Tag Archives: Anglo-Jewish Archives

Local and Community History Month: the Jewish community in London through the letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians

In this week’s blog post, we mark Local and Community History Month by learning about life in the London Jewish community using the letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians. 

Inside one of the Letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians

Inside one of the letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians

Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor, more commonly known as the Jewish Board of Guardians (JBG), was established in 1859 by representatives of the three main London synagogues – the Great Synagogue, the Hambro’ Synagogue, and the New Synagogue. They were charged to constitute a Board of Guardians for relief of poor Jewish immigrants, referred to as the ‘strange poor’, living in London. Almost immediately after its formation the Board began to extend both its scope and revenues, and soon became the chief source of support for poor Jews in the city. The Board helped to keep Jews away from the English Poor Law, with the burden of maintaining their poor falling almost entirely on the Jewish community.

The primary activity of the Board was the administration of poor relief. Investigating officers, working alongside the Investigating Committee (later the Fixed Allowance and Temporary Allowances Committees), were responsible for investigating each case. Relief was then provided either monetarily, through fix or temporary allowances, or through the distribution of tickets for relief supplies.

The letter books of the secretary consist of eight volumes containing correspondence, reports, press cuttings, financial statements, and other papers relating to the activities of the Board from the early 1880s to the mid-1940s. These materials reflect the transformative nature of the Board, which continually adapted its activities to meet changing conditions and needs. The Board achieved this through a range of committees and sub-committees as well as coordinated efforts with other charitable organisations and institutions.

The letter books of the secretary of the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor form part of the collection MS 173 Archives of Jewish Care.

Letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians

Letter books of the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians

The letter books cover a period where increasing numbers of Eastern European Jews were settling in Great Britain, fleeing economic hardship and increasingly violent anti-Semitic persecution. This was due to the pogroms (“to wreak havoc” in Russian) occurring in the 1880s and early 1900s as a result of the Russian Empire acquiring territories with large Jewish populations from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The territories were labelled “the Pale of Settlement” by the Imperial Russian government, where Jews were permitted to live, and where the pogroms mainly took place. The majority of Jews were forbidden to move to the other parts of the Empire, unless they converted to the Russian Orthodox state religion.

The first wave of pogroms occurred in southern Russia after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, for which some blamed the Jews, due to one of the conspirators being of Jewish origin. Local economic conditions and competing with the business of local Jews is also believed to have caused rioting, as well as Russians spreading their anti-Semitic ideas when moving in and out of major cities following Russia’s industrialisation.

According to a paper in one of the JBG letter books dating 1881, an approximate estimate of the Jewish population in England and Wales compiled by the London Committee of Deputies of the British Jews, was six thousand five hundred and forty-five, excluding the Berkeley Street congregation and the affiliated congregation at Manchester. [MS173/1/11/1/25]

Great Britain received another influx of refugees from Nazi persecution, following Hitler’s implementation of his ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Problem’ in the 1940s.

The letter books provide a window into the struggles of the Jewish community settling into London, and the kinds of cases that the JBG had to deal with.

When Jewish refugees fled abroad, children were often abandoned. In the letter book MS173/1/11/1/8 we follow the story of four Jewish children named Angell who were admitted to the Homerton Workhouse in 1880. The children belonged to parents Edward and Julia Angell, who married in London and had nine children altogether. The father left for America with the JBG assisting the wife and children in London. Previously, in 1868 the family were sent to America on a number of occasions. The mother left for America in 1880, leaving behind four children in the City of London Union. Other children of the family were in London but were not chargeable to the Board. The superintendant of the United Hebrew Charities of the City of New York, H. Hirsch wrote to the President of the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor, Lionel L. Cohen in February 1881, stating that his organisation was against sending the family of Edward Angel to the United States. This was due to them being sent three times previously, and the father leaving them, therefore becoming a burden on the charitable institutions. In March 1881 Morris and Fanny Angell are recorded in a letter as being removed from the Central London District Schools at Hanwell and being placed with a private family as requested by the JBG. Correspondence dating March 1881 records the United Hebrew Charities of the City of New York deciding that the children of Edward Angel are to be sent from London to New York and then forwarded to Monticello, Florida, to be placed under the care of their father, who was currently residing in the town under the name of E. Engelman. In May 1881 I. S. Isaacs, honorary secretary of the United Hebrew Charities of the City of New York writes to Lionel to say that the children’s mother is living in New York but is unable to care for herself. He further states that the father is reported to be fully able to take care of his children, and it is hoped that “the wanderings of the unfortunate children will cease once they have been forwarded to their father.” [MS173/1/11/1/60-61]. On 9 June 1881 it was reported that the Angel children were sailing on the “Egyptian Monarch” to Florida.

Example of the many cases of abandoned children that the Jewish Board of Guardians would receive [MS 173/1/11/4/628]

Example of the many cases of abandoned children that the Jewish Board of Guardians would receive [MS 173/1/11/4/628]

The letter books also reflect the JBG dealing with orphans with disabilities, such as one who was deaf, who was accepted into the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum in December 1891. Another case example is that of a Jewish boy who was placed in Dr Bernardo’s Home by his mother with his sister, who had been in receipt from the JBG in December 1900. The father abandoned the family in 1896 and was subsequently imprisoned as a result.

In nineteenth-century London there were also a number of vulnerable children the JBG had to deal with. Cases included a girl in 1881 whose guardians refused to give her up. Despite the guardians caring for the girl at a great cost due to the delicacy of her health, the solicitor responsible for the case advised the JBG for the girl to be placed with a respectable family rather than into an institution, due to the manner in which she was treated by the guardians and due to her health. The girl was then obtained by her mother, who mentions her decision to travel to America with her two children, and asks her doctor to influence the Board to provide her with relief. The mother received £15 from the Board of Guardians.

As well as helping to reunite children with their parents, the JBG also helped to find and fund apprenticeships for the children under their care. For instance, a boy was matched with a tailor and clothier in February 1881 to be taught to be a sailor’s cutter and salesman.

When ‘consumption’ (tuberculosis) became rife in London towards the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the JBG organised local dispensaries, where they would refer new TB cases resident in the area and provide visitors in proportion to the number of Jewish cases attending the dispensary for treatment. The letter books also reveal discussion on where to place tuberculous and pre-tuberculous children currently boarded out with Christian families, and the potential of them being placed in a cottage at Walton on Naze, Essex, under the care of a Jewish woman. Through their local associations the Board of Guardians arranged for the provisions of milk or cod liver oil during the school holidays and weekends. A letter dating 1913 from the JBG to the London County Council requests the number of cases that should be dealt with (which was 100) and whether the children were to be supplied on Saturdays and Sundays, of which it was decided they should. [MS173/1/11/4/701]

During World War Two Jewish communities in London also included the homeless. In the secretary’s letter books can be found correspondence dating 1940-41 revealing discussions on welfare work undertaken by the United Synagogue for people made homeless by air raids, and also the agreement for a church in St Martin-in-the-Fields to provide a portion of money from their BBC Christmas appeal towards the help of Jewish people suffering from air raids and war distress. [MS173/1/11/8/320]

Join us for our third May Local and Community History Month blog post next week, where we will focus on art and theatre in Southampton.




