JCR-UK

The Jewish East End
1840-1939

 

 

   
 


East End Jewish Working Men's Clubs
affiliated to the Working Men's Club and Institute
1870-1914

by Harold Pollins

(Harold Pollins is the author of "A History of the Jewish Working Men's Club and Institute
1874-1912", published by Ruskin College Library Occasional Publications, No. 2, 1981))

From papers edited and prepared by Dr. (later Prof.) Aubrey Newman
for a conference held on 22 October 1980 jointly by the Jewish Historical Society of England
and the Jewish East End Project of the Association for Jewish Youth
(Reproduced here with the kind consent of Prof. Newman and the late Harold Pollins)
(Pages 173-192)

During the three or four decades before World War I the East End was completely transformed by the arrival of East European immigrants. Inevitably, and rightly, Anglo-Jewish historiography of that period has concentrated on this new group: the modern community is firmly based on its descendants. Yet there was another Jewish East End whose members kept themselves apart from the newcomers. Some were the descendants of earlier immigrations, others were more recent arrivals (notably from Holland), but they were distinctive in being more accustomed than the East Europeans to the ways of the western world. These two groups had their synagogues and formed their own secular organisations. The differences between them went as far as outright hostility. 'Dutch' Jews and 'Polish' Jews would not inter-marry, each looking down upon the other: Israel Zangwill, in The Children of the Ghetto (1892), for example, brings this out quite clearly.

The anglicised Jews, however, remained an important element in the East End and this paper aims to draw attention to one element in their separate culture. While the immigrants regarded the non-Jewish world with hostility and suspicion, the English Jews did not. They certainly wished to retain their Jewish identity but they were also acculturated into English traditions and they had less experience of anti-semitism: they were not so fearful of the outside environment. One indication of this was the establishment of a number of Jewish working men's clubs which were affiliated to the Working Men's Club & Institute Union. Many other Jewish clubs were formed in London and the provinces but not all were affiliated. (I refer to the 'respectable' clubs not the ephemeral gambling dens which Booth described in his survey of London.)

The significance of affiliation to the Union was the close contact between the various clubs: as well as formal visits by one club to another, members could attend the activities of affiliated clubs. The Jewish clubs took part in these connections, as the Union's journals testify. This was obviously a different world from that of the inward-looking immigrants. This small segment of the East End - small, that is, compared with the burgeoning immigrant activities, but, in the case of the Jewish Working Men's Club, a major East End institution of the period - is the focus of attention of this paper.

A few preliminary points need to be made:

1) The history of these Jewish clubs is mainly pre-1914; only one continued after World War I, until 1932. This compares with the longevity of the Manchester (1887-1977) and the Leeds (1912- 1963) clubs, affiliated to the CIU.

2) Jewish participation in the movement was wider than just the activities of the Jewish clubs. Individual Jews belonged to other clubs and in the early years of the Union (before it was democratised in the 1880s) a number of upper-class Jews were associated with it. Sir Julian Goldsmid was on the Council and financial contributions were made by Sir Francis Goldsmid, Frederick David Mocatta and Baroness Lionel de Rothschild.

3) This paper is intended also as a contribution to the history of working men's clubs, a subject of growing interest in recent years. It is no more than a rapid sketch, limited by the constraints of this conference, and a fuller account of the Jewish Working Men's Club - which in the 1870s and 1880s was one of the largest in the Union - is being separately prepared.

Working Men's Clubs

The Working Men's Club & Institute Union was founded in 1862 by well-meaning middle and upper-class people. Its purpose was to encourage the formation of clubs for working men which would combine instruction with recreation. At the beginning they were intended to be alternatives to public houses and alcoholic drinks were therefore prohibited. But individual clubs began to supply drink, on the grounds that members wanted it and that without the revenue from its sale the clubs could not survive financially. The union grudgingly accepted this change and this sign of membership influence was confirmed in the 1880s when the Union became more democratic. The Council became composed of delegates from the clubs and the middle and upper-class patrons disappeared from it (but not from their association with individual clubs). The other major change was the decline of education within the clubs. Increasingly they emphasised the recreational side of their activities.

