provincial cities. For instance, when the idea was put forward about the, establishment of a national Association of 'Chovove Zion' Societies, Manchester asked David Gordon for advice and guidance. The work of the 'Love of Zion' Society - formed in 1883 - was on a small scale but it laid the ground for an expansion of activities at a later date. In the month of August 1890, several meetings were held which resulted in the formation of a revived 'Chovove Zion' Society (Tent No. 3 of the British Movement); it was addressed by Chaim Zundel Maccoby (the 'Kamenitzer Maggid'). A leading figure in the new group was Barrow Isaak Belisha - a founder of the Sephardi community in the city. At the beginning of 1891 a declaration was drawn up "by the duly appointed representatives of a large number of Jewish working men and women in the city of Manchester" expressing the view that a home must be found for some of the persecuted Russian Jews in the Holy Land - "that land which is sanctified with our past glories and identified with our future hopes".

The Manifesto stated that 400 members of the working classes have joined the 'Chovove Zion' Society and agreed to pay 1d. per week and upwards towards its Funds. At a private meeting - held on March 8th, 1891 - Belisha put forward a proposal that a small company should be established with a capital of 10,000, in shares of fa each, to sponsor various projects in Palestine. The plan was adopted; many persons subscribed about 900. This was a remarkable success but the project aroused strong opposition by several persons; and endangered the progress of the new movement. As a result the following resolution was adopted on July 5th, 1891:

That in view of the paramount importance of a branch of the 'Chovove Zion' Association being established in the city (which branch shall be affiliated with the Headquarters of the Organisation in London), this meeting resolves not to proceed at present with the programme of the Manchester Society for promoting Jewish colonisation in the Holy Land, so as not to delay the establishment of a Manchester Tent of the Chovove Zion Association.

Just at this time, disturbing reports reached Manchester of the great distress and suffering prevailing amongst newly-arrived immigrants in Palestine. A special collection was made with the result that 21 was forwarded to Jerusalem.

The Manchester Tent arranged a series of Public Meetings and received a great deal of publicity in the local Press. A notable event was a Public gathering on Sunday, July 30th, 1893, in the Derby Hall, Cheetham, addressed by Lieutenant Colonel Goldsmid - under B.I. Belisha's Chairmanship; it was attended by 1,500 people. The Manchester branch urged the headquarters of the 'Chovove Zion' in London to publish material which could be distributed among the middle classes and well-to-do people; it argued that without this it would be difficult to gain supporters within these circles. This initiative played a certain part in the decision to issue Palestina - the official organ of the movement in England.

Another initiative by the Manchester branch was in the sphere of Aliyah. 18 young members decided to form a separate framework embracing people from the age of 18 to 28, able to work on the land. The aim was to save a certain weekly amount which would enable them to settle in Palestine during a period of 5-6 years. There was also a larger initial payment for members of the group. 150 were collected until October 1893. Belisha approached Elim d'Avigdor, the head of the Association, with the question whether the leadership of the movement would be prepared to sell the land which the British 'Chovove Zion' acquired in Palestine, or whether the group of young people had to apply to Baron Rothschild in Paris. He also wanted to ascertain the possibility of obtaining loans from private individuals to enable the prospective olim to fulfil their plans. He was convinced that if 50 well-to-do Jewish persons would each provide the sum of 160 (this was the sum needed for the settlement of one family), then there would be a possibility to send 50 families to Palestine. Manchester, in conjunction with other provincial groups, was anxious to create facilities for the settlement of its young members in the Golan on land acquired by Baron Rothschild. The headquarters in London did not take a stand on this pioneering initiative. But when the Turkish authorities made clear during the autumn of 1893 that they would not allow Jewish immigrants to settle in Golan, the national leaders of the movement called upon Manchester and other provincial branches to refrain from buying land in this area. This led to a great deal of bitterness among Manchester members.