The  stories they tell: the “Model” Resolution of the Council of Christians and Jews

In this week’s “The stories they tell” blog post, we focus on a “Models” Resolution document as part of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) archive.

CCJ “Model” Resolution document, 1942 [MS65 A755/2/1/14]

CCJ “Model” Resolution document, 1942 [MS65 A755/2/1/14]

The CCJ was founded in 1942. The organisation held its first meeting on 20 March of this year with William W. Simpson as its chairman. Its creation was stimulated by the nature of Jewish-Christian relations during the nineteenth century, and the need to identify the causes of anti-Semitism, and to combat them.

The foundations of the organisation grew from the development of a Youth Council on Jewish Christian Relationships in 1934. This Council aimed to inform Christian youth about the perils of anti-Semitism, and to support them making amiable relations with those in the Jewish population. In 1940 this organisation was incorporated into the CCJ.

The Council’s presidents were the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council and the Chief Rabbi. Mrs Kathleen Freeman was valuable in gathering all possible supporters for the organisation through her association with the Society of Jews and Christians. Local Councils were established and meetings and conferences of mainly an educational nature were arranged. Publications were all also provisioned and circulated, such as “Common Ground’, which is still published today and features articles written by eminent figures in the Jewish and Christian communities.

CCJ Common Ground Magazine Issues

CCJ Common Ground magazine issues

Lectures were also conducted, such as the Robert Waley Cohen memorial lectures, which focused on themes such as the nature of tolerance. This series of lectures was formed to honour the Council’s treasurer during the first 10 years of the organisation’s existence. The Council also coordinated international conferences. The first one took place in Oxford in August 1946 under the joint authorities of the British Council of Christians and Jews and its American equivalent, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which formed in 1928. The principal theme of this conference was to create and protect freedom, justice, and responsibility. Two pivotal recommendations were also made. The first one was for an emergency conference to be held on anti-Semitism immediately, and the second one was for steps to be taken to set up an International Council of Christians and Jews. This organisation was later established in 1974.

At a time when the United Kingdom was receiving an influx of refugees from Nazi persecution, following Hitler’s implementation of his ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Problem’ in the 1940s, it was more crucial than ever for Jewish and Christian organisations to cooperate with each other.

The “Model” resolution document is part of the CCJ’s Executive Minute book dating 1941-43.  It reveals the organisation’s deep concern with the treatment of Christians and Jews in Germany, and its recognition for the need to promote and develop positive relations between Christians and Jews and to combat ”all forms of racial and religious intolerance”. [“Model” Resolution document, CCJ, MS65 A755/2/1/14]

The Archives of the CCJ also contain minute books for the board of management of the Christian Council of Refugees, 1940-51, and the minutes of the Christian Council of Refugees from Germany and Europe Continuation Committee, 1951-3. Along with papers on the Association of Nazi Camp Survivors, 1960-67, these primary sources are valuable for researching the response of Anglo-Jewish associations to the treatment of Jews in Germany, and how they helped support them when they arrived in this country.

The CCJ continues to exist today, and still maintains its original objectives of facilitating Christian-Jewish engagement, and conducting educational activities with particular focus on Antisemitism; the Holocaust; and Israel and Israel/Palestine. You can find out more about the organisation’s work at present here:


The CCJ Today

The CCJ today

“We seek to promote, wherever possible, the social, moral, and spiritual welfare of the Jewish woman”: the Union of Jewish Women collection

Continuing with our “Celebrating women” blog series as part of Women’s History Month, we focus this week’s blog post on our Union of Jewish Women (UJW) collection. The UJW was founded as the representative body of Jewish women working for the welfare of educated females. It administered benevolent funds and made loans for training women and girls.

The Union of Jewish Women golden jubilee lunch, Mayfairia Rooms 28 Oct 1952 [MS129 AJ26/D/8]

The UJW golden jubilee lunch, Mayfairia Rooms, 28 Oct 1952 [MS129 AJ26/D/8]

The UJW was born out of the 1902 Conference of Jewish Women, organised by a committee of prominent aristocratic women. These women met together to discuss how women could best aid people and participate in the current affairs of the world. They wished to determine how social work for Jewish women would best be stimulated. The conference was presided by Nathaniel Cohen, leader of the Jewish Board of Guardians, and papers were presented on the care of work girls, charity organisation, and philanthropy work for girls.

Report of the Conference of Jewish Women, May 1902 [MS129 AJ73/1]

Report of the Conference of Jewish Women, May 1902 [MS129 AJ73/1]

During the talk ‘Cooperation in Philanthropy’ given by Julia Matilda Cohen (Nathaniel’s wife), she stated that the general object of the National Union of Women Workers (as it was originally named) would be to “be ready and able to be invoked anywhere and at any time to help our fellow Jewesses all over the United Kingdom.” [Report of the Conference of Jewish Women, May 1902, p.73 MS129 AJ73/1]

She went on to suggest that the Union would act as a network of Jewish workers, with the Central Committee being based in London, and Provincial Associates based in every town in the United Kingdom where Jews were to be found. The uses of such a Union would be to assist Jewish women migrating from one locality to another, and to be an easy channel of information to women on the latest developments in education and training for various vocations and occupations.

Cohen further suggested that the Central Office would maintain a register of all Provincial Associates, Jewish and general charities, and educational facilities and endowments for all types of training (scholastic, medical, technical) and to conditions of life and work in UK and of the British Colonies. It was believed that the Union should be affiliated with other communal organisations and should offer assistance if required to newcomers of their faith. Associates would visit parents and advise them on training opportunities and country holidays available to their children. It was further insisted that members would note insanitary dwellings and endeavour to get them remedied. The Union would also form Sabbath classes, children’s services, and girls’ clubs to try to make religion a power in the girls’ daily lives.

Union of Jewish Women Subscriber's Form May 1902 [MS129 AJ73/1]

UJW Subscriber’s Form, May 1902 [MS129 AJ73/1]

At the conference, the Union of Jewish Women Workers formed its first advisory committee. Julia Matilda Cohen was the first President, and a Treasurer, Honorary Secretary, and two Chairwomen were delegated, as well as a Secretary, and 23 Vice-Presidents, one of which was Constance Rothschild Lady Battersea. A General Committee and an Executive Committee were also formed. At the first recorded meeting of the General Committee on 10 July 1902 the Honorary Secretary reported that “200 members had already joined the Union, and 100 names were entered also to join.” These figures rose to 800 by May 1903. The UJW’s London headquarters was at 118 Marylebone Road and they were open to members Mondays-Thursdays 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm. [General Committee Minute book 1902-10 MS129 AJ26 A/1]

Minutes of UJW General Committee meeting, 10 July 1902 [MS129 AJ26 A/1]

Minutes of UJW General Committee meeting, 10 July 1902 [MS129 AJ26 A/1]

After the establishment of the UJW, branches were soon formed in Birmingham, Hull, and Reading. By 1904 the organisation was forced to move to a two room office and appoint an assistant secretary due to the increase in work. In this year branches were also established in Edinburgh; Glasgow; Dublin; Manchester; Liverpool; Leeds; Portsea; Bristol; Brighton; Ramsgate; and Margate. Abroad, branches were established in Paris; Berlin; New York; Romania; Toronto; Sydney; and various towns and cities in South Africa. One of the first tasks of the UJW was to help with sending several governesses and mothers’ helps to South Africa and other colonies. This was in response to Lord Milner’s appeal for women emigrants to South Africa.