This was generally true of all clubs - by the end of the century the club newspapers mainly advertised socials and entertainments - but their other interests continued, and simple generalisations about hundreds of clubs can be misleading. They were of many kinds: some purely social, some overtly political (of many different views, Radical, Conservative, even Communist ones in the early 20th century). Some were for particular occupations, some remained teetotal. One firm generalisation though, can be made. Clubs normally did not admit women as members (only as visitors). The fact that women could join the Jewish Working Men's Club and were elected to office singles it out within the movement.

During the 1860s, the first years of the Union, the existence of working men's clubs became known and those who were interested in the condition of the Jewish working class, mainly in the East End, began to think along those lines. In addition to the desire to remedy what were seen as deficiencies in working class life there were the particular Jewish features such as the need to combat Christian conversionism, to fight irreligious practices (notably the desecration of the Sabbath), and to improve the image of the Jews in British society. Drink was not seen as a major Jewish problem, but gambling was. The Jewish papers frequently complained of the latter, which was said to affect all classes in the community. A commonly-held view about drink was expressed by an editorial in the Jewish Chronicle in July 1868: 'The case of a drunken Jew is scarcely known. The name of a drunken Jew is scarcely ever found in the police sheet'.

There had been earlier efforts at adult education within the community whether of a religious kind or such secular attempts as the 'Sussex Hall' experiment in the City of London, which lasted for a few years in the 1840s and 1850s. The idea of adopting the Club & Institute Union's approach seems first to have been mooted in the late 1860s, and there was a considerable discussion in the Jewish weekly press; a short-lived competitor to the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Record certainly pressed for efforts to improve Jewish working class life in the East End. Thus it printed reports of working men's clubs, no doubt to arouse interest within the community. In February 1869 it described a concert at the Newcastle Working Men's Club (there is no indication of any Jewish involvement in it), and drew particular attention several times to the Bedford Institute Working Men's Club in Quaker Street, Spitalfields. The Bedford Institute, a Quaker body, was established in 1865, the premises combining a school (which had begun as early as 1849) and a workmen's club. The latter was opened in 1867, and Jews in the district joined it. The Jewish Record reported in February 1870 that the club 'numbers among its committee and members a fair and uncreasing (sic) number of coreligionists'. The paper favourably reported the club's activities, although thinking that the comic songs at one entertainment were senseless, and commented 'many coreligionists take an active interest in its welfare, and for the poorer young men of our community the advantages of the Club are a boon and a great desideratum'.

At one meeting a lecture was given by Ellis A. Davidson, a teacher, on 'The wonders of the animal world', the chair being taken by F. D. Mocatta. Davidson is an important figure in this history. One consequence of the discussion in the Jewish papers was the formation early in 1869 of a body to provide Free Lectures to Jewish Working Men, Davidson being a leading light. At his lecture meetings he proposed several times that a Jewish working men's club be formed. Perhaps because he died fairly young, aged 50, in 1878, he has been largely forgotten but he deserves to be remembered as an advocate of adult education and of working men's clubs within the community.

By coincidence the year 1869 saw two other independent developments, both relevant to this account. First, the Netherlands Choral Society was formed which, as we shall see, later became an affiliated club and was to last until 1932. Second, Samuel Montagu, the banker, became president of the Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge. Surprisingly, this religious education body took the first steps towards the formation of a secular working men's club. It began, though, as a straightforward effort to prevent the desecration of the Sabbath by providing reading rooms where men and women could usefully read newspapers rather than visit public houses and other undesirable places on the Sabbath. The result was the opening in February 1872 of the Jewish Association Reading Rooms in Hutchison Street, Aldgate. The premises - appropriately, perhaps, an old public house, where alcoholic drink was now to be prohibited - were bought by Montagu who provided them free of rent and rates. The lower age limit was at first 15, but was soon changed to 16; and the most surprising feature - given the times - was the admission of girls and women as equal members.

