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Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), social and political philosopher, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century, born in Riga, Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire). Berlin's work on liberal theory and on pluralism has had a great influence on social thought. Born the son of a wealthy timber company owner, he was a direct descendant of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Hasidism.

The family lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, but left in 1920 after feeling the oppression of Bolshevism and anti-Semitism. They came to Britain in 1921. Berlin was educated at St Paul's School in London, then at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he studied classics. He then took another degree, this time at Oxford, in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was appointed a tutor in philosophy at New College, Oxford, and in 1932 at the age of 23, was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He was the first Jewish fellow at All Souls College. Berlin was to remain at Oxford for the rest of his life, apart from a period working for British Information Services in New York, USA, from 1940 to 1942, and for the British embassies in Washington, DC, and Moscow from then until 1946.

Berlin was fluent in Russian and English, spoke French, German and Italian, and knew Latin and Ancient Greek. From 1957 to 1967, he was Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford and in 1966 he was elected to be the first president of the newly founded Wolfson College in Oxford. He was knighted in 1957, and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom. The annual Isaiah Berlin Lectures are held at the Hampstead Synagogue and both Wolfson College and the British Academy each summer.

The London based "Independent" newspaper once wrote that "Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time ... there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential"

In 1956, Berlin married Aline Halban, née de Gunzbourg, who was from an exiled half Russian-aristocratic and half ennobled-Jewish banking and petroleum family He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959.

His work was characterized by a very liberal attitude to social and political questions. In his “Karl Marx”, published in 1939, he examines Marxism in the context of the times when it was written. In the “August Conte Memorial Lectures” he opposed the notion that events are inevitable and therefore predictable. His essay "Two Concepts of Liberty", delivered in 1958 as his inaugural lecture as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford argued for a nuanced and subtle understanding of political terminology, where what was superficially understood as a single concept could mask a plurality of different uses and therefore meanings. He distinguished between thinkers who tried to find liberty within a framework of restraints while recognizing the diversity of human needs and those who are dogmatic and try to “force men to be free`' and so end up by enslaving them.

For Berlin, values are creations of mankind, rather than products of nature waiting to be discovered. He argued that the nature of mankind is such that certain values – for example, the importance of individual liberty – will hold true across cultures, and this is what he meant when he called his position "objective pluralism". When values clash, it may not be that one is more important than the other. Keeping a promise may conflict with the pursuit of truth; liberty may clash with social justice. Moral conflicts are "an intrinsic, irremovable element in human life". "These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are." For Berlin, this incommensurate clashing of values within, no less than between, individuals, constitutes the tragedy of human life.

Berlin had many close ties to Zionism and Israel having close friendships with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders. He was a governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Berlin's essay "Historical Inevitability" (1954) focused on a controversy in the philosophy of history. Berlin is also well known for his writings on Russian intellectual history, most of which are collected in Russian Thinkers (1978; 2nd ed. 2008),

Date of birth:
1909
Date of death:
1997
Place of birth:
Riga
Place of death:
Oxford, UK
Personality type:
Philosopher
ID Number:
119018
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:
Related items:
BERLIN, BERL, BERLINER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name can be a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The name Berlin is associated with Berlin, the capital city of Germany, where Jews are first mentioned in 1295, or with the village of Berlin in Galicia.

As a Jewish family name it is more likely to be a patronymic, derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin. Ber, which means "bear" in Yiddish, can stand alone or have derivative forms like Berl, Berko. It also gave rise to family names like Berlin and Berkowitz. In some cases therefore Berlin is a diminutive of the German nickname Berl, which derives from Baer ("bear"). Baer is the traditional nickname of the Hebrew male personal name Issachar. In Genesis 49 Issachar is described as a donkey, but as this is a derisive term in Europe, the association of Issachar with a bear (noted for its strength) was accepted instead. The custom of giving children names of animals was based on the biblical chapter in which Jacob compares his sons with certain animals. Another source of Berl is the acronym of Ben Reb Leser ("son of Rabbi Leser/Elieser").

One way the Jewish family name Berlin was formed is illustrated by the 19th century Hungarian-born author Chajim Berisch Berlin (comprising two derivatives of Baer). The German suffix "-er" in Berliner indicates either "from" or "son of".

Distinguished 20th century bearers of the Jewish family name Berlin include Rabbi Meir Berlin (also known as Bar-Ilan), world president of the Mizrachi organization; the American composer, Irving Berlin; and the Riga-born British philosopher, Isaiah Berlin. Prominent 20th century bearers of the Jewish family name Berliner include the Polish-born Mexican Yiddish poet and journalist Isaac Berliner, and the German-born American physician and educator, Kurt Berliner.

Riga

Capital and largest city of Latvia. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava

Timeline:
1582-1629: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1629-1721: Kingdom of Sweden
1721-1917: Russian Empire
1917-1918: German Empire
1918-1940: Republic of Latvia
1940-1941: Soviet Union
1941-1944: Nazi Germany
1944-1990: Soviet Union
Since 1990: Republic of Latvia

The Riga Jewish Community, the organizing body of the Jewish community of Riga, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008. Located on Skolas street 6, the Riga Jewish Community is a social and activity center for the Jews of Riga. The building houses a museum, library, youth and community centers, as well as social, cultural, and charitable programs.

The Peitav Synagogue on Peitavas Street was built at the turn of the 20th century. Remarkably, not only did the synagogue survive World War II (while the other synagogues in Riga were burned down, the Peitav Synagogue was spared because it was located in the Old Town and the Nazis did not want to risk the fire spreading to nearby buildings), after the war the ark containing the Torah scrolls was discovered to have been concealed behind the eastern wall of the synagogue. This act, attributed to a priest named Gustavs Shaurums, saved the Torah scrolls from destruction. It was one of the only synagogues that still operated during the Soviet era, and as of 2008 it is the only functioning synagogue in Riga, led by Rabbi Mordehay Glazman. The Peitav Synagogue was renovated in 2007-2008 with help from the European Union, the government of Latvia, and the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities.

There are three Jewish schools in Riga: the S. Dubnov Riga Jewish Secondary School, the Chabad-run Ohel Menahem, and the Riga Jewish Community kindergarten "Motek." The community is also home to a library with tens of thousands of books, mostly in Yiddish, Russian, and Latvian, about Jewish history, Latvian Jewry, Judaism, fiction, and Latvian and foreign newspapers. The library also hosts the book club "Hasefer." Other Jewish clubs in Riga include "Maagal," which was founded in 1992 to teach Jewish dance to children ages 4 to 16 and the klezmer band "Forshpil."

Jewish activists from Riga managed, in spite of Soviet restrictions, to erect a monument at Rumbula in 1946, to commemorate the 25,000 Jews who were killed there on November 30 and December 8, 1941. The inscription, "To the victims of fascism," was written in Latvian, Russian, and Yiddish. A newer memorial joined the older one in 2002. A second memorial was dedicated in 2001 in the Bikernieku Forest, where about 20,000 Jews are buried in mass graves. A third monument is dedicated to those who helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust. It was unveiled on July 4, 2007 on National Jewish Genocide Victims' Rememberance Day. It is located on the site where the Great Choral Synagogue, which had been burned down exactly sixty-six years earlier—with the people inside—had once stood.

HISTORY

Riga was founded in 1201 by the Teutonic order (an order of German Christian knights) and eventually developed as a port and as a commercial center. Initially Jewish settlement in Riga was forbidden. Nonetheless, although they could not live in the city, Jewish merchants were active in Riga beginning in the middle of the 16th century and particularly after the Russian conquest at the beginning of the 18th century. The Jewish community would not be officially recognized until 1842; in the meantime, Jews began settling in Riga illegally; by the 18th century the community housed a synagogue and cemetery, and at the beginning of the 19th century it was able to employ a rabbi, cantor and a shohet (ritual slaughterer) as well as to open a cheder. The second half of the 19th century saw the community's activities expand; an orphanage, hospital, senior home, and other social and cultural institutions were all founded at the dawn of the 20th century.

The Jewish community of Riga was particularly pluralistic and culturally open. The wealth of economic opportunities that existed in the city attracted Jews from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Prussia, resulting in a community that had no fixed religious or cultural traditions, and that was drawn towards German culture. This left the Jews of Riga particularly receptive to the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment); the first Haskalah-influenced school opened in 1840 and was led by the German Reform rabbi Max Lilienthal. Other rabbis of the community, such as Aharon Pompianski, Shlomo Pucher, and Yehuda Leib Kantor, were also influential modernists. Towards the end of the 19th century many of Riga's Jews began to turn away from German influences and to embrace Russian culture. Zionism, socialism, as well as other major social and cultural movements began to play major roles within the Jewish community of Riga.

The Jewish community of Riga continued to grow throughout the first decades of the 20th century; by World War I there were more than 30,000 Jews living in the city. While nearly one-third of the city's Jewish population fled during the war, many of them ultimately returned. After World War I, Riga became the capital of independent Latvia. At this point, there were approximately 40,000 Jews living in Riga. Students could choose from a number of educational institutions in which the language of instruction was German, Russian, Yiddish, or Hebrew. There were two major synagogues, as well as smaller neighborhood synagogues and a small number of Hasidic prayer houses. The Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (OPE) had one of its largest and most active branches in Riga. There was a Jewish academy of music and a Jewish theater. "Dos fold" was among the many Yiddish newspapers published in the city.

A large variety of Jewish youth movements were active in the city, attesting to the diversity and openness that continued to exist among the Jews of Riga. There were groups affiliated with Revisionist Zionists, religious Zionists, Tse'ire Zion, Agudas Yisroel, Poalei Zion, the Folkspartey, the Bund, and the General Zionists.

Most of Riga's Jews were upper-middle class. They established and managed businesses and factories that produced products such as tobacco, food, textiles, and wood products. Jews also engaged in trade, banking, medicine, and law.