As part of the organisation’s task to help middle and lower class women to obtain professional training, they were keen to increase the number of Jewish nurses. Their affiliations with the National Union of Women Workers, and to the Industrial Department of the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women enabled the organisation to connect 59 out of 200 applicants to suitable work or training and the rest to be advised. Congenial work was also successfully provided for 111 voluntary workers in London. The organisation successfully assisted women entering the London Hospital for training as nurses and to work in the infirmary. Furthermore, the UJW managed to distribute philanthropic work to 111 applicants, who were distributed amongst clubs, hospital visiting and invalid’s aid, assisting immigrants in South Africa, helping at crèches and penny dinners, collecting and working for country holiday funds, befriending pupil teachers, school managerships, assisting at mothers’ meetings, and visiting apprentices.

Union of Jewish Women newspaper cutting urging the women of their community to join the nursing profession, 11 November 1905 [MS129 AJ26 D/1]

Newspaper cutting showing the UJW urging women of the Jewish community to join the nursing profession, 11 November 1905 [MS129 AJ26 D/1]

Other efforts by the organisation included managing the Recreation School at Old Montague Street Board School in London. This was in order to provide forlorn children a place to go to after schools finished at 4.30, and until their parents returned home from work at 8pm. They ran activities such as needlework, singing, dancing, and prayer.

Approaching the 1940s, the work of the UJW continued to be mainly based on welfare and representative work. It was connected to National Organisations working for humanitarian principles and to societies supporting the wellbeing of women. Connections included firstly the National Council of Women; the Councils of Jewish Women Overseas; and the Board of Deputies of British Jews; of which they were represented on, as well as regular communications with the Jewish Board of Guardians.

Image of objectives of the Union of Jewish Women from the Report of the UJW of Great Britain to the International Council of Jewish Women Council Home PARIS, France, 1949 [MS129 AJ188]

Objectives of the UJW from the Report of the UJW of Great Britain to the International Council of Jewish Women Council Home Paris, France, 1949 [MS129 AJ188]

Primarily the UJW supported the welfare of educated and professional women, helping them in the way of their Necessitous Ladies Fund and their Loans Funds. The Necessitous Ladies Fund helped elderly women with grants for fuel, and other items like Passover groceries. The Loans Fund worked by the Union interviewing women and girls who required funds for training in business or professional courses. The loans were granted interest-free to suitable educated women and girls over 16 years of age who were unable to pay the full amount for training. Repayments were required 3 months after work commenced.  The Committee would stay in contact with the girls both during and after training and worked in cooperation with Loan Training Funds and with the Women’s Employment Federation, a society which specialised in advising on careers for women.

During World War Two the number of applicants dropped as women were taken into the services, or were employed in war work. From 1948 however, the UJW saw the highest amount of applications received for some years. The types of training which women sought financial assistance for included Mental Health, BSc. Economics, B.A. Hons., Radiography, and Dentistry. Before World War Two funding was applied mostly for training for Secretarial and Teaching. Scholarships and memorial funds were also created, such as Mrs Hoster’s Secretarial Training College scholarship for free training to a Jewish girl specifically recommended by the Union, and the Delissa Joseph Memorial Fund which gave grants specifically to teachers for holidays. The organisation also prioritised caring for the elderly, by setting up the UJW’s Houses Association LTD. They purchased the freehold of a house in Kensington with the intention of it accommodating twenty residents for a Residential Club. It was to be the first such home for elderly Jewish women in London, and was to run on Orthodox lines.

In 1952 the UJW celebrated its fiftieth year of service to the Anglo-Jewish Community, which it marked with a Golden Jubilee Luncheon which over 200 people attended. In the annual report of 1952, two new loans were recorded to be granted, one that enabled a student to train for her Social Science Diploma, and the other for a fully trained student in Psychology to obtain special training in Psycho-Therapy. The variety of careers chosen by women included architecture, dress designing, Child Therapy, and Medicine.

Members at the Union of Jewish Women Golden Jubilee Luncheon, 1952 [MS129 AJ26/D/8]

Members at the UJW Golden Jubilee Luncheon, 1952 [MS129 AJ26/D/8]

During the 1960s and 1970s the UJW played its part in assisting Jews who were refused permission to leave the Soviet Union. They helped inform the public about Jews who had been imprisoned in Russia for upholding basic freedoms, such as the right to declare Hebrew as their native tongue. They also encouraged members to participate in objections against the treatment of these Jews, such as the “Stop the secret show trials” demonstration, where a mass rally took place at Trafalgar Square; and a protest against the Riga trials, which involved a 24 hour vigil of women dressed in black outside the Soviet Embassy.

U.S.S.R. Free Ruth Alexandrovitch leaflet [MS129 AJ161/29]

U.S.S.R. Free Ruth Alexandrovitch leaflet [MS129 AJ161/29]

In the collection can be found minutes, reports of meetings, annual reports, and attendance registers of committees, as well as financial papers and correspondence relating to funds dating 1902-76. The collection can be a treasure trove for family historians, particularly if their relatives received loans from the UJW.  This material can also be a valuable resource for researchers interested in the role and development of Jewish women’s philanthropic societies in the twentieth century.

Do join us next week to celebrate the life and work of other remarkable women.

UJW Annual Report, 1970 [MS129 AJ73/67]

UJW Annual Report, 1970 [MS129 AJ73/67]

“You have a minute, Lord?”: The Papers of David Kossoff

To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of David Kossoff on Sunday 24th November, we focus this week’s blog post on his papers here.

David Kossoff [MS348 A2084 6/2]

David Kossoff [MS348 A2084 6/2]

Born on 24 November 1919 at the Mothers’ Hospital, Clapton, London, David Kossoff was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Lewis (Louis) Kossoff, and his wife, Annie, née Shaklovich. Growing up in Hackney, Kossoff attended an elementary school in east London, and trained at art and architecture schools, including the Northern Polytechnic until 1937. He worked as a commercial artist, a draughtsman and a furniture designer. At the age of 23, he decided to try something new, which would improve his life after years of seeing the poverty of his parents. This was acting.

Part of a letter written to David Kossoff regarding an audition, 1940s [MS348 A2084 7/2]

Part of a letter written to David Kossoff regarding an audition, 1940s [MS348 A2084 7/2]

Kossoff made his debut with the Left-wing Unity Theatre during World War Two, starring in the play Spanish Village, which was about the Spanish Civil War. He stayed with the company for three years, writing and directing as well as acting for shows performed for members of the services and for people protecting themselves from air-raids. He then spent six years with the BBC Repertory Company, before making his West End debut in Peter Ustinov’s comedy The Love of Four Colonels (Wyndham’s, 1952), replacing the author as Colonel Alexander Ikonenko. In giving a convincing and heavily praised performance, it was this part that convinced Kossoff that he could work as an actor full-time. Such a performance would lead to Kossoff playing a KGB spy in the film The Iron Petticoat (1956), starring Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope.