Both the Free Lectures (which did not have their own building and met in various local schoolrooms) and the Reading Rooms combined education with recreation. The latter held debates, concerts and provided facilities for games such as billiards (cards were banned). But while the Free Lectures continued until 1879, the Reading Rooms - often referred to in the Jewish papers as the 'working men's club' - did not last long. Even without having to pay rent or rates the income from members' subscriptions was insufficient to pay the running costs, mainly for heating: the membership varied greatly but over the period averaged only some 200. The experiment came to an end for three reasons: The Jewish Association, a religious education body, was clearly an unsuitable organisation to run a secular club; it was inappropriate too for the club to be subordinated to a parent body; and the members objected to the presence of youths - a common complaint in the early history of working men's clubs. (However, no objection was made to girls being present.)

The Jewish Working Men's Club

In 1874 the Reading Rooms came to an end, to be replaced by the Jewish Working Men's Club, using the same premises with Samuel Montagu as president, who provided the building free of rent and rates for the first year. The new Club was an immediate success, over 1400 joining in the first year, but many must have been trying out something new and the Club claimed only some 700 'regular' members. (The subscriptions were normally paid monthly and since most activities were held in the winter season more joined then than in the summer. These fluctuations continued right throughout the Club's history.) The numbers continued to grow and demands were soon made for better premises. After a public appeal for funds a specially-built centre was constructed in Great Alie Street, where it still stands. This was opened in 1883 and, as ten years earlier, attracted a very large, temporary membership in the first year. Otherwise, the maximum, 1500, was in 1887.

The large membership enabled the Club to survive financially without having to rely on the sale of drink, outside financial support coming only for capital expenditure in 1883 and for further building works in 1891. (Occasional small sums were given for other purposes.) It needed a large membership, therefore, but despite the lower figures after 1887 it kept going until membership fell markedly in its last years. During its lifetime it was a major landmark in East End life. It was regarded with great favour by the two Jewish newspapers (the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish World) which reported its activities, usually with enthusiastic praise. In the early years the Club provided a great many lectures, by both Jews and non-Jews, on a great variety of subjects, some of them being given by young men from university who were to make their name in later life: Joseph Jacobs, Isidore Spielmann, Herbert Bentwich (who was for a time secretary of the Free Lectures), for example. Debates, concerts, billiards, chess, swimming, athletics, were provided by subsidiary societies. In the late 1870s and early 1880s the Club's representatives won the chess trophy in a competition run by the CIU every year. Indeed it had close connections with the Union, and games competitions were held between it and other clubs: however after about 1890 this association declined and the Club had hardly anything to do with the Union or with other clubs. Its premises though were used by many other organisations, Jewish and non-Jewish. Samuel Montagu became M.P. for Tower Hamlets in 1885 and meetings of the local Liberal Party were held there. Prize givings of Jewish schools, meetings of workers on strike, religious services on high holy days, Theodor Herzl's first important Zionist meeting in the 1890s - these are examples of the Club's usage.

Its later history was in line with that of many clubs in the Union. It increasingly moved away from instruction towards recreation. Few lectures were given in its last twenty years although debates certainly continued. It went in for athletics, swimming, cycling, rambles - 'Muscular Judaism' was often spoken of at this time - and its main educational class was in first-aid (or 'ambulance classes' as they were called - a popular item for many clubs). Its Musical Society, formed in 1900, was enterprising enough to put on complete comic operas. The Club provided many dances and balls, the latter usually at the seasons of Purim, Simchas Torah and Chanukah, a Purim Ball being described in The Children of the Ghetto. (The Club, it should be said, was an important institution for the selection of marriage partners.) And the Club was renowned for the Sunday evening concerts at which professionals from the West End stage gave their services free.

