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: 18 October 2016
Latest revision: 11 December 2016

to the Book of Conference Papers

by Aubrey Newman

The second half of the nineteenth century saw a remarkable growth of Anglo-Jewry, not only in London but in other, provincial, centres as well. It is indeed important that this growth extended out of the metropolitan area, and its deep-rooted vitality has been marked by the number of centenary commemorations during the last decade. The United Synagogue in London has marked its centenary, but so too have provincial centres such as Leicester or Middlesbrough, while many more are due in the next twenty-five years.

All this activity in the provinces represents an essential part of the fabric of Anglo-Jewish life which for too long has been undervalued. The signposts have been erected by Cecil Roth, Dr Lipman, and Professor Gartner, but the roads pointed out have been left neglected. Too often attention has been concentrated or London, or at best the major provincial centres, and thus the fuller attention which would have given a deeper dimension to the whole has not been forthcoming. This has not been the fault of the historians of Anglo-Jewry. The basic information has not been available. Even during the preparations for this conference many more communities have been brought to light.

This conference has been convened by the Jewish Historical Society with the full cooperation of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in order to discuss the pattern of provincial Jewish life. The papers presented here do not however represent the last word on their particular subjects. There will almost certainly be much more to say about a great number of the communities and subjects that have come under review. It is to be hoped however that these papers will provide a spring-board for further study. They fall into three major sections. The first section discusses Anglo-Jewry as a whole at the beginning and the end of the Victorian period, setting the parameters, and indicating some of the topics which might fruitfully be discussed. The second section provides a series of notes and comments on each of the identified Victorian communities in the present United Kingdom. The third section discusses different aspects of the period and its problems. Certain national institutions looked very different from the London and provincial perspectives, and we need to be reminded of that. Certain problems, common to all communities, tended te be treated differently by particular groups, and these differences too need to be pointed out very clearly. Finally, certain techniques of research which have been teveloped within the framework of the social sciences need te be given fuller scope and advertisement amongst those are beginning to come forward to study more recent Anglo-Jewish history. All these are given their place in this third section.

Twenty-five years ago it was possible for Cecil Roth to produce his book on The Rise of Provincial Jewry virtually unaided. It would be impossible for anyone to deal similarly with the period dealt with in this volume. Perhaps this volume will be successful in stimulating an even wider interest by individuals and groups in their localities. In this context, there is at least one paper illustrating what can be done by extremely enthusiastic amateur historians despite a lack of professional training. Unfortunately, no space could eventually be found for a study of the many provincial families whose inter-relations would throw light upon a great deal. A final set of reports might well include such features.

*    *    *

As Chairman of the Conference Committee I must place on record here my very many acknowledgements. The Society would, of course, wish to express gratitude to the Board of Deputies not only for its co-sponsorship but also for the assistance given by its officers. My own thanks must go to the officers of the Society for their assistance and encouragement, and for making this conference possible. Secondly, I must thank all those who were kind enough to come forward and offer to prepare papers for this conference. The length of individual papers does not indicate the relative importance of any particular community, but rather the degree of activity among potential authors. Some were unable to complete their task in time and had to withdraw; others found themselves subjected to a great deal of editorial pressure. Some indeed, for reasons of time and space, have had their contributions so severely cut as to be almost unrecognisable by the authors themselves. To all I express my sincerest gratitude and apologies, and I hope that none the less they will forgive me. My final thanks must go to the small band who voluntarily typed, duplicated, and collected together the enormous mass of paper which this volume represents.

When this volume was first projected no-one, least of all myself, ever imagined that it would be its present size or had any idea of what it would involve. Now that it is completed it will, I hope, prove to be a significant help in the study and appreciation of a vital chapter of the history both of England and Anglo-Jewry, 'Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain'.

Aubrey Neman           
University of Leicester

June 1975

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