The Walthamstow Avenue Football Club “Pando Playtime” programme, produced by David Kossoff [MS348 A2084 7/2]

The Walthamstow Avenue Football Club “Pando Playtime” programme, produced by David Kossoff [MS348 A2084 7/2]

Kossoff created one of his most memorable parts in 1953 at the Arts Theatre, which was Morry the guilt-ridden tailor in The Bespoke Overcoat. This was adapted from a Gogol short story by Wolf Mankowitz. Kossoff repeated his acclaimed performance in Jack Clayton’s film version, which won a prize for best short film at the Venice Film Festival. At the same theatre, Kossoff appeared as Tobit in a revival of James Bridie’s Tobias and the Angel, and in Ustinov’s No Sign of the Dove, he was Professor Lodegger.

Poster advertising No Sign of the Dove by Peter Ustinov, Theatre Royal, Brighton, 2 Nov 1953 [MS348 A2084 2/16]

Poster advertising No Sign of the Dove by Peter Ustinov, Theatre Royal, Brighton, 2 Nov 1953 [MS348 A2084 2/16]

Film appearances also include Wolf Mankowitz’s A Kid For Two Farthings (1955), for which Kossoff gained a British Academy award for his role as an elderly confidant of a boy who believes his one-horned goat is a unicorn. Such an award established Kossoff’s status as a ‘natural’ for playing Jewish men, often aged and certainly knowledgeable, generous, and empathetic.

“Dear David, I was so impressed by your performance last night that I feel I must write & congratulate you on it. It was one of the most moving things I’ve seen on the stage, but it wasn’t just that it was a good part – & how often one is apt to mistake that for good acting – but the restraint with which you played it.” [Quote from a letter written to David Kossoff, 7 Apr 1945, MS348 A2084 7/2]

Kossoff also starred in The Young Lovers (1954), I Am A Camera (1955), The Mouse That Roared (1959) and The Mouse On The Moon (1963), and John Huston’s Freud (1962). In Philip Leacock’s emotional Innocent Sinners (1958), Kossoff and Barbara Mullen play a caring, tough couple who, with the help of a solitary spinster, are able to adopt a disruptive teenager. Kossoff’s last film was Staggered (1994).

Publicity leaflet for Kossoff’s film debut as Szobek in The Young Lovers, 1954 [MS348 A2084 2/12]

Publicity leaflet for Kossoff’s film debut as Szobek in The Young Lovers, 1954 [MS348 A2084 2/12]

In the late 1950s, Kossoff was most notable for his role as Alf Larkin, a rural old rogue in the television series The Larkins, which was based on the novels of H.E. Bates and first broadcast in 1958. The programme became so popular, that Kossoff, went on to star in a screen version, Inn for Trouble, in which his character Alf and his wife Peggy inherit a run-down pub. Kossoff also had great success performing his own material, such as in his play On Such a Night (Big Night for Shylock) (1969), where he plays an actor-manager playing Shylock in a touring edition of The Merchant of Venice.

David Kossoff performing in the play On Such a Night (Big Night for Shylock) [MS348 A2084 6/1]

David Kossoff performing in the play On Such a Night (Big Night for Shylock) [MS348 A2084 6/1]

In 1957 he compiled a one-man show at the Arts Theatre, With One Eyebrow Slightly Up, and in 1963 he performed another one-man show, Kossoff at the Prince Charles, which he later took to Adelaide and New York, with the title, A Funny Kind of Evening with David Kossoff.

Programme for A Funny Kind of Evening With David Kossoff at The Leicester Phoenix Theatre, July 1969 [MS348 A2084 2/12]

Programme for A Funny Kind of Evening With David Kossoff at The Leicester Phoenix Theatre, July 1969 [MS348 A2084 2/12]

Kossoff was also famous for his story-telling skills, especially in terms of reinterpreting the Bible. In 1961 he started reading his own adaptations of Bible stories on “Thought for the Day” on the radio, and their success led to published works such as The Book of Witnesses in the 1970s, and his own TV series, Storytime, telling his bible stories with a charming wit and self-critical humour. From the TV programme Kossoff’s square beard, heavy spectacles, and furrowed brow became his trademark.

Part of manuscript for The Book of Witnesses [MS348 A2084 1/2/3]

Part of manuscript for The Book of Witnesses [MS348 A2084 1/2/3]

After his success in telling Bible stories on radio and television, he played in another one-man show, As According to Kossoff from 1970. He also went on to write many publications, such as Bible Stories, retold by David Kossoff (1968); The Three Donkeys (1972); The Voices of Masada (1973), The Little Book of Sylvanus (1975), You Have a Minute, Lord? (1977), A Small Town is a World (1979), based on nineteenth-century Russian Jewish folk tales, Sweet Nutcracker (1985), and The Old and the New (2002). Many of these works were written or corrected while Kossoff waited in his dressing room to make his entrance in plays.

David Kossoff at You Have a Minute, Lord? book signing [MS348 A2084 1/6]

David Kossoff at You Have a Minute, Lord? book signing [MS348 A2084 1/6]

Tragedy hit Kossoff in 1976 when his second son Paul, guitarist with the rock group Free, died from a heart attack at 25 as a result of a heroin addiction. Kossoff thereafter became an anti-drugs campaigner and set up the Paul Kossoff Foundation. Kossoff even constructed a show called The Late Great Paul which he performed at a number of schools, providing pupils an insight into the dangers of drug abuse. Kossoff had earlier planned to give the proceeds from a year of one-man shows to charity in appreciation for his son’s recovery from a serious heart attack in 1975. After Paul’s death, Kossoff continued with the shows, declaring them a memorial to his son.

Tour plan for David Kossoff’s year for charity, 1976 [MS348 A2084 7/4]

Tour plan for David Kossoff’s year for charity, 1976 [MS348 A2084 7/4]

Kossoff died of cancer of the colon on 23 March 2005. The actor, writer and raconteur gained popularity from being able to see the comical side of Jewishness and religion. He had the ability to entertain a wide society without causing offence because he could also make fun of himself.

Letter from a fan, 21 January 1972 [MS348 A2084 1/2/3]

Letter from a fan, 21 January 1972 [MS348 A2084 1/2/3]

The MS348 Papers of David Kossoff provide a valuable insight into Kossoff’s roles as an actor, writer, and raconteur. Not only are there photographs and programmes, but also notes and illustrations for his publications, and notebooks and manuscripts for his works on Bible stories. Scripts, newspaper cuttings, and fan mail also feature.