THE HOLOCAUST

Under Soviet occupation (1940-1941), restrictions were placed on all religious or national institutions, including many of the Jewish religious and cultural institutions operating in Riga. Once the Germans occupied the city, in July 1941, Jews were the victims of discrimination and violence; local groups, such as the Commando Arajs, also participated in anti-Semitic acts against the Jews. Synagogues were burned and mass killings took place in the forests outside of the city. Two ghettos were established in October and November 1941. Mikhael Elishov led the Altestenrat (the equivalent of the Judenrat). There was also a Jewish underground.

The Nazis began a series of aktions beginning in December 1942. Some Jews were killed immediately in killing fields at Rumbula and Bikernieku, while others were deported to concentration camps such as Salaspils. At the beginning of 1943 many Jews were sent to the concentration camp Kaiserwald, located not far from Riga. By the end of 1943 the ghetto had been destroyed; the remaining Jews had been deported to Kaiserwald. Kaiserwald was destroyed in the fall of 1944.

POSTWAR

By the end of the 1950s there were 30,000 Jews in Riga. Because of significant amounts of emigration, however, by the beginning of the 1990s the population had dropped to 13,000. With the fall of communism and the rise of an independent Latvia, the Jewish community began to experience a revival. A number of educational and welfare institutions were opened, along with the Museum of the History of Latvian Jewry. In 1988 the Latvian Jewish Culture Council was founded and in 1992 it was reorganized into the Riga Jewish Community. The building that once housed the Jewish Theater was returned to the Jewish community in Riga during the early 1990s, under the protection of the Latvian government.

Notable figures who were born or lived in Riga include the professors and brothers Pauls and Vladimirs Mintz , Aryeh Disenchik, Rabbi, Menachem Zak, Mordekhai Dubin, brothers Mordekhai and Aharon Nurok, lawyer Simon Isaac Wittenberg, and the historian Simon Dubnow.

London

The capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. 

21ST CENTURY

Behind Israel, the United States, France, and Canada, the United Kingdom boasts the fifth-largest Jewish population worldwide and the second-largest in Europe. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s Jews live in Greater London, which is three out of every five Jews living in the United Kingdom. The Jewish population is principally concentrated in the northern boroughs of Barnet and Hackney. According to the 2011 UK census, approximately 172,000 Jews live in London, with more than 54,000 living in Barnet alone.

By the end of the 20th century, sizeable Jewish communities had developed in the areas of Golders Green and Stamford Hill. Located in the London Borough of Barnet, Golders Green is an area noted especially for its large Jewish community and for having the largest kosher hub in the entire United Kingdom. The Jews of Barnet account for one in five of all the Jews in England and Wales.

The district of Stamford Hill in Hackney is best known for its population of Hasidic Jews. At approximately 30,000 people, it is the largest concentration of Hasidic Jews in Europe. A once-small religious community that had lived in the area at the end of the 19th century was largely augmented by the influx of pre-war refugees and Holocaust survivors. Since then, the Haredi community has experienced continued growth with arrivals from Israel and North America. Due to the ultra-Orthodox nature of the area, Stamford Hill is often referred to as the “square mile of piety.” In this small geographical area are over 70 synagogues, many of which are associated with congregations which originated in Eastern Europe, including the Satmar and Belz dynasties, two of the largest Jewish sects represented in the community.

Stamford Hill is also home to a sizeable community of Yemenite Jews, specifically Adeni Jews from the former British protectorate of Aden. Between 1947 and 1967, nearly the entire population emigrated from Aden, settling primarily in Israel and the United Kingdom.

The London Jewish community is served by a wide range of social welfare organizations, including several local councils and international charities. Among them are the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Community Security Trust, the Jewish Learning Exchange, the Jewish Leadership Council, Jewish Women’s Aid, the Jewish Historical Society of England, the London Jewish Forum, the Center for Jewish Life, and the Anglo Jewish Association.

The primary focus of many of these organizations is to organize and fund cultural events and educational programs for families and young adults. Others, like the London Jewish Forum, promote active engagement of the Jewish community with civic life. Since the 1970s, there have been more than sixty Zionist organizations which supported various institutions in Israel.

Philanthropic organizations include the World Jewish Relief, the JNF Charitable Trust and Norwood. World Jewish Relief was established in 1933 as a fund for German Jews which rescued over 100,000 Jews prior to World War II; Norwood is one of the oldest charities in the United Kingdom and is well known for its support of children and people with disabilities. The organization has many celebrity patrons and supporters, including Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Sir Elton John, and Simon Cowell.

In terms of health and social services, Jewish Care is the largest provider of healthcare for the communities of London and the South East. This organization operates more than seventy centers throughout the United Kingdom.

There are more than 150 active synagogues located throughout Greater London. Several Jewish movements are represented, including Orthodox, Chabad, Masorti, Reform, Liberal, and independent. The number of strictly Orthodox or Haredi synagogues has more than doubled since the 1990s, chiefly due to the growth of Hasidic groups in the district of Stamford Hill. By 2014, the ultra-Orthodox community of London accounted for 18% of the Jewish population. The Belvis Marks Synagogue, built in 1701 by Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, is the oldest synagogue still in use in the United Kingdom.

London is home to about 37 Jewish primary schools, 54 nursery schools, and as many as 14 secondary schools. The majority of Jewish children in the United Kingdom live in Greater London; those from non-Haredi families make up 50% of the children enrolled in Jewish primary schools. According to a 2015 government report, London’s Jewish schools are among the best in England. Many of London’s synagogues provide Jewish education. Outside of the Haredi community, the majority of London’s Jewish students attend schools which are separate from congregations but may be associated with the major streams of Judaism.

One of the most famous Jewish schools in Britain is located in London, the Jews’ Free School (JFS); it was established in 1732 and was at one time the largest Jewish school in Europe. Another well-known Jewish school is the Jewish Community Secondary School; established in 2010 in New Barnet, London; it is state-funded and cross-denominational. A notable institution which provides Jewish educational programs for adults is the London School of Jewish Studies. The roots of the college go back to 1855 when Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler opened the Jews’ College in Finsbury Square. After a rebrand in 1999, the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS) shifted its focus and become a hub of academic study.

In Greater London are several social associations and community programs dedicated to promoting a Jewish life and advancing Jewish causes. One in particular is Spiro Ark, a charitable organization that organizes Jewish cultural events and educational programs. Another is the Center for Jewish Life, which provides a wide array of social programs, educational events, and activities for Jews to connect with each other. Located at the University College London Union is the JSC, one of the largest Jewish societies for Jewish students in the United Kingdom. There are also fifteen Chabad centers found in central London.

As the nucleus of Jewish cohesion and culture in Britain, the city of London hosts a number of museums and memorials. One of its most famous is the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial; unveiled in 1983, it was the first Holocaust memorial in Great Britain.

Ben Uri –The London Jewish Museum of Art is a public art gallery that was founded in 1915 and remains Europe’s only Jewish art museum. The Jewish Military Museum commemorates the Jewish contribution to British forces going back three hundred years. Providing an insight into British Jewish history is the Jewish Museum of London. Among its permanent exhibitions is the Holocaust Gallery, Judaism: A Living Faith, The Mikveh, and History: A British Story.

The first Jewish Community Center in London is the London Cultural Center (JW3), which has become the leading center for adult education and for the arts.

The Weiner Library is home to one of the world’s most extensive Holocaust archives. Established in 1933, it includes over one million items, including eyewitness testimony, photos, and published and unpublished works.

Other Jewish landmarks in London include the Rothschild Archive in St. Swithin’s lane, the Freud Museum, the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the statue of Benjamin Disraeli at Parliament Square, and the Jewish East End, site of the historical Jewish Socialist Club. There are also more than twenty kosher restaurants, four kosher hotels, and many Judaica shops found throughout the north of the city.

The largest amount of publications on Jewish topics emanate from London. These include newspapers, magazines, books and other media. Circulating throughout Greater London is The Jewish Chronicle; founded in 1841, it is the oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the world. In 1896, it published Theodor Herzl’s historic article “Solution of the Jewish Question”.

Another weekly published newspaper is The Jewish News. Named Free Newspaper of the Year in 2003 by Press Gazette, it provides local, national and international news and entertainment for the Jewish communities of Greater London, Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The Jewish Tribune is a privately owned Haredi weekly newspaper based in Stamford Hill. It is the fourth largest Jewish publication in England.

Broadcasted by the Spectrum Radio Network is Sunday Jewish Radio, a weekly program on Jewish themes.

 

HISTORY

After the Norman conquest of 1066, a few Jews arrived in London from the nearby areas of Europe (chiefly the Duchy of Normandy, including Rouen), attracted mainly by the economic opportunities that the city offered. The earliest recorded mention of the London community dates from the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100), who appears to have favored the Jews to a certain extent.

In 1130, in what was possibly a blood libel, the Jews of London were accused of killing a sick man and were forced to pay an enormous fine. Other outbreaks of antisemitism took place during the coronation of Richard I (September 3,1189) and during the reign of John (1199-1216); John’s reign, and that of his son Henry III (1216-1272) saw the opposition of the barons to the Jews, and there was a baronial attack on London Jewry in 1215. Nonetheless, Jewish intellectual during this period flourished; among other accomplishments, it attracted the Biblical commentator Abraham ibn Ezra, who wrote his Iggeret Ha-Shabbat and his Yesod Mora in London in 1158.

During the reign of Henry III the Jews of London, along with those of the rest of the country, were oppressed. The climax came in 1224 when it was alleged that some gashes found on the body of a dead child were Hebrew letters and the Jews were accused of ritual murder. This resulted in a punitive fine on the Jewish community. In 1232 Henry III confiscated the main London synagogue on the pretext that the chanting could be heard in a neighboring church. In 1278 a number of London Jews were among the 680 who were imprisoned in the tower of London on forgery charges. Nearly 300 are said to have been hanged. Shortly thereafter, in 1283 the Bishop of London ordered that all synagogues in the diocese to be closed (one was later reopened).
In 1290, the Jews were expelled from England and the Jewish community of London ceased to exist.
In 1509, after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, a few crypto-Jewish refugees settled in London; by the end of Henry VIII’s reign in 1547, there were approximately 37 crypto-Jewish families living in London. However, in 1609 the Portuguese merchants living in London, who were suspected of Judaizing, were expelled. Nevertheless, when the crypto-Jewish community of Ruen was (temporarily) dissolved in 1632, a number of fugitives, including Antonio Fernandez Carvajal, found a home in London. Thus, when Manasseh ben Israel went to England in 1655, there was already an established secret Jewish community in London that became increasingly visible. In March of 1657 a petition was presented to Cromwell asking for protection, and the following December a house was rented and used as a synagogue. A few months later the community purchased land for a cemetery.