Two other features need to be mentioned. It was a pioneer in the history of youth clubs. The banning of young men (but not of girls) under the age of 20 from the Club's inception in 1874 was remedied when the new premises were opened in 1883. Part of the building was used for a Lads' Institute, a kind of preparatory club for the main Club. It had almost 400 members at first, but it had a chequered and unhappy history. After a few years it moved to the old Hutchison Street premises (which from 1883 to 1886 had been occupied by the Cigar Makers' Club & Institute - affiliated to the CIU - run by the Cigar Makers' Mutual Association, a trade union with many Jewish members. Depression in the trade had forced the closure of the club). Later the Lads' Institute returned to Great Alie Street, and the Hutchison Street premises eventually housed the Hutchison House Club, a boys' club established in 1905.

The second was the persistence of a middle-class element. It was by no means uncommon for individual clubs to retain middle-class patronage even after the Union shed that element from its central organisation. More typically, though, the clubs were run by the members, while not averse to welcoming dignitaries as guests. The Jewish Working Men's Club was certainly democratic. The committee was elected each year by the members (according to the descriptions in the papers the elections were conducted with great fervour by the several hundred who attended). Yet the leading officers were middle-class and living outside the district. Moreover it was not uncommon for other such people to attend the Club's activities. This is made clear in a report in the Jewish World of March 1898, describing a Sunday night concert, a one-man show by Percy M. Castello, 'Piano, Banjo, and I'. The report first praised the Club: 'Of institutions that are at any time worthy of a visit, "the club" stands foremost, for though the Jewish Working Men's Club has many satellite competitors, it is still "the club" of the East End ...'. It then described the audience.

The younger members were watching the audience in attitude of true club nonchalance, the young ladies sat quiet, and Mr J.M. Lissack (one of the joint secretaries, a wine importer) seemed to have less difficulty than usual to maintain order. The first three rows were packed with well-known members of the community, and behind sat the members, the ladies in big hats, all vivacity, sparkling and roguish eyes, though their cheeks did not bloom with health. The younger men, so much at home, were for the most part stalwart and strong, and had more of the freshness of open-air life about them than their sisters - altogether a typical gathering of East End English Jews.

Yet the Club came to an end in 1912. Several reasons were put forward at the time and are plausible. Thus new institutions came into existence of a specialised kind which supplanted the facilities provided by the Club. It had had an excellent library, but free libraries were opened locally with much greater resources. Those wanting educational provision could attend university extension classes and those at nearby Toynbee Hall. And after about 1900 people were moving out of the East End. Since the great majority of members were by then not only the anglicised section of East End Jewry but also it seems increasingly white collar and lower middle class, they were not replaced by the larger numbers of East European immigrants now living in the East End.

The Netherlands Choral and Dramatic Society

The JWMC was the most-renowned, but the longest-lived of these Jewish clubs was the Netherlands. Its full name was the Netherlands Choral & Dramatic Society and was a combination of two separate bodies, the Netherlands Choral Society (established 1869) and the Netherlands Dramatic Society (1881). They maintained a separate existence with different premises until at least the late 1880s and then joined together. It is likely that the Dramatic Society affiliated to the CIU in the early 1880s perhaps at about the same time as did the Choral Society. The latter - at first meeting at the Zetland Hall, Mansell Street, a well-known venue for Jewish organisations - had started for the purpose of 'training choristers, and for giving Entertainments in Aid of charitable institutions', in the words of The Jewish Directory for 1874. At first the language used was Dutch. When Samuel Montagu, then Liberal M.P. for the district, opened new premises in 1837, he noted that the society had at last widened its membership to include 'English, German, Polish, and other members' and went on to welcome their decision 'to conduct their proceedings in the English language'. This formal opening had been preceded by a religious service, as were openings at the JWHC in 1883 (and also in 1891, following extensions to the building).