Part of manuscript on Rabbi series bible stories from notebook [MS348 A2084 1/14]

Part of manuscript on Rabbi series Bible stories from notebook [MS348 A2084 1/14]

Material from the David Kossoff collection is on display in our current exhibition A Philanthropic Spirit in our exhibition gallery on level 4 of Hartley Library. To find out more click here: https://level4gallery.wordpress.com/current-exhibition/a-philanthropic-spirit/

David Kossoff at Bible Stories book signing event [MS348 A2084 1/18]

David Kossoff at Bible Stories book signing event [MS348 A2084 1/18]


Archivist projects: Cataloguing the Papers of Michael Sherbourne

This week archivist Lara Nelson discusses a recent cataloguing project focusing on the papers of Michael Sherbourne, a human rights activist who played an influential role in the movement to win Jews the right to emigrate from the Soviet Union.

Michael Sherborne [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherbourne [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Born on 22 February 1917 in London, Michael Sherbourne’s family name was Sheinbaum. His father’s parents were from Poland and his mother’s Sephardi family (descendants of Spanish exiles), had lived in England since the seventeenth century. His father worked as a tailor and a taxi driver, and his mother was a housewife. In the 1930s Michael and his three brothers anglicised their surname to Sherbourne.

Michael was politically engaged from an early age. When British fascists attempted to march in one of the Jewish areas of London, a 19 year old Michael was to be seen taking part in the anti-fascistic action of the Jews, who filled the streets and blocked the march. This single event made Michael realise the importance of unity and determination in gaining victory over a powerful enemy. He took this on in his fight for the independent Jewish state and in his struggle for the liberation of Jews from Soviet captivity.

As a result of the Great Depression in 1929, unemployment was rife in Great Britain, peaking at just below 3 million by 1932. This partly led to Michael Sherbourne leaving school at sixteen, and joining the Civil Service. Interested in Zionism however, Sherbourne soon left the Civil Service and went to what was then Palestine, and joined the Zionist organisation Hechaluts, which means “the pioneer”.

Young Michael Sherbourne, 1939 [MS434 A4249 7/3]

Young Michael Sherbourne, 1939 [MS434 A4249 7/3]

Hechaluts was a group for the youth, providing news about the land of Israel (which at the time was Palestine); courses in Hebrew; Hebrew songs and dances; and pioneer training, which was named Hachshara. Sherbourne joined this training programme at the age of eighteen. The trainees practised agriculture and learned to be farmers. Sherbourne put what he learnt into practice at a training farm in Kent, where he was to meet his future wife, Muriel Cohen. After receiving their certificate for Aliyah, they left for Palestine on the first day of World War Two, 1 September 1939. They joined Kibbutz Anglo Balti for 6 months, then left for Haifa, where Michael was employed in the Royal Navy, and where their eldest daughter Norma was later born. Sherbourne’s involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet of the Royal Navy provided the opportunity for him to become fluent in French and Hebrew and to study Arabic.

Michael Sherbourne and his wife Muriel in USA, 1989 [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherbourne and his wife Muriel in USA, 1989 [MS434 A4249 7/2]

 After World War Two ended, the Sherbourne family returned to England. Shortly after the birth of Sherbourne’s second daughter Lana, Michael was forced to return to Palestine in 1948 to join the Israeli Army during the War of Independence. Michael was a fighter in the IDF (Hativat Sheva, Mahal), and participated in the decisive battle for Latrun.

As Muriel contracted tuberculosis, the Sherbournes could not stay in Israel long-term. In London Muriel underwent treatment for this over a 2-year period. Sherbourne focussed on training to become a teacher, taking a 13 month course at a teacher’s training college in London. At the College were 30 Jews, of which 28 were members of the Communist Party, causing Sherbourne to always be in disagreement with them. As a result of a challenge to learn Russian Sherbourne learnt took up evening classes, and went on to study a degree in Russian. Some say that Sherbourne also learnt Russian to learn the language of the enemy. After achieving his degree, Sherbourne switched from teaching metalwork and machine-tool mechanics to teaching foreign languages, and became Head of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at a large secondary comprehensive school in North London, until he retired in 1979.

MS 434 A4249_4_12_2 Section of Soviet Socialists Map

Section of Soviet Socialists map, c.1960s [MS434 A4249 4/12/2]

Even after taking a school party to the Soviet Union, and speaking to Jews at the Synagogue in Leningrad, Sherbourne did not learn about the Jewish problem in Russia until he attended a meeting in London where Jewish women from Leningrad spoke of their experiences. Following this meeting, the Association of Jewish Ex-service Men and Women organised a committee to help Soviet Jews, to which Michael and his wife Muriel asked to join. After telling the Committee that he could speak Russian, the first job delegated to him was to ring some of the Jews that had suffered in Russia. As Sherbourne made the phone calls, he received more and more numbers to call, particularly from a lady called Eder Nudel. Nudel made it her business to find Jewish prisoners who were given the misleading title of prisoners of Zion. Over a period of fifteen years, Sherbourne made up to six thousand telephone calls. Sherbourne would use the phone calls to find out when the person had applied for permission to immigrate, when they were refused, what difficulties they had faced from the police, and what their current situation was. Sherbourne would then communicate this information to the Israeli Embassy in London, and the activist group, the 35’s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry. Over time, Sherbourne succeeded in forming a solid chain of communication between what he termed the “Refuseniks” and Jewish organisations wishing to help them emigrate from Russia.

Michael Sherbourne on the telephone with his recording equipment, c.1980s-1990s [MS434 A4249 7/4]

Michael Sherbourne on the telephone with his recording equipment, c.1980s-1990s [MS434 A4249 7/4]

After meeting members of the 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry at a conference held by the Chief Rabbi in Britain, Sherbourne began to work closely with the organisation. Peaceful protests were made outside theatres where Soviet artists performed, publicising the names of refuseniks and calling on the Soviet Union to release the Jews. Jeans were also sent to refuseniks to help them to earn money.

Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry calendar, 1989 [MS 434 A4249 5/6]

Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry calendar, 1989 [MS434 A4249 5/6]

Retiring from the synagogue and teaching in the late seventies left time for Sherbourne to write articles and give public talks on Soviet Jewry. Topics of these talks included “Russian Jewry: Triumph or Tragedy?”, “A Brief Account of Russian Anti-Semitism and the 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry”, and “Jews in the U.S.S.R. – Cultural Genocide”. Sherbourne also attended talks relating to these topics, such as “Final Reckoning: Was the Soviet Union really ‘bad for the Jews’?” given by John Klier at the sixth annual Maccabean Lecture at King’s College London. Known as a strong personality in the campaign for Soviet Jewry, Sherborne received many enquiries, such as authors requesting his thoughts on their books and articles on the subject. An example includes Martin Gilbert on his publication Shcharansky Hero of Our Time.

Poster for talk given by Michael Sherbourne on ‘Russian Jewry Past, Present, and Future’, 2004 [MS 434 A 4249 1/3 Folder 8]

Poster for talk given by Michael Sherbourne on “Russian Jewry Past, Present, and Future”, 2004 [MS434 A4249 1/3 Folder 8]

Putting his skill of being able to read and write in Russian to good use, Sherbourne also spent his time in the 1990s translating documents from Russian and Hebrew into English. Documents included publications, poems, and even family history and legal documents.