After Cromwell's death in 1658 numerous attempts were made to persecute and stem the grown of the community. Charles II, however, intervened in its favor, and bestowed de facto recognition on the community. A synagogue on Cree Church Lane was enlarged and remodeled in 1674, and in 1701 a new place of worship was built in Bevis Marks. As the community was reestablishing itself, considerable numbers of Spanish and Portuguese Jews began arriving from Holland. Ashkenazim soon followed, most of whom arrived via Amsterdam or Hamburg. They organized their own congregation around 1690, and eventually became the more influential and populous Jewish community in London.
The Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities proved able to work together in establishing and running a number of community institutions. The board for kosher slaughter, in which Sephardim and Ashkenazim cooperated, was organized through the advocacy of Baron Lyon de Symons between 1792 and 1804. As early as 1760 the Sephardi community admitted Ashkenazi representatives to their governing committee, which was appointed to deal with the government on behalf of the Jewish community. This ultimately developed into the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represented the Jewish communities of London until 1838, after which it began to represent Jewish communities outside of London, in addition to the ones within the city.

The Ashkenazi community’s Talmud Torah, which was established in 1732, was reorganized in 1817 as the Jews' Free School. This school eventually developed into one of the largest schools in Europe.

 

19TH CENTURY

The struggle for Jewish emancipation in England centered in London, and was a process that developed in stages throughout the years. Beginning in 1830 the city of London had shown its support of parliamentary emancipation, most notably by electing Baron Lionel de Rothschild, in spite of the fact that he could not take his seat because of the statutory oath. Nonetheless, this became very influential when it came to the ultimate admission of Jews to the Parliament in 1858. In 1831 Jews were granted the privilege of being able to engage in retail trade, from which they had hitherto been barred. In 1835, David Salomons was elected a sheriff of the city, the first Jewish person to serve in that office. In 1847 Salomons became the first Jewish alderman, and in 1855 the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London.
The growing Anglicization of London Jewry led to a number of community developments. A Reform congregation was established in 1840. Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations established branch synagogues in the West End. A modern theological seminary, Jews' College, was founded in 1855, and a charitable organization, the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor, was established in 1859. The United Synagogue, an umbrella organization for the major Ashkenazi congregations in London, was established in 1870. In 1887 Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling) created the Federation of Synagogues in order to coordinate the various religious activities that took place in the different synagogues.
The mass emigration from Russia that began in 1881 led to a mass influx of Eastern European Jews to London. As a result, the next 25 years saw London’s Jewish population rise from about 47,000 to approximately 150,000. Most of the new immigrants worked as tailors, shoemakers, and cabinetmakers. A Yiddish press and an active trade union movement were established to meet the needs of this growing immigrant population.

 

20TH CENTURY

The Aliens Act of 1905 limited immigration, though smaller numbers of Jewish immigrants continued to arrive until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Later, a considerable number of refugees arrived from Germany after the Nazi rise to power in 1933.

As Jews became more established in London, they tended to move. East End Jews who managed to work their way up the socioeconomic ladder tended to move to the newer suburbs, particularly those in the northeast of the city, to Stamford Hill, and the northwest, to Golders Green). The interwar period saw significant numbers of London’s Jews moving from the East End to the northern suburbs, as many within the community became well-established and successful. This movement led to the establishment of a number of Jewish institutions in the suburbs. A Jewish museum and a community center for the major Jewish institutions of London were established at Woburn House in the Bloomsbury area.
The total Jewish population of greater London in 1970 was estimated at 280,000. In 1997 it was estimated at 300,000.

 

Oxford

A university city, Oxfordshire, England

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

The Oxford Jewish Congregation (OJC) is the umbrella organization for religious services in Oxford, and offers both Orthodox, egalitarian, Progressive, and alternative services. The services themselves take place at the Oxford Jewish Centre. The OJC also provides for the needs of any Jewish resident, student, or visitor in Oxford, regardless of denominational affiliation (or lack thereof).

HISTORY

Jews are first recorded in Oxford in 1141. Records indicate that two monarchs, King Stephen and Queen Matilda, both attempted to extort money from the community; one unfortunate member, Aaron ben Isaac, had his house burned down when he refused to pay. The Jewish community was located at in Oxford’s commercial center, and during the 12th century it had between 80 and 100 members.

Copin of Worcester granted the community a synagogue in 1228. Oxford’s Jewish community was also one of the few Jewish communities outside of London to have their own cemetery. The cemetery was consecrated around 1190, but confiscated in 1231, after which it was moved to a different location.

Most of Oxford’s Jews worked as traders, artisans, moneylenders, and university landlords; up to 10% of student housing was provided by Jewish landlords. Relations between the students and the landlords, however, were not good (unsurprisingly), culminating in student riots against them in 1244. Nonetheless, relations between Jews and Christians in Oxford tended to be good, with periodic outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence, particularly around Easter. Prominent members of the community during this period included David of Oxford (d.1244), who had a private library that included a number of important books.

In 1290 the Jews were expelled from England. The Jewish community of Oxford ceased to exist until the mid-18th century, when Jews began to resettle in the city; the community was officially organized in 1841.

Jews began to be admitted to the University of Oxford in 1854, and they began to make up most of Oxford’s Jewish community. Eventually, enough Jewish students were enrolled that a student society was established in 1904. A number of Jews also began teaching at the university. The philosopher Samuel Alexander (1859-1938) was appointed as a fellow of Lincoln College in 1882, making him the first Jew appointed as a college fellow at an English university. The mathematician James Joseph Sylvester was appointed as a professor of geometry in 1883.

Oxford’s Jewish community remained small during the 19th century, but it nonetheless developed a number of important institutions. A synagogue was established around 1850, followed by another in 1870 and a third in 1878.

During World War I (1914-1918) Oxford’s Jewish community grew as a number of Jews chose to live in the city during the war. During the interwar period, however, many of these arrivals returned to London, and the Jewish community consisted mainly of students. Eventually, with the Nazi rise to power in 1933, both the university and the Oxford Refugee Committee worked to bring German Jewish academics to Oxford; Albert Einstein was among those they helped to get out of Germany, and he lived in Oxford before continuing on to the United States. Additionally, with the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), Jewish evacuees from London also began arriving in Oxford, leading to a drastic increase of the city’s Jewish population; approximately 500 Jews arrived in Oxford during the war.

Once the war was over, however, Oxford’s Jewish population dramatically decreased. Nonetheless, those who remained established a number of social and cultural organizations; most notable among these was the university’s Chulent Society, which operated from 1955 until approximately 1985.

As it had so many times in the past. Oxford’s Jewish population rebounded, and the community once again began to grow substantially. During the ‘60s a number of Jews decided to settle in Oxford, while Jewish students and academics continued to be drawn to the university. In 1967 the Jewish population was approximately 400, with an additional 200 undergraduates.

In 1991 seven Oxford colleges were led by Jews, and Jewish students made up approximately 8% of the student body.

St. Petersburg

Санкт-Петербург; also known as Petrograd 1914-1924, and Leningrad 1924-1991

Capital of Russia until 1918. An industrial city and major port on the Baltic Sea.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is the second-largest in Russia. Mass emigration reduced the Jewish population from 107,000 in 1989 to about 40,000 in 2002. A 2010 census revealed that these numbers did not change considerably and that the number of Jewish residents in St. Petersburg has remained at around 40,000 people. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Jews of St. Petersburg were in many ways disconnected from Jewish culture. However, since the end of communism in Russia, St. Petersburg has emerged as a vibrant Jewish community. While a significant segment of the community remains uncomfortable with, and not entirely open about, its Jewishness, an increasing number of the city's Jews identify as Jewish and have begun observing Jewish traditions and rituals.

Jews began arriving in St. Petersburg during the second half of the 19th century, primarily from the "Pale of Residence", which was made up of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania. This time was marked by intense Russification, which included a high rate of mixed marriages and conversions to Christianity. Most of the Jews of St. Petersburg have lived in the city for generations, though there are many who have arrived more recently from other locations within Russia and the region, including the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Georgia. Since the restriction on emigration was lifted in 1989, as many as 230,000 Jews left for Israel.

Two umbrella organizations serve both the community of St. Petersburg and Russian Jewry more generally: the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, and The Russian-Jewish Congress. With the support of foreign Jewish philanthropy, several Jewish welfare programs, as well as a full range of religious and educational institutions, have been developed in St. Petersburg. Russia's network of Jewish educational institutions includes four Jewish universities, which are mainly located in St. Petersburg and Moscow. A number of smaller religious and social organizations have been established by young Jews in their twenties and thirties. Events such as the Jewish festival take place annually in the community. St. Petersburg has also been host to annual events and conferences organized by Limmud FSU, an organization which specializes in meeting the cultural needs of the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2011 these conferences have attracted hundreds of Jews from St. Petersburg, providing a safe environment for Jewish youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Jewish newspapers and Russian-language media have emerged in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities with smaller organized Jewish communities.

The vast majority of Russian Jewry, including the community of St. Petersburg, is secular and defines their Jewishness in cultural rather than religious terms. Of the religiously observant Jews in St. Petersburg, most are Orthodox. In an effort to support the resurgence in religious observance, many rabbis from outside Russia have been brought to St. Petersburg. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been very active in the community since the end of the 20th century, and the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism have also been introduced.