In its early days it was what it set out to he, a choral society. It gave concerts at the Free Lectures meetings, for example. It also raised money for charity: two examples in 1871 were a concert at the New Town Hall, Shoreditch, in aid of the Jewish Workhouse, situated at 123 and 124 Wentworth Street, and also for the 'Chicago sufferers'. In the second they were taking part in a 'Drawing Room Entertainment' organised by the Thespian Literary Club - previously the Jewish Thespian Club - run by Edwin Reynolds, i.e. Eleazar Levy, an actor.

After a few years it moved from the Zetland Hall building its own hall at Vine Court, Whitechapel Road, and it broadened its activities. In 1883, for example, one of its members received a certificate for excellence in the CIU's History examination, and two years later it won the whist tournament held among the Union's metropolitan clubs. Meanwhile the Dramatic Society, at Gun Street, moved to new premises in Bell Lane, near the Jews' Free School: this was to be the combined club's building until it closed in 1932.

The two clubs differed from the JMWC in a number of ways. Their membership was smaller, they did not allow women as members, they sold alcoholic drinks, permitted card-playing, had no educational classes, and no library. The Choral Society, however, provided some lectures. The Choral Society's subscription, at 2s. a month, was four times that of the JMWC; the Dramatic Society charged 7½d. This was in the 1830s and, when the Dell Lane premises were enlarged in 1889 (presumably when the two clubs combined), Stuart H. Samuel, who was to succeed Samuel Montagu as M.P. for Tower Hamlets in 1900, provided funds for a library, and there is reference also to an Ambulance Class (two of the members went to South Africa in 1902 to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps), and to an Athletics Class.

Unlike the Jewish Working Men's Club, the Netherlands was run by the members entirely. The Jewish Directory for 1874 (compiled by Asher Myers, who later that year became secretary of the JMWC and in 1878 editor of the Jewish Chronicle) gave the names and addresses of the Netherlands Choral Society's officers. Fourteen names were listed and all except one lived in the East End. (The exception was the conductor of the choir, William Wasserzug, who lived in West London.) The 1871 Population Census enumerators' forms give details of seven of the thirteen East-Enders, as follows: (the details as given in the Directory appear first; amendments and further details from the Census come next)

Committee of Management

Symon de Haan, Fashion St., Spitalfields (Simon Levi de Haan, Cabinet-maker, born Hanover)

Isaac Koekoek, -do- (Grocer, born Holland)

Mayer Levison, -do- (Slipper Manufacturer, horn Holland)

Abraham Limberg, White's Row, Spitalfields (Limbring or Limburg, Shoe-maker, born Holland)

Joseph Mustaphia, 3 Tilley St., Spitalfields (Hairdresser, born Amsterdam)

Hall Steward

Solomon de Vries, White's Row, Spitalfields (Salomon de Fries, Cigar maker, born Amsterdam)

Messenger

Levy Davids, Freeman St., Spitalfields (Levy Davies, Cigar maker, born Holland)

The president, Alexander Delmonte, lived at 15 Palmer Street, Spitalfields. He is not shown at that address in the 1871 Census, but two other Delmontes lived in that street. They were both cigar-makers, born in Holland. No doubt Alexander Delmonte was a relation and of similar quality.

These occupational titles do not tell us whether they were employers or employees, but the cigar-makers were probably employed. Levison, the slipper manufacturer, is shown in the Post Office Directory for 1873, and that being a commercial publication he was presumably a businessman. However, they were all locals, and none was of the status of Montagu or the other upper-middle-class Jews associated with the Jewish Working Men's Club. The leading light, as president, of the Netherlands Club for most of the period before World War I was Samuel Strelitski, an East Ender, living at 19 Newcastle Street.