Front cover of We are from Russia by Paulina Kleiner translated from Russian by Michael Sherbourne , MS434 A 4249 2/1/1 Folder 1]

Front cover of We are from Russia by Paulina Kleiner translated from Russian by Michael Sherbourne, [MS434 A4249 2/1/1 Folder 1]

In 1971 Sherbourne invented the term “Refusenik”, when the Jewish movement in the USSR started to expand and the number of Refuseniks increased dramatically. Sherbourne went so far as to write to dictionary publishers and writers of newspaper articles when he thought that they had defined the word incorrectly, or had used the term incorrectly. Criticism included specifying that the term Refusenik refers only to a Jew, and that the term is not Yinglish, as it is a direct translation of the Russian word “Otkaznik”. He has also corrected publishers when he believed that definitions provided for “Red Sea” had been incorrect.

Some records within the Sherbourne collection relate to Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry. These include correspondence discussing the history of the organisation, newsletters and bulletins, and circulars and calendars. We also hold the collection MS 254 Papers of the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

The Sherbourne collection provides a rich resource of material for the study of the campaign against the Soviet Jewry. Not only is there material which shows the point of view of parties outside Russia, there are also copies of the Russian magazine Kohtekct that contains articles relating to Soviet Jewry. Extensive material also relates to the conflict in the Middle East, as well as on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the Kristallnacht.

Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Michael Sherbourne, and organisations like the Women’s Campaign for the Soviet Jewry, Jewish communities in Russia have formed that have direct contact with many synagogues in Great Britain, who regularly meet.

“But there, in – inside the former Soviet Union, the children are teaching their parents to understand Judaism. It’s—it’s an amazing thing, how it’s risen, like Phoenix from the ashes. It’s amazing.” (Interview with Michael Sherborne, p.23, 6 September 2003 [MS434 A4249 1/1]

Michael Sherbourne on protest march in San Francisco near the Soviet Consulate, [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherbourne on protest march in San Francisco near the Soviet Consulate, [MS434 A4249 7/2]



“Encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books”: The Jewish Book Council

To mark 41 years since the formation of the Jewish Book Council, we take a look at the sources we hold relating to the organisation in MS385.

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040 4/1]

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040/4/1]

Similar to The National Book Council in promoting the cause of books, the Jewish Book Council was formed with the intention to “encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books.” The organisation wished to act as the common connection for all Jewish education, voluntary workers for Israel and Jewries of Europe, and Jewish youth clubs and societies.

The Council started in 1947 as a small group of people led by Dr George Webber, who was a Hebraist and lifelong book fanatic. At the time, there were few Jewish educational activities, and so Webber had the idea of forming an annual festival of lectures accompanied by a book display, which would be called Jewish Book Week. From its beginnings, Jewish Book Week was a community event, and held annually at Woburn House in central London. Various organisations were associated with it, such as the B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress, which also arranged evening lectures as part of the event.

As a public event Jewish Book Week attracts members from across the whole Jewish community.

Aiming to “help and advise the Jewish reader”, the activities of the Council in its early days included composing lists of books (mainly by Anglo-Jewish authors), which they believed should be available for reference or loan in every synagogue, Jewish Society or Club. Other activities of the Council included publishing supplementary lists, helping to arrange exhibitions of Jewish books, and discussing with Public Libraries extension of their collection of Jewish books.

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet [MS 385 A4040 1/2]

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet, undated [MS385 A4040/1/2]

The main activity of the Jewish Book Council is organising Jewish Book Week, now an annual event in the Anglo-Jewish calendar. During the early years of the Council, this event involved a short series of evening talks on literary topics, and small amounts of books displayed and sold. Over time, Jewish Book Week has advanced and expanded, with more emphasis placed on the exhibition and sale of books, resulting in lectures and books having equal value in the annual event. A myriad of literary works are now displayed each year, with books from as far as America and Israel, as well as the United Kingdom.

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS 385 A4040 3/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS385 A4040/3/2]

The lectures held as part of the Jewish Book Week have expanded over the years, with programmes arranged for the morning and afternoon, and for target audiences, such as children, women, senior citizens, and Ecumenists. Some of the outstanding lectures conducted at Book Week have included Professor Jonathan Frankel of the Hebrew University speaking about the Jews of Russia in 1981, and an event marking fifty years after the Anschluss in 1988, which included a performance of a string quartet by Joseph Horowitz, specially composed to mark the event, and talks by George Clare and Richard Grunberger.

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987 [MS385 A4040/2/3]

The exhibitions at Jewish Book Week have also developed over time with a trade day provided for publishers, booksellers, and librarians. Jewish Book Week has become such a big event in the Jewish community, that Jewish publishers time the release of books of Jewish interest to fall on the dates of the event.

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040 3/1]

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040/3/1]

Over the years, the Jewish Book Council has built up its activities to cater for children, forming a school programme. Every Jewish primary school in the London areas has been invited to send its top class to Jewish Book Week. In doing this the Council have recognised the long-term need of helping schools arranged their own book events so that all children can participate. To encourage further involvement, the Council also organise a nationwide poetry competition, under the patronage of the Chief Rabbi.

An entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

Part of an entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

The Jewish Book Council used to receive most of its funding and all of its administrative assistance from the Jewish Memorial Council (JMC). Other organisations that provided small contributions included the Association of Jewish Refugees, Federation of Women Zionists, and the World Jewish Congress.

In 1979, the Council experienced financial difficulties and was almost forced to close down. Determined to keep the Council going, chairman of the Council at the time, Joe Lehter, helped make the executive decision for the organisation to operate on a voluntary and independent basis. Following this change, many people have served on the executive committee and have worked tirelessly to keep the event going and make it prosper. In recent years the Council has come to a sponsorship arrangement with the Jewish Chronicle.

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 4040 4/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 A4040/4/2]

Jewish Book Week has expanded over the years outside its traditional venue in central London – many small communities in London have been encouraged to run their own book fairs based on the Jewish Book Week format and there have been events in Cambridge, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Jewish Book Council Newsletter  [MS385 A4040 2/2]

Jewish Book Council Newsletter, 1986 [MS385 A4040/2/2]

Today Jewish Book Week takes place at the Royal National Hotel in Bedford Way, a much larger venue than their previous venue Woburn House. The event is the second oldest literary festival in the UK, and administers the Risa Domb-Porjes Prize for Hebrew-English translation.

The Jewish Book Council collection that we hold mainly contains material relating to Jewish Book week, 1952-2004, together with papers relating to the formation of the trust and charitable status, council minutes, 1974-87, correspondence, reports and accounts.

Here is a quote from a letter written from Motzoei Shabbat Vayikra to Dr Geo J. Webber, founder of the Jewish Book Council, 15 March 1975 [MS 385 A4040 2/1] :

“A magnificent book week. Lectures good, attendances excellent and to me, more important than all else sales of £1, 220 worth of books which means that more people will have more books to take home and who knows – read. In addition I have been invited to set up book-selling units in the J.F.S. and at Carmel College. Also perhaps bookstalls at Jewish Youth Clubs… In all events at no time between 9.50 am and 10.30pm was there less than six or seven people looking at the books… Some people returned three and four times.”