The central hub of Jewish life in St. Petersburg is the Yesod Jewish Community Center (JCC). Opened in 2005, the facility houses six of the community's major Jewish organizations, including the Hesed Avraam Charity Center, Adain Lo Family Center, Hillel Student Center, the Granatik Children Center, ORT, and the Library & Eitan Jewish Education Center. Additionally, the JCC offers many cultural and educational programs. It holds lectures, sponsors events, and includes its own Sunday school.

The most notable synagogue in St. Petersburg is the Grand Choral Synagogue. Constructed in the Moorish Revival-Byzantine style between 1880 and 1888, and consecrated in 1893, the Grand Choral is the second-largest synagogue in Europe. Prior to its construction, a synagogue large enough to serve the entire Jewish community in Russia's then-capital did not exist. However, the synagogue could only be built after obtaining a building permit from Tsar Alexander II in 1869.

Located in the Russian Museum of Ethnography is an exhibit dedicated to Russian Jewry. The exhibit "History and Culture of the Jewish people of the Territory of Russia" is considered by many in the community to be the first step toward the development of a completely separate Jewish museum. As one of the city's important cultural institutions, the museum attracts visitors from all over Russia, including Jews from neighboring countries.

Another significant Jewish landmark is the Holocaust memorial, located in Tsarskoye Selo. The monument stands just 500 meters from Catherin's palace where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Second World War.

One of the oldest points of Jewish interest in the city is St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery. Founded in 1875, the cemetery serves as the burial place for several historical figures such as the sculptor Mark Antokolsky, the 19th century scientist and Jewish community leader David Ginsburg, and Abraham Lubanov, who served as the head rabbi of the St. Petersburg Synagogue during World War II.

HISTORY

There is evidence that there were some Marranos who settled in St. Petersburg soon after it was in 1703 by Peter the Great. "The Portuguese Jew," Jan DaCosta (who was actually a converso), was one of the jesters at the royal court during the first half of the 18th century. The city's first police chief was also a converso from the Netherlands. Otherwise, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. Additionally, Czarina Elizabeth issued intolerant decrees against the Jews, and the few Jews who were living in St. Petersburg were forced to leave. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), on the other hand, was interested in attracting Jewish contractors, industrialists, and physicians to the city, and therefore issued instructions to the authorities to overlook the presence of the "useful" Jews living there with their families and assistants and had the protection of court officials. It was Catherine II who, after the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, created the Pale of Settlement, territories in which the Jews of the Russian Empire were permitted to settle permanently (unless they had special permission to settle elsewhere).

With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, St. Petersburg became a center for the millions of Jews who were incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city quickly became a destination for upper class Jews, both the "useful" Jews—the army veterans, artisans, and wealthy merchants who had official permission to live outside of the Pale—as well as the Jews who settled in St. Petersburg illegally. The leader of Chabad Chasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg from 1798 until 1800/1801.

The situation of the Jews worsened with the accession of Czar Nicholas I. In 1827 he issued the Statute on Conscription Duty, which imposed a draft on the Jews of Russia and cancelled the earlier provision that allowed Jews to pay a monetary random instead of submitting to the draft. The draftees would have to serve 25 years, and would fall on Jewish boys and men between the ages of 12 and 25 (as opposed to the general population, in which men 18 to 35 were eligible for the draft). The idea was to modernize and Russify the Jewish population, and became a communal crisis, particularly for the more traditional Jewish communities.

The situation shifted again with the reign of Alexander II. "Useful" Jews, such as army veterans, university graduates, artisans, and upper-class merchants were once again allowed to legally settle in St. Petersburg. By the end of Alexander II's reign in 1881 there were 17,253 Jews in St. Petersburg, making up approximately 2% of the population. Upper class Jews, including the barons of the Guenzburg family became the de facto leaders and representatives before the Central Government.

Several figures held the position of Kazyonnyy Ravin (Government-Appointed Rabbi) in St. Petersburg, including the German-born Abraham Neiman, Avram Drabkin, and Moshe Eisenstadt. Other rabbis who were not officially appointed, yet who led the Jews of the community, were Yitshak Blaser, Yekutiel Zalman Landau, and David Tevel Katzenellenbogen. After 24 years of dealing with bureaucracy and construction, the magnificent Grand Choral Synagogue was completed and consecrated in 1893. It was built in the Moorish style, and contained 1,200 seats. In spite of this triumph, it is important to note that with the opening of the Grand Choral Synagogue, all of the other existing sanctuaries needed to be closed, and their congregants were compelled to pray only in the Grand Choral Synagogue.

The Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew Jewish presses were centered in St. Petersburg from the 1870s until the revolution in 1905. The newspapers HaMelitz (1871-1873, 1878-1904), HaYom (1886-1888). Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1881-1890) and the first Russian daily newspaper in Yiddish, Der Fraynd (1903-1908), were all published out of St. Petersburg. The city was also the center of Russian-Jewish journalism and literature. One of the most outstanding publications was the Russian-Jewish encyclopedia, Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, which was published in 1908.

In spite of censorship, exclusions, and unremitting police persecutions, the community continued to grow, numbering 35,000 (1.8% of the city's population) in 1914.

Many national Jewish organizations located their headquarters in St. Petersburg. The oldest of these organizations was The Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, which was founded in 1863. Others included ORT, the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Chovevei Sefat Ever (renamed "Tarbut" after the 1917 Revolution), the Historical-Ethnographic Society, and the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Additionally, a number of institutions in the city housed various objects of Jewish interest. The city's Asian Museum housed a valuable Hebrew department. The Imperial Public Library contained one of the world's oldest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts. Under the initiative of Baron David Guenzburg, courses in Oriental Studies were opened in St. Petersburg in 1907. The concentration of public and cultural institutions in the city attracted Jewish authors and intellectuals, including A.A Harkavy, Judah Leib Katzenelson, Simon Dubnow, and father and son Michael and Eugene M. Kulisher.

World War I saw the Jewish population of Petrograd swell to more than 50,000 because of Jews fleeing from the battlefields within the Pale of Settlement, or Jews being expelled by the Russian army who accused them of collaborating with the Germans and Austrians. The influx of Jewish refugees was overwhelming to the city's Jewish residents, though they nonetheless attempted to accommodate them through organizations such as the Jewish Society for the Relief of War Victims.

After the February Revolution of 1917, all residence restrictions affecting the Jews of Petrograd were abolished. As a result, the city became a center for the activities of the diverse parties and factions within Russian Jewry. In June 1917, the Seventh Conference of the Zionist Organization of Russia was held in the city, and plans were also made to convene an All-Russian Jewish Congress in Petrograd. These improvements in Jewish life and national status were, however, short-lived. With the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, all Jewish political parties (along with any other non-Bolshevik parties) were forced underground. The center of government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, leaving the city's Jews far from the nation's political center. The transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918, as well as the shortages and famine that affected the city during the Russian Civil War, severely shook the Jewish community, and many Jews returned to the provincial towns. It was during this difficult period that Joseph Trumpeldor created a Jewish battalion for the purposes of Jewish self-defense. Additionally, he founded the youth organization He-Halutz, to prepare Jewish youth for emigration to Palestine.

By 1920 there were 25,453 Jews (3.5% of the total population) living in Petrograd. With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the number of Jews rapidly increased, to 52,373 in 1923 (4.9% of the total population), and 84,505 in 1926 (5.2% of the population).

A small group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals attempted to continue their literary and scientific work under the new regime. They worked to sustain their former cultural societies, and continued to publish scientific and literary periodicals. By the end of the 1920s, when these projects were shut down by the Soviet regime, many of these intellectuals left Russia, including Simon Dubnow and Saul M. Ginzburg. Nearly a decade later, by the end of the 1930s, the remaining Communist Jewish organizations had also been suppressed, as had public expressions of Jewish identity.

On the eve of the Nazi invasion, the number of Jews in Leningrad was estimated at about 200,000 people. During World War II, the Jews shared in the suffering and starvation during the German siege of the city. The author, literary critic, and historian Lidiya Yakovlevna Ginzburg was among the survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

In the census of 1959, 162,344 Jews were registered as living in Leningrad, but the real number was probably closer to 200,000. 13,728 of these respondents declared Yiddish as their mother tongue. The city's only synagogue was the Grand Choral Synagogue, which was still standing in spite of having been bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and 1943. During the 1950s Gedalia Pecherski was the chairman of the synagogue's board. Pecherski was not only devoted to the religious needs of the congregation, he also sent petitions to the Soviet government and the municipal authorities asking to be allowed to organize courses in subjects such as Hebrew and Jewish history. These petitions were always summarily rejected. Pecherski was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, ostensibly for having "maintained contact with a foreign embassy [i.e Israel]." The rabbi of the synagogue, RabbiAbram Lubanov, who had been imprisoned in a forced labor camp during the Stalin era, was the dwindling congregation's spiritual leader.

In 1962-1964, as in other parts of the USSR, matzah-baking in the Leningrad synagogue was discontinued by the authorities. In 1962, on the eve of Simchat Torah, 25 Jewish youths were arrested while dancing in the street near the synagogue. In 1963 the authorities prohibited the use of the Jewish cemetery, which was ultimately closed in 1969.

In spite of the assimilation and population decline among Leningrad's Jews, they nonetheless took on an important role in the refusenik movement and the Jewish national revival that began to stir in the Soviet Union. After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish youth more openly displayed their identification with Israel, in spite of the official Soviet anti-Israel campaign. Many began studying Hebrew in private underground groups, others protested publicly against the government's refusal to grant them exit permits for Israel. These protests were publicized abroad, and helped galvanize Jewish communities worldwide to help their Soviet brethren. Many of these activities led to the arrest and imprisonment of these young activists. Another group of young Jews, mostly from Riga, together with 2 non-Jews, were tried in Leningrad in December 1970 for allegedly planning to hijack a Soviet plane in order to land abroad and ultimately reach Israel. Two were sentenced to death, and the other to prison terms of 4-15 years. These sentences led to worldwide protests. On appeal in March, 1971, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic commuted the death sentences to 15 years of hard labor, and some of the other sentences were reduced.

With the collapse of communism, St. Petersburg saw a Jewish communal revival. Chabad is particularly active in the city, and events such as Limmud FSU help St. Petersburg's Jews reconnect with their Jewish roots.