The 1871 Census records him as a tailor aged 38, born in Amsterdam, and the son-in-law of Moses Boam, the Superintendent of tle Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor. In 1904, after fifty-two years in Britain, he was created Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau by the Queen and government of Holland. This was public recognition, said the Jewish Chronicle, of the fact that he was 'regarded as the unofficial head of the Dutch Jews in the East End of London'. Apart from his private charitable efforts he was an Elder of the Federation of Synagogues, a vice-president of the Cutler Street Synagogue, a vice-president of the National Association for the Erection of Sanatoria for Workers Suffering from Tuberculosis, as well as other national welfare bodies. His name does not appear in the list of Club officers in its early years and his major activity with it certainly dated from 1883: in 1893 he was presented with an illuminated address and a gold watch and chain as a token of respect for his services to the Club during the previous fifteen years.

The Netherlands and the JWMC were the two biggest and longest-lived East End Jewish clubs affiliated to the CIU. One of the differences between them was that after about 1890 the JWMC reduced its contacts with the Union whereas the Netherlands did not. In the various journals reporting club activities the JWMC does not rate a mention, whereas the Netherlands and other Jewish clubs formed after 1890 do. For example the weekly Club Life, which began publication in January 1899, provided a profile of the Netherlands Club in its sixth issue of 11 February in the series 'Clubs you should visit'. The reporter met 'Mr President Strelitskie, who is affectionately known as "Uncle" ' (he was then in his late sixties) and other officials including two, Braham Myers and Sol Klein, who together represented the Club on the Union's Council. (Myers subsequently served on the Union's executive. A profile of him in the journal stated that he was a commercial traveller, born in Scotland but resident in London most of his life. He had joined the JWMC in the late 1870s, then the Netherlands in 1890. He was an ardent Conservative and with reference to 'anti-semitism' stated in 1899 that 'club life had been one of the greatest factors in dispelling the absurd prejudice that at one time existed'.)

The CIU opened its first convalescent home in the early 1890s. Clubs gave donations and were asked to levy their members to provide funds. The JWMC limited itself to two donations, in 1894 and ten years later. The Netherlands levied its members ½d. a month and they made use of the convalescent home, as did those of the Jewish Social Club, to be described later.

The 1899 report of the Netherlands Club in the weekly paper Club Life included an account of its welfare activities, such as a 'tontine' fund for sick and funeral benefits, and subscriptions of £50 a year to the Jewish Soup Kitchen Fund. Moreover while not formally a political club, the vice-president explained that it was 'a great factor for the Liberal cause'. The Club was run 'strictly on Trade Union lines' and 'we try our best to inculcate those principles into all our members'. The report of the interview concluded with the vice-president saying, "'Git morrgen, Rabbi Pip.-Pip. Kozill to CLUB LIFE" - or words to that effect'.

Other Clubs

In addition to these two major clubs, some of the other East End Jewish clubs had only a transient existence. Thus the Jewish International Working Men's Club, 19 Great Prescott Street, lasted a year or two from 1890; the United Jewish Club, in Aldgate Avenue, similarly expired within a year of its formation in 1896. Another was the East London Jewish Progressive, 47B Hanbury Street, admitted to the CIU in 1905. The Judaean Social & Athletic Club, at first at 3 Johnson's Court, Leman Street, and then at 54 Prince's Square, Cable Street (open for 'Boxing, Wrestling and Weight-lifting' according to its advertisements), was longer-lived and was affiliated to the CIU from 1907 to 1916. (To repeat, these were affiliated to the Union. Many other clubs were formed which did not affiliate.)