You can find out more about how Jewish Book Week takes place today at the following webpages:



Jewish Book Week Logo

Jewish Book Week Logo


The Home and Hospital for Jewish Incurables, Tottenham

130 years ago this month, the Home and Hospital for Jewish Incurables, Tottenham was founded. To mark this occasion we take a look at the material we hold relating to the institution  (MS 284).

Minute Book, 1889-1891 [MS 284 A978 1/1]

Male patients’ room, c.1900s [MS 284 A978/7/1]

The establishment and running of the Institution

In 1888, there were few places Jewish immigrants could go to spend their remaining years if suffering from incurable diseases. The main option was local authority infirmaries, which lacked “a Jewish atmosphere and the facilities for religious observances.” [MS 284 A978/6/2]

This struck a chord with Morris Barnett, who wrote to the Jewish Chronicle in October 1888, asking for those interested in “founding a home for incurables” to contact him. This led to a meeting held at his house in February 1889, where a public meeting was arranged to inform the community of the creation of the Society for the formation of a Jewish Home for Incurables. At the public meeting, a committee was elected and over 400 people promised to be subscribers.

The first Home opened in 1891 at 49-51 Victoria Park Road, E9, with nine patients. Its object was the care, maintenance and medical treatment of United Kingdom residents of the Jewish faith with a permanent disability. Under the rules of the Home, patients had to be of the Jewish Faith, who had resided in England for 5 years, and it was open between 11am to 6pm for the inspection of the public. In the early 1890s the average weekly cost was 21/ per patient. Concerts, annual poultry dinners, were provided for patients, as well as lectures and film showings.

The Institution was managed by a Committee of Management consisting of the President, Vice-Presidents, Treasurers, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Solicitor, Honorary Medical Staff, and other Honorary Officers deemed necessary. The Committee met once every quarter, and were responsible for receiving correspondence from medical staff, approving accounts and purchase orders, appointing a matron, nurses and servants; and regulating the household management of the institution and the patients. The latter was done through the appointment of a House Committee that consisted of ladies annually elected, who met once a month and visited the Home periodically to inspect the interior management and domestic arrangements. They were also responsible for checking that patients were receiving adequate treatment, and reported their observations and suggestions in a book laid before the Committee of Management.

Responsible for the entire charge of the home, the Matron kept accounts, appointed or suspended nurses of domestic servants, and arranged leave of all staff. Menus of the day were arranged with the Housekeeper and medicines ordered by the doctor were dispensed with the Assistant Matron. The Matron was in charge of receiving all visitors, and in general, carried out the instructions of the Board of Management and Medical Officers. The Institution’s first matron was Esther Goldberg.

Staff at Home and Hospital for Jewish Incurables, c.1900s [MS 284 A978/7/1]

Staff, c.1900s [MS 284 A978/7/1]

How the institution was funded

Funding for the institution was achieved by subscriptions, donations, and payments made by patients and members of the public. In the beginnings of the institution, “the first funds were raised in London’s East End Streets by carrying a mock patient in a bed around in a cart and appealing for subscriptions of one penny per week.” [MS 284 A978/6/2] Events were also organised to raise funds for the institution, such as annual balls, garden fetes, and dances.

Funding Advertisement, c.1940s [MS 284 A978 6/1]

Funding advertisement, c.1900s [MS 284 A978/6/1]

Development of the Institution

The institution moved to a larger house sufficient for 20 patients in Wood Street, Walthamstow in 1894 and again in 1896 to High Road in Tottenham. The Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald described the building as being “built in the Elizabethan style of architecture” and being “placed on the site so as to afford the maximum amount of sunshine to the patients.” [Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald, April 1901]

After building work at this site, the Home was formally opened on 3 July 1903 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (sister of King Edward VII). Up to 80 patients were admitted, with male patients on the ground floor, where there was also a concert hall and access to a garden, and the female patients were on the first floor. Staff and kitchen quarters were located on the third floor.

A new wing was completed at the Tottenham Home in 1913 and a new synagogue was opened in 1914. In 1918, the Home was approached by the Ministry of Pensions seeking to use the new wing to accommodate Jewish soldiers. A scheme was agreed whereby twenty-eight soldiers were admitted for twelve months.

In 1939 fear of air raids led to the evacuation of the Home to Chesterfield House near Saffron Waldon. The accommodation at Tottenham was taken over by Middlesex County Council in May 1940 to accommodate refugees.

Common Room, c.1970s MS284 A978/7/5

Common room, c.1940s [MS284 A978/7/5]

The Institution as the Jewish Home and Hospital

In 1963, the institution’s name changed to Jewish Home and Hospital. With 114 patients in 1974, the Jewish Home and Hospital provided a much-needed service in north London. Patients who came in chair-bound were helped to walk again, and other patients who would otherwise be home alone suffering the expense of nurses coming to wash and feed them, could be somewhere where they could make friends and be cared for at the same time.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy was provided, as well as facilities such as dentist and a hairdressing salon. Rooms were provided for crafts, and prayer and meditation. Being in a home where you could mix with Jewish patients and practise religious activities was of pivotal importance for the patients. “When you’re not well, you like to be near God, like a child. They haven’t got a cure yet, so you want to die in a Jewish place.” (Judith, Jewish Chronicle Supplement, 20 September 1974 [MS 284 A978/7/6]).

In 1992, the Home merged with Jewish Care. By the late 20th century, Tottenham’s Jewish population had largely moved away and the building became obsolete. The Home closed in 1995.

Consisting of 24 boxes and 5 volumes, the MS 284 collection contains minute books; annual reports; legal and financial papers; correspondence; and photographs. The material provides a valuable resource for research into nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish community services for the disabled.

Minute Book, 1889-1891 [MS 284 A978 1/1]

Minute book, 1889-1891 [MS 284 A978/1/1]

“An institution of social service”: The Oxford and St George’s Club

To mark St George’s Day we take a look at our sources relating to the Oxford and St George’s Club which form part of the MS 132 Henriques papers.

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

The Oxford and St George’s Club, was a Jewish youth and community centre formed by Sir Basil Henriques in the East End of London, with the aim of providing a service for local Jews of all ages.

Son of David Quizano and Agnes C. Henriques, Sir Basil Lucas Henriques, CBE, was born on 17 October 1890 in London. After completing secondary school education at Harrow, he went on to study at Oxford University, where he built his interest in philanthropy from learning about the activities of Christian groups in addressing poverty in the East End.

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

During the beginnings of the 20th century, there was a high population of Jews in the East End of London. Living conditions were of a low standard, with crowded families living in poor quality housing without a bath or inside toilet. After working at Toynbee Hall in 1913, which was an institution that provided legal advice and English lessons to the underprivileged, Basil decided to create a similar institution that would provide organised activities for young Jewish boys.