The rift with the leadership in London grew in other directions too. There was a desire in Manchester to introduce a tax in favour of the Yishuv in Eretz Israel; there was a desire, too, to expand cultural activities. These new plans did not meet with sufficient understanding among the official London leaders; they were implemented at a later date, after the establishment of the World Zionist Organisation in 1897.

Dr. Herzl's visits to London, and the subsequent decision to convene the First Zionist Congress, had repercussions in Manchester where a controversy ensued between the stalwarts of 'Chovove Zion' and the supporters of Political Zionism. At first,, there was a general desire to preserve unity. When Jacob de Haas and Ephraim Ish-Kishor visited Manchester to propagate Herzl's ideas they made it clear at a public meeting that the participation in the Basle Congress did not imply non-confidence in the leadership of the 'Chovove Zion'. But after the First Zionist Congress a division took place within the Zionist ranks. Besides the old 'Chovove Zion' Society, there emerged new groups: 'Dorshei Zion', 'Vaad Zion' and a branch of the 'Order of Ancient Maccabeans' which urged co-operation with the Vienna headquarters of the World Zionist Organisation with Dr. Herzl as its President.

Three Zionist Societies from Manchester participated in the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference (May 6th, 1898): the 'Vaad Zion' (Chairman Joseph Massell, with an official membership of 1,301); 'Dorshei Zion' (92 members); and the 'Order of Ancient Maccabeans' (31 members). There is no mention of a 'Chovove Zion' group, which seems to have discontinued its activities. The Jewish Chronicle Year Book for the year 1898/9 mentions a new Zionist Society in Manchester - 'Bnei Zion'. At the first Conference of the Zionist Federation (June 20th, 1899) H.M. Benoliel from Manchester was elected as a member of the Executive together with the other top leaders of the new movement, each of whom acted in turn as Chairman of the Organisation.

Leeds

Like in Manchester, new immigrants played a vital part in the pro-Zion movement established in Leeds. On Sunday, September 9th, 1883, a meeting took place at the New Briggate Hebrew Synagogue; it discussed the position in Eretz Israel. It was decided to set up a special group for this purpose. It was also resolved to arrange collections in private homes and to put boxes in work-places, enabling people to make their contributions. A report on the meeting was published in the Hebrew periodical Hamaggid. A subsequent report, written by a synagogue official, mentions the sense of loneliness felt by members of the new Society. In spite of this, the group carried on with its activities until the year 1888. A new attempt to revive the work was made during the summer of 1891, when a 'Chovove Zion' Society was set up in Leeds; once again Chaim Zundel Maccoby played an important part in rousing the masses to the importance of Zion reborn. 200 families started to save up a weekly sum for colonisation purposes in Palestine. Contact was established with the Hebrew periodical Hatzfirah; there was a desire to work jointly with 'Chovove Zion' Societies in Russia. Thus the orientation was on the 'old home' - not on co-operation with similar Societies in London; only later did the Leeds group join the British 'Chovove Zion Association' as 'Tent No. 12'. In a letter to Dr. S.A. Hirsh, Secretary of the 'Chovove Zion Association' in London, A. Wainer from Leeds suggested on December 15th, 1894 that the Chief Rabbi should put the old Mosaic law into force and introduce the Shekel. There should be an obligation upon every Jew, rich or poor, he wrote, to pay his share on Purim day and this money should be used for land purchase in Palestine.

On the whole, pro-Zionist activities in Leeds were of a limited nature till the emergence of Dr. Herzl with his new and challenging ideas. But it had to be borne in mind that there were only 500 Jewish families in the city by 1877; large waves of immigrants arrived only after the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia of 1881 and they had to work hard to make a living. For some time the newcomers carried on the traditions of their home-towns.

Prior to the First Zionist Congress, Leeds was visited by two Herzl supporters - Jacob de Haas and Ephraim Ish Kishor - but the city did not send its own delegate to Basle; it appointed as its representative Dr. David Farbstein from Zurich who reported at the Congress on the economic situation of the Jewish people; he was, later, a Socialist deputy in the Swiss National Council. At the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference 2 Leeds Societies were represented: a 'Chovove Zion' group and a 'Hebrew Literary and Zionist Association', whose President was Dr. Moses Umansky; he was elected as one of the co-Chairmen of the newly-established Zionist Federation.