To complete this brief review, two other clubs need to be mentioned although only one - the Jewish Social Club - is unequivocally within the terms of this paper. The second, the Swaythling Social Club, may have been Jewish, the evidence for this, as we shall see, being circumstantial. The Jewish Social Club, formed in 1891, was admitted to the Union in 1892, its premises then being 47B Hanbury Street. It soon secured a new address at 85 Mansell Street, which was formally opened in January 1892. As was normal on such occasions, representatives of other clubs took part in the proceedings. (One of the speakers recalled that some fifteen years previously at the Netherlands Club, which had been in the same street, 'the ladies sat on one side and the gentlemen on the other'.) Within a few months it moved to the Zetland Hall, 51 Mansell Street, and by 1905, when it closed, it was occupying 24 and 24½, Great Pearl Street, at the back of the Cambridge Music Hall. It was a social club, running concerts and dances (a Purim masquerade ball was held in the early 1890s), a children's Purim party (clubs often gave parties for children), ran an athletics class and held billiards competitions. In 1904 it established the Jewish Social Ramblers, for outdoor activities. It closed in April 1905 and that month Club Life carried this advertisement:

SAM AARONS (10 years Pianist of the Jewish Social Club) seeks engagement in any affiliated club. References - Any music-hall or club artiste - 38 East India Dock Row, Poplar, E.

(A few years later, now living in Brixton, he advertised himself as 'South London's Composer and Band Part Arranger'. John Lyons, of Exmouth Street, Stepney, advertised himself as 'East London's Principal Music Writer' drawing attention to the fact that he was the nephew of Sam Aarons.)

The Swaythling Club was admitted to the Union in May 1911 and lasted precisely three years, closing in May 1914. It started life at 124a Whitechapel Road, then moved to Moss Buildings, St Mary Street, facing St Mary's Station, Whitechapel. Its president was Harry Blitz who had started his club life with the Netherlands in 1881, transferring to the Tobacco Workers' Club in 1894 until that closed. He joined the Jewish Social Club and served on its committee before coming into the Swaythling. He was on the council of the Stepney Liberal and Labour Association and, as a trade unionist, 'became known as one of the leaders in the great Tobacco Strike'. The trade union aspect of the club was important: in 1913 a concert was held in aid of 'our downtrodden fellow workers of Dublin' - this being the transport workers' strike. The money collected was sent to the Labour Party. The previous year, during the East End tailors' strike (which seriously affected the members, 'who are mostly engaged in that trade'), the hall was used by the strikers for their meetings.

It is probably right to think this club was Jewish, for three reasons. First, there is the evidence of the names of the officers: Harry Blitz, president; Alec Velleman, treasurer; L. Isaacs, secretary; E. Henry Goldberg, entertainments secretary. Second, it must have taken its name from Lord Swaythling (Samuel Montagu) who had died in January 1911, just before the club affiliated to the CIU. Third, one of the regular weekly reports in Club Life in 1913 included this sentence:

This weekend begins the Jewish New Year, and I take the opportunity of once again wishing my Jewish readers and clubmen a happy and prosperous New Year, with the sincere hope that it will bring prosperity for the club.

It is most unlikely that a non-Jewish club, even in the East End, would have thought of printing those sentiments.

Conclusion

The Jewish clubs affiliated to the Working Men's Club & Institute Union throw new light on the relations between Jews and non-Jews in the East End during the period of mass immigration. As against the usual accounts of hostility towards aliens, we have a different world of tolerant intercourse. (The JWMC's withdrawal from Union activities in its last twenty years probably reflected its changing social class composition, and perhaps too the sobriety of its members: they had no wish to visit clubs which sold alcoholic drink, and other clubs presumably were not attracted to a teetotal club.) Moreover, the Jewish clubs were in no sense afraid to declare their Jewish identity and to support, however minimally, Jewish religious occasions. It is important too to note their trade union interests and, often, Liberal and Labour attachments. Even the Jewish Working Men's Club, in its early years, was said to include large numbers of Liberal trade unionists, and Samuel Montagu, after his success in the general election of 1885, thanked the members for their support of his Liberal candidature. (However, in 1912, when the Club was closing, it was said that most members were Conservatives.) The 'English'-Jewish East Enders had a less attractive side: some of them were opposed to alien immigration and said so as witnesses before the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration. But it is certainly a world worthy of consideration by the historian.