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Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), social and political philosopher, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century, born in Riga, Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire). Berlin's work on liberal theory and on pluralism has had a great influence on social thought. Born the son of a wealthy timber company owner, he was a direct descendant of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Hasidism.

The family lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, but left in 1920 after feeling the oppression of Bolshevism and anti-Semitism. They came to Britain in 1921. Berlin was educated at St Paul's School in London, then at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he studied classics. He then took another degree, this time at Oxford, in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was appointed a tutor in philosophy at New College, Oxford, and in 1932 at the age of 23, was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He was the first Jewish fellow at All Souls College. Berlin was to remain at Oxford for the rest of his life, apart from a period working for British Information Services in New York, USA, from 1940 to 1942, and for the British embassies in Washington, DC, and Moscow from then until 1946.

Berlin was fluent in Russian and English, spoke French, German and Italian, and knew Latin and Ancient Greek. From 1957 to 1967, he was Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford and in 1966 he was elected to be the first president of the newly founded Wolfson College in Oxford. He was knighted in 1957, and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom. The annual Isaiah Berlin Lectures are held at the Hampstead Synagogue and both Wolfson College and the British Academy each summer.

The London based "Independent" newspaper once wrote that "Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time ... there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential"

In 1956, Berlin married Aline Halban, née de Gunzbourg, who was from an exiled half Russian-aristocratic and half ennobled-Jewish banking and petroleum family He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959.

His work was characterized by a very liberal attitude to social and political questions. In his “Karl Marx”, published in 1939, he examines Marxism in the context of the times when it was written. In the “August Conte Memorial Lectures” he opposed the notion that events are inevitable and therefore predictable. His essay "Two Concepts of Liberty", delivered in 1958 as his inaugural lecture as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford argued for a nuanced and subtle understanding of political terminology, where what was superficially understood as a single concept could mask a plurality of different uses and therefore meanings. He distinguished between thinkers who tried to find liberty within a framework of restraints while recognizing the diversity of human needs and those who are dogmatic and try to “force men to be free`' and so end up by enslaving them.

For Berlin, values are creations of mankind, rather than products of nature waiting to be discovered. He argued that the nature of mankind is such that certain values – for example, the importance of individual liberty – will hold true across cultures, and this is what he meant when he called his position "objective pluralism". When values clash, it may not be that one is more important than the other. Keeping a promise may conflict with the pursuit of truth; liberty may clash with social justice. Moral conflicts are "an intrinsic, irremovable element in human life". "These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are." For Berlin, this incommensurate clashing of values within, no less than between, individuals, constitutes the tragedy of human life.

Berlin had many close ties to Zionism and Israel having close friendships with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders. He was a governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Berlin's essay "Historical Inevitability" (1954) focused on a controversy in the philosophy of history. Berlin is also well known for his writings on Russian intellectual history, most of which are collected in Russian Thinkers (1978; 2nd ed. 2008),

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
BERLIN
BERLIN, BERL, BERLINER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name can be a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The name Berlin is associated with Berlin, the capital city of Germany, where Jews are first mentioned in 1295, or with the village of Berlin in Galicia.

As a Jewish family name it is more likely to be a patronymic, derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin. Ber, which means "bear" in Yiddish, can stand alone or have derivative forms like Berl, Berko. It also gave rise to family names like Berlin and Berkowitz. In some cases therefore Berlin is a diminutive of the German nickname Berl, which derives from Baer ("bear"). Baer is the traditional nickname of the Hebrew male personal name Issachar. In Genesis 49 Issachar is described as a donkey, but as this is a derisive term in Europe, the association of Issachar with a bear (noted for its strength) was accepted instead. The custom of giving children names of animals was based on the biblical chapter in which Jacob compares his sons with certain animals. Another source of Berl is the acronym of Ben Reb Leser ("son of Rabbi Leser/Elieser").

One way the Jewish family name Berlin was formed is illustrated by the 19th century Hungarian-born author Chajim Berisch Berlin (comprising two derivatives of Baer). The German suffix "-er" in Berliner indicates either "from" or "son of".

Distinguished 20th century bearers of the Jewish family name Berlin include Rabbi Meir Berlin (also known as Bar-Ilan), world president of the Mizrachi organization; the American composer, Irving Berlin; and the Riga-born British philosopher, Isaiah Berlin. Prominent 20th century bearers of the Jewish family name Berliner include the Polish-born Mexican Yiddish poet and journalist Isaac Berliner, and the German-born American physician and educator, Kurt Berliner.

Riga
Riga

Capital and largest city of Latvia. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava

Timeline:
1582-1629: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1629-1721: Kingdom of Sweden
1721-1917: Russian Empire
1917-1918: German Empire
1918-1940: Republic of Latvia
1940-1941: Soviet Union
1941-1944: Nazi Germany
1944-1990: Soviet Union
Since 1990: Republic of Latvia

The Riga Jewish Community, the organizing body of the Jewish community of Riga, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008. Located on Skolas street 6, the Riga Jewish Community is a social and activity center for the Jews of Riga. The building houses a museum, library, youth and community centers, as well as social, cultural, and charitable programs.

The Peitav Synagogue on Peitavas Street was built at the turn of the 20th century. Remarkably, not only did the synagogue survive World War II (while the other synagogues in Riga were burned down, the Peitav Synagogue was spared because it was located in the Old Town and the Nazis did not want to risk the fire spreading to nearby buildings), after the war the ark containing the Torah scrolls was discovered to have been concealed behind the eastern wall of the synagogue. This act, attributed to a priest named Gustavs Shaurums, saved the Torah scrolls from destruction. It was one of the only synagogues that still operated during the Soviet era, and as of 2008 it is the only functioning synagogue in Riga, led by Rabbi Mordehay Glazman. The Peitav Synagogue was renovated in 2007-2008 with help from the European Union, the government of Latvia, and the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities.

There are three Jewish schools in Riga: the S. Dubnov Riga Jewish Secondary School, the Chabad-run Ohel Menahem, and the Riga Jewish Community kindergarten "Motek." The community is also home to a library with tens of thousands of books, mostly in Yiddish, Russian, and Latvian, about Jewish history, Latvian Jewry, Judaism, fiction, and Latvian and foreign newspapers. The library also hosts the book club "Hasefer." Other Jewish clubs in Riga include "Maagal," which was founded in 1992 to teach Jewish dance to children ages 4 to 16 and the klezmer band "Forshpil."

Jewish activists from Riga managed, in spite of Soviet restrictions, to erect a monument at Rumbula in 1946, to commemorate the 25,000 Jews who were killed there on November 30 and December 8, 1941. The inscription, "To the victims of fascism," was written in Latvian, Russian, and Yiddish. A newer memorial joined the older one in 2002. A second memorial was dedicated in 2001 in the Bikernieku Forest, where about 20,000 Jews are buried in mass graves. A third monument is dedicated to those who helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust. It was unveiled on July 4, 2007 on National Jewish Genocide Victims' Rememberance Day. It is located on the site where the Great Choral Synagogue, which had been burned down exactly sixty-six years earlier—with the people inside—had once stood.

HISTORY

Riga was founded in 1201 by the Teutonic order (an order of German Christian knights) and eventually developed as a port and as a commercial center. Initially Jewish settlement in Riga was forbidden. Nonetheless, although they could not live in the city, Jewish merchants were active in Riga beginning in the middle of the 16th century and particularly after the Russian conquest at the beginning of the 18th century. The Jewish community would not be officially recognized until 1842; in the meantime, Jews began settling in Riga illegally; by the 18th century the community housed a synagogue and cemetery, and at the beginning of the 19th century it was able to employ a rabbi, cantor and a shohet (ritual slaughterer) as well as to open a cheder. The second half of the 19th century saw the community's activities expand; an orphanage, hospital, senior home, and other social and cultural institutions were all founded at the dawn of the 20th century.

The Jewish community of Riga was particularly pluralistic and culturally open. The wealth of economic opportunities that existed in the city attracted Jews from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Prussia, resulting in a community that had no fixed religious or cultural traditions, and that was drawn towards German culture. This left the Jews of Riga particularly receptive to the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment); the first Haskalah-influenced school opened in 1840 and was led by the German Reform rabbi Max Lilienthal. Other rabbis of the community, such as Aharon Pompianski, Shlomo Pucher, and Yehuda Leib Kantor, were also influential modernists. Towards the end of the 19th century many of Riga's Jews began to turn away from German influences and to embrace Russian culture. Zionism, socialism, as well as other major social and cultural movements began to play major roles within the Jewish community of Riga.

The Jewish community of Riga continued to grow throughout the first decades of the 20th century; by World War I there were more than 30,000 Jews living in the city. While nearly one-third of the city's Jewish population fled during the war, many of them ultimately returned. After World War I, Riga became the capital of independent Latvia. At this point, there were approximately 40,000 Jews living in Riga. Students could choose from a number of educational institutions in which the language of instruction was German, Russian, Yiddish, or Hebrew. There were two major synagogues, as well as smaller neighborhood synagogues and a small number of Hasidic prayer houses. The Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (OPE) had one of its largest and most active branches in Riga. There was a Jewish academy of music and a Jewish theater. "Dos fold" was among the many Yiddish newspapers published in the city.

A large variety of Jewish youth movements were active in the city, attesting to the diversity and openness that continued to exist among the Jews of Riga. There were groups affiliated with Revisionist Zionists, religious Zionists, Tse'ire Zion, Agudas Yisroel, Poalei Zion, the Folkspartey, the Bund, and the General Zionists.

Most of Riga's Jews were upper-middle class. They established and managed businesses and factories that produced products such as tobacco, food, textiles, and wood products. Jews also engaged in trade, banking, medicine, and law.