Edinburgh

A 'Chovove Zion' Society was established in August 1890; it was most successful among the hundred and fifty families in the city and had a membership of 160. Addresses on Palestine were given to the group by Elim d'Avigdor, Joseph Prag, the Rev. S. Furst, the Rev. M. Cohen, the Rev. S. Lewin, the Rev. Chaim Z. Maccoby and the Rev. Isidor Myers - a popular speaker in many provincial cities. The Society was supported by Christian sympathisers led by the Rev. William Paterson, a person highly sympathetic to the plight of the persecuted Jews in Russia and Jewish settlement in Palestine. He established an Auxiliary 'Lovers of Zion Society' which was backed by churches in Scotland. M. Shapira from Edinburgh was a member of the 'Chovove Zion' Association Executive in Britain; another leader of the local movement was Dr. M. Friedenberger. The Edinburgh group was not represented at the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference but it expressed solidarity with the headquarters of the Movement on behalf of 100 members. There was no delegate from Edinburgh at the first Conference of the Zionist Federation.

Glasgow

The 'Chovove Zion' Movement in Glasgow developed on similar lines to those in Manchester and Leeds, but on a smaller scale; there is a scarcity of information about its initial stages. But it is known that a Society existed in the city in 1890.

David Wolffe was the Commander of the Glasgow 'Tent No. 6'. He declared at a meeting held on December 20th, 1892 that "the Association has at the present day branches all over the British Isles". He praised the work of the Rev. Chaim Zundel Maccoby and Lt. Col. Goldsmid who visited the city.

The Glasgow 'Chovove Zion' Society was represented at the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference with 100 members; there was also a delegate from the Junior Branch ('Cadets') with 50 members. A group from Glasgow was represented at the First Conference of the Zionist Federation (June 1899).

Liverpool

There are early indications of pro-Zion activities in Liverpool. On February 8th, 1885 the 'Chovove Zion' group in London arranged a public meeting. Rabbi H. Burman from Liverpool who was present expressed his intention to establish a branch in his city. In April 1885, Rabbi Hermann Adler went on a Mission to Palestine. He was accompanied by Baron Lewis Benas from Liverpool, the leader of the local branch of the A.J.A.; on his return he stressed the importance of professional advice for immigrants and proper facilities for absorption. A 'Chovove Zion' Society (Tent No. 15) was established in Liverpool on September 2nd, 1891. The 'Chovove Zion' had a strong link with Liverpool because two of its prominent leaders were born in the city: Samuel Montagu and Joseph Prag.

At the end of 1893 a new Society 'Dorshei Zion' was established in Liverpool; it followed the pattern of similar groups in London and Manchester, which laid stress on cultural work and the desire to settle in Palestine. During March 1895, Liverpool was visited by Chaim Zundel Maccoby. According to a Report published in Palestina his address lasted 3 hours and during that period he held the audience spell-bound by his eloquence. Another public meeting was held on January 24th, 1897. An Address was given by Joseph Prag with A.H. Samuels - the Commander of the 'Tent' - in the Chair. About 300 people were in the audience; 40 now members wore enrolled. During the summer of 1897 the city was visited by Jacob de Haas and Ephraim Ish Kishor to propagate the idea of the First Zionist Congress, which was attended by A. Ginsburg from Liverpool.

At the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference the city was represented by the 'Chovove Zion' Society with 80 members; by the 'Dorshei Zion' group with 65 members; by the 'National Zionist League' (formed in 1897 as a pro-Herzl movement, collecting money on a 'Shekel' basis) with 600 members, and a branch of the 'Order of Ancient Maccabeans'. At the Conference, the Liverpool 'Dorshei Zion', while supporting settlements in Palestine, stressed the need of setting up a political movement; they also urged that the Jaffa Hebrew School be under Zionist control.