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

Based in a disused hostel on 125 Cannon Street Road, the Oxford and St George’s Club began in 1914 with a membership of 25 boys. The Club got its name from Basil’s alma mata, and the name of the area of East London that the Club was based in. A year later, a self-taught artist and Basil’s future wife, Rose Loewe, founded an equivalent club for girls at the same hostel. 

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.]

 As well as being social, the Clubs provided educational activities such as religion classes, and taught sports, ballet, acting, physical education, and first aid. In doing this the Clubs prepared children for  pursuing careers. Activities also included the Annual Summer Camps, where several Jewish children were taken for a holiday, which were often held at Highdown near Goring by Sea. “For hundreds of Settlement children, the summer time is the happy time of Camp” (from a draft of a proposed Settlement letter written by Harold F. Reinhart, MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4).

Through the generosity of Viscount Bearsted, adjoining houses were acquired in Betts Street after the war was over. Old Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs were started, along with Scouts, Cubs and a Synagogue founded between 1919 and 1926.

In 1929 the Clubs moved to new premises in Berners Street following the gift of £50,000 (which later rose to £65,000) provided by Mr Bernard Baron. The Bernhard Baron St George’s Settlement building opened in 1930, providing spaces for public worship, administrative offices, the infant welfare centre, the play centre, and accommodation. There was also a roller skating rink, gymnasium, library, and model laundry and kitchen.

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 30 June 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

To give an idea of what a typical day was like at the Club, here is a quote from a St George’s Settlement Children’s Fund leaflet (MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4):

“Soon he was in a room crowded with boys, rapt in excitement over a game of ping pong. It was an inter-House match, and on its result depended the winning of the cup, which each month was awarded to the House which had won the most points by entering the greatest number of fellows in the various classes held in the Club. A class for which you had to change into kit counted two points – gym., P.T., running, boxing or football, whilst the others- debates, chess, general information, literature, dramatic or drawing – counted one point for the House.”

The Henriques papers provide a wealth of information on the Oxford and St George’s Club and its development through time. Documents include correspondence, pamphlets, reports and an extensive collection of photographs.

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

After Basil Henrique’s death in 1961, Berner Street was renamed Henriques Street to commemorate his tireless efforts in setting up the Club. The Settlement premises were sold in 1973 and the clubs moved to Totteridge in North London.

Due to decline in membership, the activities of the Settlement have ceased and it is now a grant making organisation.

More information about the organisation can be found here: http://www.oxfordandstgeorges.com/index.html





Celebrating the contribution of women: Edith “Edie” Noble

Held annually on 8 March, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history and across nations.

The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds material for a range of women whose contribution in many spheres is worthy of mention. For this blog we will focus on Edith “Edie” Noble, née Davidson or Davidovitz (MS 381).


Edith Noble, June 1973 [MS381 A4136 1/4]

Born in Hull in 1910, she was one of nine brothers and sisters born to Annie and Hyman Davidovitz. She and her two sisters, Sophie and Min, married three London-born brothers, Ziggy, Charles and Bernard Noble. Edie and her husband Charles joined South London Liberal’s Synagogue in 1939, a year after they married.

Edith was heavily involved with the South London Liberal Synagogue, holding the position of Treasurer in the Women’s Society and as a member of their Council.

Passionate about promoting friendly relations among Jewish women, Edith became a founding member of the Streatham Group of the League of Jewish Women as its Vice-Chairman in 1953.

“From that time in 1953, she has worked untiringly with a will and dedication to make the name of L.J.W. respected in many spheres”. [MS381 A4136 1/4]

League of Jewish Women 25th birthday picture supplement, 1968 [MS381 A4136 3/1/1]

A year later, as group representative, Edith was elected to the League’s National Council. She went on to become founder Chairman of the League’s Publicity Committee in 1957 and National Honorary Secretary in 1961. As the League’s first Extension Officer, Edith worked tirelessly to ensure the organisation was reaching Jewish women all over the country, opening 25 UK groups and achieving thousands of new members between 1967-72.

Edith held many positions in the League of Jewish Women, including President in 1973, as well as positions in the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) and the National Council of Women. This reflected her commitment towards raising the profile of these organisations, and strengthening connections between Jewish women nationally and internationally.

Certificate awarded to Edith Noble from the International Council of Jewish Women for her outstanding services to the organisation, May 1978 [MS381 A4136 1/7]

Using her links around the world, Edith succeeded in widening the communication net of these bodies, such as by setting up the 13th International Convention for ICJW in Bournemouth in 1984, which she chaired.

Keen for women to keep well-informed of social issues, Edith was the League representative on the Women’s Consultative Council, a government sponsored forum, from 1961. In 1969 this group became the Women’s National Commission, a body that still enables the government to obtain women’s thoughts on current issues.

Alongside these committee positions, Edith also completed welfare work, which included visiting patients on a Thursday morning at the Birchlands Jewish Hospital, serving tables at the South London Day Centre, and hosting and supporting Jewish girls who came to England from Morocco and Iran to work in the London Jewish Hospital.

The correspondence, working notebooks, papers and other documents relating to the Jewish Women’s organisations that Edith was involved in, provides a wealth of information on the work of the League of Jewish Women and International Council of Jewish Women from a committee member’s perspective.

From Edith’s final speech as President of League of Jewish Women:

“It has been said that if it be true that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, then eternal participation is the price of a good society. May the League never lack women to identify with us and participate in the Jewish contribution to the good society.” [MS381 A4136 1/4]


Scroll commemorating Edith Noble’s appointment as the Streatham Group of the League of Jewish Women’s first Life President, 26 May 1976 [MS381 A4136 1/7]

For other blog posts we have completed on women, please click on the following links:

The University of Southampton will be hosting a number of events to mark international women’s day and details can be found at the following links:

University blog –


Events page –


Balfour Declaration 100

2 November 2017 marks the centenary of the letter sent by Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, setting out the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This Balfour Declaration could be seen as constituting a first step in achieving the objective of political Zionism that had been outlined by the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, namely “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.”

Embed from Getty Images

The motives behind this decision were various. Aside from a belief in the righteousness of the Zionist cause, it has been suggested that British leaders hoped the declaration would help gain Jewish support for the allies in neutral countries, such as in the United States of America or Russia.  Great Britain and France were mired in a stalemate with Germany on the western front by 1917 and all efforts to defeat the Turks had failed.  They feared that the war might be fought to a draw.  Lloyd George also had come to see British dominance in Palestine as an essential post-war aim and felt that the establishment of a Zionist state, under its protection, would accomplish this.

The text of the declaration reads as follows:

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.


Arthur James Balfour

Among the Special Collections, the collection MS 144 contains papers relating to the Balfour Committee, formed for the purpose of convening a conference of Anglo-Jewry to consider means of furthering the policy laid down in the Balfour Declaration. The collection contains a book of committee minutes, dating from 17 Dec 1917 – 26 Oct 1918; correspondence of A.M.Hyamson, honorary secretary of the committee, 1917-18, including correspondence with Dr Israel Abrahams; together with statements for the press, drafts of heads of scheme, and copies of memoranda, including proposals for Jewish settlement of Palestine, some signed by members of the committee.