THE HOLOCAUST

Under Soviet occupation (1940-1941), restrictions were placed on all religious or national institutions, including many of the Jewish religious and cultural institutions operating in Riga. Once the Germans occupied the city, in July 1941, Jews were the victims of discrimination and violence; local groups, such as the Commando Arajs, also participated in anti-Semitic acts against the Jews. Synagogues were burned and mass killings took place in the forests outside of the city. Two ghettos were established in October and November 1941. Mikhael Elishov led the Altestenrat (the equivalent of the Judenrat). There was also a Jewish underground.

The Nazis began a series of aktions beginning in December 1942. Some Jews were killed immediately in killing fields at Rumbula and Bikernieku, while others were deported to concentration camps such as Salaspils. At the beginning of 1943 many Jews were sent to the concentration camp Kaiserwald, located not far from Riga. By the end of 1943 the ghetto had been destroyed; the remaining Jews had been deported to Kaiserwald. Kaiserwald was destroyed in the fall of 1944.

POSTWAR

By the end of the 1950s there were 30,000 Jews in Riga. Because of significant amounts of emigration, however, by the beginning of the 1990s the population had dropped to 13,000. With the fall of communism and the rise of an independent Latvia, the Jewish community began to experience a revival. A number of educational and welfare institutions were opened, along with the Museum of the History of Latvian Jewry. In 1988 the Latvian Jewish Culture Council was founded and in 1992 it was reorganized into the Riga Jewish Community. The building that once housed the Jewish Theater was returned to the Jewish community in Riga during the early 1990s, under the protection of the Latvian government.

Notable figures who were born or lived in Riga include the professors and brothers Pauls and Vladimirs Mintz , Aryeh Disenchik, Rabbi, Menachem Zak, Mordekhai Dubin, brothers Mordekhai and Aharon Nurok, lawyer Simon Isaac Wittenberg, and the historian Simon Dubnow.

London, UK

London

The capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. 

21ST CENTURY

Behind Israel, the United States, France, and Canada, the United Kingdom boasts the fifth-largest Jewish population worldwide and the second-largest in Europe. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s Jews live in Greater London, which is three out of every five Jews living in the United Kingdom. The Jewish population is principally concentrated in the northern boroughs of Barnet and Hackney. According to the 2011 UK census, approximately 172,000 Jews live in London, with more than 54,000 living in Barnet alone.

By the end of the 20th century, sizeable Jewish communities had developed in the areas of Golders Green and Stamford Hill. Located in the London Borough of Barnet, Golders Green is an area noted especially for its large Jewish community and for having the largest kosher hub in the entire United Kingdom. The Jews of Barnet account for one in five of all the Jews in England and Wales.

The district of Stamford Hill in Hackney is best known for its population of Hasidic Jews. At approximately 30,000 people, it is the largest concentration of Hasidic Jews in Europe. A once-small religious community that had lived in the area at the end of the 19th century was largely augmented by the influx of pre-war refugees and Holocaust survivors. Since then, the Haredi community has experienced continued growth with arrivals from Israel and North America. Due to the ultra-Orthodox nature of the area, Stamford Hill is often referred to as the “square mile of piety.” In this small geographical area are over 70 synagogues, many of which are associated with congregations which originated in Eastern Europe, including the Satmar and Belz dynasties, two of the largest Jewish sects represented in the community.

Stamford Hill is also home to a sizeable community of Yemenite Jews, specifically Adeni Jews from the former British protectorate of Aden. Between 1947 and 1967, nearly the entire population emigrated from Aden, settling primarily in Israel and the United Kingdom.

The London Jewish community is served by a wide range of social welfare organizations, including several local councils and international charities. Among them are the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Community Security Trust, the Jewish Learning Exchange, the Jewish Leadership Council, Jewish Women’s Aid, the Jewish Historical Society of England, the London Jewish Forum, the Center for Jewish Life, and the Anglo Jewish Association.

The primary focus of many of these organizations is to organize and fund cultural events and educational programs for families and young adults. Others, like the London Jewish Forum, promote active engagement of the Jewish community with civic life. Since the 1970s, there have been more than sixty Zionist organizations which supported various institutions in Israel.

Philanthropic organizations include the World Jewish Relief, the JNF Charitable Trust and Norwood. World Jewish Relief was established in 1933 as a fund for German Jews which rescued over 100,000 Jews prior to World War II; Norwood is one of the oldest charities in the United Kingdom and is well known for its support of children and people with disabilities. The organization has many celebrity patrons and supporters, including Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Sir Elton John, and Simon Cowell.

In terms of health and social services, Jewish Care is the largest provider of healthcare for the communities of London and the South East. This organization operates more than seventy centers throughout the United Kingdom.

There are more than 150 active synagogues located throughout Greater London. Several Jewish movements are represented, including Orthodox, Chabad, Masorti, Reform, Liberal, and independent. The number of strictly Orthodox or Haredi synagogues has more than doubled since the 1990s, chiefly due to the growth of Hasidic groups in the district of Stamford Hill. By 2014, the ultra-Orthodox community of London accounted for 18% of the Jewish population. The Belvis Marks Synagogue, built in 1701 by Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, is the oldest synagogue still in use in the United Kingdom.

London is home to about 37 Jewish primary schools, 54 nursery schools, and as many as 14 secondary schools. The majority of Jewish children in the United Kingdom live in Greater London; those from non-Haredi families make up 50% of the children enrolled in Jewish primary schools. According to a 2015 government report, London’s Jewish schools are among the best in England. Many of London’s synagogues provide Jewish education. Outside of the Haredi community, the majority of London’s Jewish students attend schools which are separate from congregations but may be associated with the major streams of Judaism.

One of the most famous Jewish schools in Britain is located in London, the Jews’ Free School (JFS); it was established in 1732 and was at one time the largest Jewish school in Europe. Another well-known Jewish school is the Jewish Community Secondary School; established in 2010 in New Barnet, London; it is state-funded and cross-denominational. A notable institution which provides Jewish educational programs for adults is the London School of Jewish Studies. The roots of the college go back to 1855 when Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler opened the Jews’ College in Finsbury Square. After a rebrand in 1999, the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS) shifted its focus and become a hub of academic study.

In Greater London are several social associations and community programs dedicated to promoting a Jewish life and advancing Jewish causes. One in particular is Spiro Ark, a charitable organization that organizes Jewish cultural events and educational programs. Another is the Center for Jewish Life, which provides a wide array of social programs, educational events, and activities for Jews to connect with each other. Located at the University College London Union is the JSC, one of the largest Jewish societies for Jewish students in the United Kingdom. There are also fifteen Chabad centers found in central London.

As the nucleus of Jewish cohesion and culture in Britain, the city of London hosts a number of museums and memorials. One of its most famous is the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial; unveiled in 1983, it was the first Holocaust memorial in Great Britain.

Ben Uri –The London Jewish Museum of Art is a public art gallery that was founded in 1915 and remains Europe’s only Jewish art museum. The Jewish Military Museum commemorates the Jewish contribution to British forces going back three hundred years. Providing an insight into British Jewish history is the Jewish Museum of London. Among its permanent exhibitions is the Holocaust Gallery, Judaism: A Living Faith, The Mikveh, and History: A British Story.

The first Jewish Community Center in London is the London Cultural Center (JW3), which has become the leading center for adult education and for the arts.

The Weiner Library is home to one of the world’s most extensive Holocaust archives. Established in 1933, it includes over one million items, including eyewitness testimony, photos, and published and unpublished works.

Other Jewish landmarks in London include the Rothschild Archive in St. Swithin’s lane, the Freud Museum, the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the statue of Benjamin Disraeli at Parliament Square, and the Jewish East End, site of the historical Jewish Socialist Club. There are also more than twenty kosher restaurants, four kosher hotels, and many Judaica shops found throughout the north of the city.

The largest amount of publications on Jewish topics emanate from London. These include newspapers, magazines, books and other media. Circulating throughout Greater London is The Jewish Chronicle; founded in 1841, it is the oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the world. In 1896, it published Theodor Herzl’s historic article “Solution of the Jewish Question”.

Another weekly published newspaper is The Jewish News. Named Free Newspaper of the Year in 2003 by Press Gazette, it provides local, national and international news and entertainment for the Jewish communities of Greater London, Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The Jewish Tribune is a privately owned Haredi weekly newspaper based in Stamford Hill. It is the fourth largest Jewish publication in England.

Broadcasted by the Spectrum Radio Network is Sunday Jewish Radio, a weekly program on Jewish themes.

 

HISTORY

After the Norman conquest of 1066, a few Jews arrived in London from the nearby areas of Europe (chiefly the Duchy of Normandy, including Rouen), attracted mainly by the economic opportunities that the city offered. The earliest recorded mention of the London community dates from the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100), who appears to have favored the Jews to a certain extent.

In 1130, in what was possibly a blood libel, the Jews of London were accused of killing a sick man and were forced to pay an enormous fine. Other outbreaks of antisemitism took place during the coronation of Richard I (September 3,1189) and during the reign of John (1199-1216); John’s reign, and that of his son Henry III (1216-1272) saw the opposition of the barons to the Jews, and there was a baronial attack on London Jewry in 1215. Nonetheless, Jewish intellectual during this period flourished; among other accomplishments, it attracted the Biblical commentator Abraham ibn Ezra, who wrote his Iggeret Ha-Shabbat and his Yesod Mora in London in 1158.

During the reign of Henry III the Jews of London, along with those of the rest of the country, were oppressed. The climax came in 1224 when it was alleged that some gashes found on the body of a dead child were Hebrew letters and the Jews were accused of ritual murder. This resulted in a punitive fine on the Jewish community. In 1232 Henry III confiscated the main London synagogue on the pretext that the chanting could be heard in a neighboring church. In 1278 a number of London Jews were among the 680 who were imprisoned in the tower of London on forgery charges. Nearly 300 are said to have been hanged. Shortly thereafter, in 1283 the Bishop of London ordered that all synagogues in the diocese to be closed (one was later reopened).
In 1290, the Jews were expelled from England and the Jewish community of London ceased to exist.
In 1509, after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, a few crypto-Jewish refugees settled in London; by the end of Henry VIII’s reign in 1547, there were approximately 37 crypto-Jewish families living in London. However, in 1609 the Portuguese merchants living in London, who were suspected of Judaizing, were expelled. Nevertheless, when the crypto-Jewish community of Ruen was (temporarily) dissolved in 1632, a number of fugitives, including Antonio Fernandez Carvajal, found a home in London. Thus, when Manasseh ben Israel went to England in 1655, there was already an established secret Jewish community in London that became increasingly visible. In March of 1657 a petition was presented to Cromwell asking for protection, and the following December a house was rented and used as a synagogue. A few months later the community purchased land for a cemetery.