Sources and Acknowledgements

  1. The main sources of information have been newspaper reports. The activities of the Jewish Working Men's Club were regularly noted in the Jewish newspapers and sometimes in others, both national and local. The Netherlands Club was also noted in the Jewish papers, if less frequently. Otherwise information on the clubs is to be found in the CIU's journals and annual reports as well as in 'unofficial' club papers such as Club Life and Club News.

  2. I am grateful to the Working Men's Club & Institute Union for giving me access to their journals and reports and for providing information about affiliations and disaffiliations. A number of people, by post or personally, gave me the benefit of their memories. I especially thank the late Mr Gabriel Costa, not least for drawing my attention to the two articles he wrote on the JWMC and the Netherlands Club which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle in September and October 1951. Thanks are due too to Laurence Marlow for many useful ideas and references. The librarians of the Mocatta Library, University College London and of Tower Hamlets Library have been particularly helpful.

  3. Expenses for this research were met by the Nuffield Trust. The work was done during a term of sabbatical leave from Ruskin College, while I was a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Post-Graduate Hebrew Studies.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

Membership of East End Jewish Clubs affiliated to the
Working Men's Club & Institute Union, 1874-1909

Year

Jewish Working
Men's Club

Netherlands
Choral &
Dramatic
Society

Jewish
Social Club

East London
Jewish
Progressive
Club

Judean
Social &

Athletic
Club

1874

c.160

 

 

 

1875

(352) 1459

 

 

 

1876

(239)    897

 

 

 

 

1877

(274)   933

 

 

 

 

1878

(291)   700

 

 

 

 

1879

(219)   700

 

 

 

 

1880

(239)   897

 

 

 

 

1881

950

 

 

 

 

1882

1064

200

 

 

 

1883

1099

 

 

 

 

1884

1332

 

 

 

 

1885

1447

 

 

 

 

1886

1438

 

 

 

 

1887

1500

400

 

 

 

1888

1470

 

 

 

 

1889

1404

200 Choral
500 Dramatic

 

 

 

1890

1108

 

 

 

 

1891

(400) 1247

 

 

 

 

1892

1133

 

 

 

 

1893

969

 

 

 

 

1894

952

 

 

 

 

1895

894

 

 

 

 

1896

1111

 

 

 

 

1897

959

920

337

 

 

1898

876

672

234

 

 

1899

933

630

300

 

 

1900

787

947

371

 

 

1901

854

1095

252

 

 

1902

913

769

204

 

 

1903

959

780

207

 

 

1904

720

824

207

 

 

1905

975

678

 

289

 

1906

824

694

207

 

 

1907

780

619

 

 

 

1908

548

609

 

 

78

1909

517

582

 

 

83

1910

961

 

 

 

 

Notes

  1. JWMC:
         Figures are from reports of annual meetings in newspapers.
         In brackets, 1875-1880 and 1891; female membership.
         Membership of Lads' Institute not included.

  2. Netherlands:
         1874; Jewish Directory for 1874
         1882; Jewish Chronicle, 24 February 1882, p.9.
         1887; ibid., 22 July 1887, p.10.
         1839; 21st Annual Report of the CIU.
         (These figures are obviously guesses, estimates, or rounded up.)

  3. The figures for the four clubs (excluding the JWMC) for 1897-1909 are from the Annual Reports of the CIU, in annual lists of clubs which detailed their contributions, or lack of them, to the Union's convalescent home. Figures given in those lists for the JWMC differ on several occasions from those given here. Apart from clerical errors, the differences may have been due to the fact that the membership figures were based on monthly subscriptions, and the number sent to the CIU and printed in the Annual Report may have been the latest available. The JWMC's membership given in its own annual report was that at the end of the calendar year: this was sometimes stated as such. It is not clear, though, if this was the case in the earlier years.

 
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Paper first published on JCR-UK: 6 September 2018
Latest revision: 6 September 2018

 
 


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