 Birmingham

In 1891 a 'Chovove Zion' Society was established in Birmingham (Tent No. 20). In October 1893, the local Society forwarded to the London headquarters of the movement the name of a candidate for Aliyah; a reply received indicated that there were no financial means available for immigration purposes. This answer aroused the fury of the Birmingham branch. Its Chairman said that if it were expected that every settler should cover the expenses, why was there a need for a movement? Was it not a duty to help those who have no means themselves?

There is no information about the Society's activities during the controversy relating to the First Zionist Congress, but at the Clerkenwell Town Hall Conference the 'Chovove Zion' group represented 189 members; the local 'Talmud Torah' also sent a delegate.

In the Jewish Chronicle Year Book for the year 1898/9 it is recorded that a new Zionist Society had been established.

Zionist Activities in other Cities

There were active 'Chovove Zion' Societies in Dublin; Sunderland (100 members, addressed by Chaim Zundel Maccoby, the Rev. A. Green, and the Rev. S. Philips); North and South Shields (90 members - J. Pearlman and S. Finn were leading figures); Stockton-on-Tees (every member of congregation was a member of its 'Chovove Zion' Society); Newport (Mon.) had 65 members; Merthyr Tydfil (Chairman Julius Prag); Limerick; Middlesbrough; Cardiff; Plymouth (leading figure - J. Rosenman); Cork (leader A.H. Goldfoot); Hull (leader B.J. Jacobs); Cambridge; Newcastle (leading figure Rev. Mendelson).

After the establishment of the Zionist Federation, the Rev. Dr. I. Strauss and Jacob Mozer emerged as prominent leaders in the city of Bradford. The latter played an important part in the city (Lord Mayor during 1909-10) and the Jewish community; he provided funds for the establishment of the famous Herzlsich School in Tel Aviv - and other Zionist projects.

The Jewish Chronicle Year Book for the year 1898/9 published for the first time a list of Zionist Societies in Britain.

Chovove Zion Societies

1) Birmingham - Secretary, S.S. Gordon.

2) Cardiff - Hon. Secretary, Rev. I. Abelson.

3) Edinburgh - Hon. Secretary, B.L. Freeman.

4) Exeter - Hon. Secretary, Charles Cohen.

5) Glasgow - M. Kutner.

6) Hull Cadet Tent - J. Lichtenstein.

7) Leeds - L. Freed.

8) Liverpool - M. Rosenbaum.

9) Merthyr Tydfil - Rev. I. Jaffe.

10) Middlesbrough - Rev. M.E. Davis.

11) Newcastle-on-Tyne - A. Solomon.

12) Newport (Mon.) - L. Jacobs.

13) North & South Shields - H. Alprovich.

14) Norwich - E. Isaacson.

15) Plymouth - E. Plaskowsky.

16) Portsmouth - Rev. Isaac Phillips.

17) Sheffield - M. Barlass.

18) Stockton-on-Tees - Rev. B. Cohen.

19) South Shields - A. Compertz.

20) Sunderland - Rev. I. Muscat.

 

Societies in Great Britain - Unaffiliated with the Chovove Zion

1) Beni Zion, Manchester.

2) Beth Hamedrash, Manchester.

3) Dorshei Zion, Manchester.

4) Hanley - Hon. Secretary, Rev. M. Gumberg.

5) Leeds Hebrew Literary and Zion Association - Secretary, Dr. M. Umansky.

6) Hebrew School, Leeds.

7) National Zionist League, Liverpool - Secretary, M. Rosenberg

8) Sephat Zion, Belfast - Secretary, M. Levy.

9) Vaad Hazioni, Manchester.

10) Zionist Association, Dublin - Secretary, Dr. S.F. Wigador.

11) Zionist Association, Limerick - Secretary, B. Weinwronk.


Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain - List of Contents

Formatted by David Shulman

 


 

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