After Cromwell's death in 1658 numerous attempts were made to persecute and stem the grown of the community. Charles II, however, intervened in its favor, and bestowed de facto recognition on the community. A synagogue on Cree Church Lane was enlarged and remodeled in 1674, and in 1701 a new place of worship was built in Bevis Marks. As the community was reestablishing itself, considerable numbers of Spanish and Portuguese Jews began arriving from Holland. Ashkenazim soon followed, most of whom arrived via Amsterdam or Hamburg. They organized their own congregation around 1690, and eventually became the more influential and populous Jewish community in London.
The Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities proved able to work together in establishing and running a number of community institutions. The board for kosher slaughter, in which Sephardim and Ashkenazim cooperated, was organized through the advocacy of Baron Lyon de Symons between 1792 and 1804. As early as 1760 the Sephardi community admitted Ashkenazi representatives to their governing committee, which was appointed to deal with the government on behalf of the Jewish community. This ultimately developed into the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represented the Jewish communities of London until 1838, after which it began to represent Jewish communities outside of London, in addition to the ones within the city.

The Ashkenazi community’s Talmud Torah, which was established in 1732, was reorganized in 1817 as the Jews' Free School. This school eventually developed into one of the largest schools in Europe.

 

19TH CENTURY

The struggle for Jewish emancipation in England centered in London, and was a process that developed in stages throughout the years. Beginning in 1830 the city of London had shown its support of parliamentary emancipation, most notably by electing Baron Lionel de Rothschild, in spite of the fact that he could not take his seat because of the statutory oath. Nonetheless, this became very influential when it came to the ultimate admission of Jews to the Parliament in 1858. In 1831 Jews were granted the privilege of being able to engage in retail trade, from which they had hitherto been barred. In 1835, David Salomons was elected a sheriff of the city, the first Jewish person to serve in that office. In 1847 Salomons became the first Jewish alderman, and in 1855 the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London.
The growing Anglicization of London Jewry led to a number of community developments. A Reform congregation was established in 1840. Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations established branch synagogues in the West End. A modern theological seminary, Jews' College, was founded in 1855, and a charitable organization, the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor, was established in 1859. The United Synagogue, an umbrella organization for the major Ashkenazi congregations in London, was established in 1870. In 1887 Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling) created the Federation of Synagogues in order to coordinate the various religious activities that took place in the different synagogues.
The mass emigration from Russia that began in 1881 led to a mass influx of Eastern European Jews to London. As a result, the next 25 years saw London’s Jewish population rise from about 47,000 to approximately 150,000. Most of the new immigrants worked as tailors, shoemakers, and cabinetmakers. A Yiddish press and an active trade union movement were established to meet the needs of this growing immigrant population.

 

20TH CENTURY

The Aliens Act of 1905 limited immigration, though smaller numbers of Jewish immigrants continued to arrive until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Later, a considerable number of refugees arrived from Germany after the Nazi rise to power in 1933.

As Jews became more established in London, they tended to move. East End Jews who managed to work their way up the socioeconomic ladder tended to move to the newer suburbs, particularly those in the northeast of the city, to Stamford Hill, and the northwest, to Golders Green). The interwar period saw significant numbers of London’s Jews moving from the East End to the northern suburbs, as many within the community became well-established and successful. This movement led to the establishment of a number of Jewish institutions in the suburbs. A Jewish museum and a community center for the major Jewish institutions of London were established at Woburn House in the Bloomsbury area.
The total Jewish population of greater London in 1970 was estimated at 280,000. In 1997 it was estimated at 300,000.

 

Oxford, UK
Oxford

A university city, Oxfordshire, England

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

The Oxford Jewish Congregation (OJC) is the umbrella organization for religious services in Oxford, and offers both Orthodox, egalitarian, Progressive, and alternative services. The services themselves take place at the Oxford Jewish Centre. The OJC also provides for the needs of any Jewish resident, student, or visitor in Oxford, regardless of denominational affiliation (or lack thereof).

HISTORY

Jews are first recorded in Oxford in 1141. Records indicate that two monarchs, King Stephen and Queen Matilda, both attempted to extort money from the community; one unfortunate member, Aaron ben Isaac, had his house burned down when he refused to pay. The Jewish community was located at in Oxford’s commercial center, and during the 12th century it had between 80 and 100 members.

Copin of Worcester granted the community a synagogue in 1228. Oxford’s Jewish community was also one of the few Jewish communities outside of London to have their own cemetery. The cemetery was consecrated around 1190, but confiscated in 1231, after which it was moved to a different location.

Most of Oxford’s Jews worked as traders, artisans, moneylenders, and university landlords; up to 10% of student housing was provided by Jewish landlords. Relations between the students and the landlords, however, were not good (unsurprisingly), culminating in student riots against them in 1244. Nonetheless, relations between Jews and Christians in Oxford tended to be good, with periodic outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence, particularly around Easter. Prominent members of the community during this period included David of Oxford (d.1244), who had a private library that included a number of important books.

In 1290 the Jews were expelled from England. The Jewish community of Oxford ceased to exist until the mid-18th century, when Jews began to resettle in the city; the community was officially organized in 1841.

Jews began to be admitted to the University of Oxford in 1854, and they began to make up most of Oxford’s Jewish community. Eventually, enough Jewish students were enrolled that a student society was established in 1904. A number of Jews also began teaching at the university. The philosopher Samuel Alexander (1859-1938) was appointed as a fellow of Lincoln College in 1882, making him the first Jew appointed as a college fellow at an English university. The mathematician James Joseph Sylvester was appointed as a professor of geometry in 1883.

Oxford’s Jewish community remained small during the 19th century, but it nonetheless developed a number of important institutions. A synagogue was established around 1850, followed by another in 1870 and a third in 1878.

During World War I (1914-1918) Oxford’s Jewish community grew as a number of Jews chose to live in the city during the war. During the interwar period, however, many of these arrivals returned to London, and the Jewish community consisted mainly of students. Eventually, with the Nazi rise to power in 1933, both the university and the Oxford Refugee Committee worked to bring German Jewish academics to Oxford; Albert Einstein was among those they helped to get out of Germany, and he lived in Oxford before continuing on to the United States. Additionally, with the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), Jewish evacuees from London also began arriving in Oxford, leading to a drastic increase of the city’s Jewish population; approximately 500 Jews arrived in Oxford during the war.

Once the war was over, however, Oxford’s Jewish population dramatically decreased. Nonetheless, those who remained established a number of social and cultural organizations; most notable among these was the university’s Chulent Society, which operated from 1955 until approximately 1985.

As it had so many times in the past. Oxford’s Jewish population rebounded, and the community once again began to grow substantially. During the ‘60s a number of Jews decided to settle in Oxford, while Jewish students and academics continued to be drawn to the university. In 1967 the Jewish population was approximately 400, with an additional 200 undergraduates.

In 1991 seven Oxford colleges were led by Jews, and Jewish students made up approximately 8% of the student body.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

Санкт-Петербург; also known as Petrograd 1914-1924, and Leningrad 1924-1991

Capital of Russia until 1918. An industrial city and major port on the Baltic Sea.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is the second-largest in Russia. Mass emigration reduced the Jewish population from 107,000 in 1989 to about 40,000 in 2002. A 2010 census revealed that these numbers did not change considerably and that the number of Jewish residents in St. Petersburg has remained at around 40,000 people. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Jews of St. Petersburg were in many ways disconnected from Jewish culture. However, since the end of communism in Russia, St. Petersburg has emerged as a vibrant Jewish community. While a significant segment of the community remains uncomfortable with, and not entirely open about, its Jewishness, an increasing number of the city's Jews identify as Jewish and have begun observing Jewish traditions and rituals.

Jews began arriving in St. Petersburg during the second half of the 19th century, primarily from the "Pale of Residence", which was made up of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania. This time was marked by intense Russification, which included a high rate of mixed marriages and conversions to Christianity. Most of the Jews of St. Petersburg have lived in the city for generations, though there are many who have arrived more recently from other locations within Russia and the region, including the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Georgia. Since the restriction on emigration was lifted in 1989, as many as 230,000 Jews left for Israel.

Two umbrella organizations serve both the community of St. Petersburg and Russian Jewry more generally: the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, and The Russian-Jewish Congress. With the support of foreign Jewish philanthropy, several Jewish welfare programs, as well as a full range of religious and educational institutions, have been developed in St. Petersburg. Russia's network of Jewish educational institutions includes four Jewish universities, which are mainly located in St. Petersburg and Moscow. A number of smaller religious and social organizations have been established by young Jews in their twenties and thirties. Events such as the Jewish festival take place annually in the community. St. Petersburg has also been host to annual events and conferences organized by Limmud FSU, an organization which specializes in meeting the cultural needs of the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2011 these conferences have attracted hundreds of Jews from St. Petersburg, providing a safe environment for Jewish youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Jewish newspapers and Russian-language media have emerged in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities with smaller organized Jewish communities.

The vast majority of Russian Jewry, including the community of St. Petersburg, is secular and defines their Jewishness in cultural rather than religious terms. Of the religiously observant Jews in St. Petersburg, most are Orthodox. In an effort to support the resurgence in religious observance, many rabbis from outside Russia have been brought to St. Petersburg. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been very active in the community since the end of the 20th century, and the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism have also been introduced.

The central hub of Jewish life in St. Petersburg is the Yesod Jewish Community Center (JCC). Opened in 2005, the facility houses six of the community's major Jewish organizations, including the Hesed Avraam Charity Center, Adain Lo Family Center, Hillel Student Center, the Granatik Children Center, ORT, and the Library & Eitan Jewish Education Center. Additionally, the JCC offers many cultural and educational programs. It holds lectures, sponsors events, and includes its own Sunday school.

