Jewish Community

Jewish Community

After the passing of Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, members of the Jewish Community were virtually the last group that did not possess full civil and political rights. Jews was not able to become members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Nor were also barred from the military and could not obtain degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. In 1850 approximately 20,000 Jews lived in London, with a smaller number living outside the capital. Approximately 90 per cent had been born in Britain and the remainder were immigrants from Europe.

In 1855 Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler established the first Jewish College to train ministers. However, many Jewish immigrants from Europe refused to accept the authority of the chief rabbi. Many opposed the anti-Zionism of Hermann Adler, who replaced his father a chief rabbi in 1890. Jewish immigration increased after 1870 and by 1914 the Jewish population in Britain had reached 300,000.

The granting of full civil and political rights was a slow and gradual process. In 1858 Lionel de Rothschild became the first Jewish MP who was permitted to take his seat without taking the oath that involved the words "by the true faith of a Christian". 1871 Parliament passed the Universities Tests Act which opened both Oxford and Cambridge to members of all religions and in 1890 the last of the government posts became open to members of the Jewish faith.

Primary Sources

(1) George Lansbury, Looking Backwards and Forwards (1935)

The Jew, whether British or foreign, wherever he was born and whatever his colour or creed, was for me even when I was a boy "one of God's children". There are certain distinctions between all of us, and there are distinctions between races too, though these latter seem less marked when we investigate closely.

Jews do seem to have a facility for the quick acquisition of wealth which the Gentiles would be only too glad to imitate. When times are bad they never seem to suffer quite so badly as others; they stand together and by one another. They care for their parents, and their children are really loved. In the poorest parts mothers carry their little ones to school wrapped up from the rain.

When trade unionism among the casual labourers and unskilled workers was at a very low ebb - indeed, it was almost non-existent - it was Jewish agitators who, by persistent propaganda, helped to bring them into the British trade unions.

Some Jews are good Tories, others are Liberals, Communists and Socialists, Trade Unionists and Co-operators. In the main, the best description of them is that they are good citizens. I have known thousands of them of all ages intimately and have received great kindness from many of them. As I consider the change in East London's population I am convinced that it is nonsense to pretend we have been injured by the huge Jewish immigration. I think we have become better.