The most notable synagogue in St. Petersburg is the Grand Choral Synagogue. Constructed in the Moorish Revival-Byzantine style between 1880 and 1888, and consecrated in 1893, the Grand Choral is the second-largest synagogue in Europe. Prior to its construction, a synagogue large enough to serve the entire Jewish community in Russia's then-capital did not exist. However, the synagogue could only be built after obtaining a building permit from Tsar Alexander II in 1869.

Located in the Russian Museum of Ethnography is an exhibit dedicated to Russian Jewry. The exhibit "History and Culture of the Jewish people of the Territory of Russia" is considered by many in the community to be the first step toward the development of a completely separate Jewish museum. As one of the city's important cultural institutions, the museum attracts visitors from all over Russia, including Jews from neighboring countries.

Another significant Jewish landmark is the Holocaust memorial, located in Tsarskoye Selo. The monument stands just 500 meters from Catherin's palace where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Second World War.

One of the oldest points of Jewish interest in the city is St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery. Founded in 1875, the cemetery serves as the burial place for several historical figures such as the sculptor Mark Antokolsky, the 19th century scientist and Jewish community leader David Ginsburg, and Abraham Lubanov, who served as the head rabbi of the St. Petersburg Synagogue during World War II.

HISTORY

There is evidence that there were some Marranos who settled in St. Petersburg soon after it was in 1703 by Peter the Great. "The Portuguese Jew," Jan DaCosta (who was actually a converso), was one of the jesters at the royal court during the first half of the 18th century. The city's first police chief was also a converso from the Netherlands. Otherwise, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. Additionally, Czarina Elizabeth issued intolerant decrees against the Jews, and the few Jews who were living in St. Petersburg were forced to leave. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), on the other hand, was interested in attracting Jewish contractors, industrialists, and physicians to the city, and therefore issued instructions to the authorities to overlook the presence of the "useful" Jews living there with their families and assistants and had the protection of court officials. It was Catherine II who, after the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, created the Pale of Settlement, territories in which the Jews of the Russian Empire were permitted to settle permanently (unless they had special permission to settle elsewhere).

With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, St. Petersburg became a center for the millions of Jews who were incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city quickly became a destination for upper class Jews, both the "useful" Jews—the army veterans, artisans, and wealthy merchants who had official permission to live outside of the Pale—as well as the Jews who settled in St. Petersburg illegally. The leader of Chabad Chasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg from 1798 until 1800/1801.

The situation of the Jews worsened with the accession of Czar Nicholas I. In 1827 he issued the Statute on Conscription Duty, which imposed a draft on the Jews of Russia and cancelled the earlier provision that allowed Jews to pay a monetary random instead of submitting to the draft. The draftees would have to serve 25 years, and would fall on Jewish boys and men between the ages of 12 and 25 (as opposed to the general population, in which men 18 to 35 were eligible for the draft). The idea was to modernize and Russify the Jewish population, and became a communal crisis, particularly for the more traditional Jewish communities.

The situation shifted again with the reign of Alexander II. "Useful" Jews, such as army veterans, university graduates, artisans, and upper-class merchants were once again allowed to legally settle in St. Petersburg. By the end of Alexander II's reign in 1881 there were 17,253 Jews in St. Petersburg, making up approximately 2% of the population. Upper class Jews, including the barons of the Guenzburg family became the de facto leaders and representatives before the Central Government.

Several figures held the position of Kazyonnyy Ravin (Government-Appointed Rabbi) in St. Petersburg, including the German-born Abraham Neiman, Avram Drabkin, and Moshe Eisenstadt. Other rabbis who were not officially appointed, yet who led the Jews of the community, were Yitshak Blaser, Yekutiel Zalman Landau, and David Tevel Katzenellenbogen. After 24 years of dealing with bureaucracy and construction, the magnificent Grand Choral Synagogue was completed and consecrated in 1893. It was built in the Moorish style, and contained 1,200 seats. In spite of this triumph, it is important to note that with the opening of the Grand Choral Synagogue, all of the other existing sanctuaries needed to be closed, and their congregants were compelled to pray only in the Grand Choral Synagogue.

The Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew Jewish presses were centered in St. Petersburg from the 1870s until the revolution in 1905. The newspapers HaMelitz (1871-1873, 1878-1904), HaYom (1886-1888). Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1881-1890) and the first Russian daily newspaper in Yiddish, Der Fraynd (1903-1908), were all published out of St. Petersburg. The city was also the center of Russian-Jewish journalism and literature. One of the most outstanding publications was the Russian-Jewish encyclopedia, Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, which was published in 1908.

In spite of censorship, exclusions, and unremitting police persecutions, the community continued to grow, numbering 35,000 (1.8% of the city's population) in 1914.

Many national Jewish organizations located their headquarters in St. Petersburg. The oldest of these organizations was The Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, which was founded in 1863. Others included ORT, the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Chovevei Sefat Ever (renamed "Tarbut" after the 1917 Revolution), the Historical-Ethnographic Society, and the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Additionally, a number of institutions in the city housed various objects of Jewish interest. The city's Asian Museum housed a valuable Hebrew department. The Imperial Public Library contained one of the world's oldest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts. Under the initiative of Baron David Guenzburg, courses in Oriental Studies were opened in St. Petersburg in 1907. The concentration of public and cultural institutions in the city attracted Jewish authors and intellectuals, including A.A Harkavy, Judah Leib Katzenelson, Simon Dubnow, and father and son Michael and Eugene M. Kulisher.

World War I saw the Jewish population of Petrograd swell to more than 50,000 because of Jews fleeing from the battlefields within the Pale of Settlement, or Jews being expelled by the Russian army who accused them of collaborating with the Germans and Austrians. The influx of Jewish refugees was overwhelming to the city's Jewish residents, though they nonetheless attempted to accommodate them through organizations such as the Jewish Society for the Relief of War Victims.

After the February Revolution of 1917, all residence restrictions affecting the Jews of Petrograd were abolished. As a result, the city became a center for the activities of the diverse parties and factions within Russian Jewry. In June 1917, the Seventh Conference of the Zionist Organization of Russia was held in the city, and plans were also made to convene an All-Russian Jewish Congress in Petrograd. These improvements in Jewish life and national status were, however, short-lived. With the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, all Jewish political parties (along with any other non-Bolshevik parties) were forced underground. The center of government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, leaving the city's Jews far from the nation's political center. The transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918, as well as the shortages and famine that affected the city during the Russian Civil War, severely shook the Jewish community, and many Jews returned to the provincial towns. It was during this difficult period that Joseph Trumpeldor created a Jewish battalion for the purposes of Jewish self-defense. Additionally, he founded the youth organization He-Halutz, to prepare Jewish youth for emigration to Palestine.

By 1920 there were 25,453 Jews (3.5% of the total population) living in Petrograd. With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the number of Jews rapidly increased, to 52,373 in 1923 (4.9% of the total population), and 84,505 in 1926 (5.2% of the population).

A small group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals attempted to continue their literary and scientific work under the new regime. They worked to sustain their former cultural societies, and continued to publish scientific and literary periodicals. By the end of the 1920s, when these projects were shut down by the Soviet regime, many of these intellectuals left Russia, including Simon Dubnow and Saul M. Ginzburg. Nearly a decade later, by the end of the 1930s, the remaining Communist Jewish organizations had also been suppressed, as had public expressions of Jewish identity.

On the eve of the Nazi invasion, the number of Jews in Leningrad was estimated at about 200,000 people. During World War II, the Jews shared in the suffering and starvation during the German siege of the city. The author, literary critic, and historian Lidiya Yakovlevna Ginzburg was among the survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

In the census of 1959, 162,344 Jews were registered as living in Leningrad, but the real number was probably closer to 200,000. 13,728 of these respondents declared Yiddish as their mother tongue. The city's only synagogue was the Grand Choral Synagogue, which was still standing in spite of having been bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and 1943. During the 1950s Gedalia Pecherski was the chairman of the synagogue's board. Pecherski was not only devoted to the religious needs of the congregation, he also sent petitions to the Soviet government and the municipal authorities asking to be allowed to organize courses in subjects such as Hebrew and Jewish history. These petitions were always summarily rejected. Pecherski was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, ostensibly for having "maintained contact with a foreign embassy [i.e Israel]." The rabbi of the synagogue, RabbiAbram Lubanov, who had been imprisoned in a forced labor camp during the Stalin era, was the dwindling congregation's spiritual leader.

In 1962-1964, as in other parts of the USSR, matzah-baking in the Leningrad synagogue was discontinued by the authorities. In 1962, on the eve of Simchat Torah, 25 Jewish youths were arrested while dancing in the street near the synagogue. In 1963 the authorities prohibited the use of the Jewish cemetery, which was ultimately closed in 1969.

In spite of the assimilation and population decline among Leningrad's Jews, they nonetheless took on an important role in the refusenik movement and the Jewish national revival that began to stir in the Soviet Union. After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish youth more openly displayed their identification with Israel, in spite of the official Soviet anti-Israel campaign. Many began studying Hebrew in private underground groups, others protested publicly against the government's refusal to grant them exit permits for Israel. These protests were publicized abroad, and helped galvanize Jewish communities worldwide to help their Soviet brethren. Many of these activities led to the arrest and imprisonment of these young activists. Another group of young Jews, mostly from Riga, together with 2 non-Jews, were tried in Leningrad in December 1970 for allegedly planning to hijack a Soviet plane in order to land abroad and ultimately reach Israel. Two were sentenced to death, and the other to prison terms of 4-15 years. These sentences led to worldwide protests. On appeal in March, 1971, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic commuted the death sentences to 15 years of hard labor, and some of the other sentences were reduced.

With the collapse of communism, St. Petersburg saw a Jewish communal revival. Chabad is particularly active in the city, and events such as Limmud FSU help St. Petersburg's Jews reconnect with their Jewish roots.