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The Jewish Community of 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.

 

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
129847
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Barnett, John Francis (1837-1916) , composer. Barnett was born in London and was the nephew of composer John Barnett. At the age of 12 he won the Queen’s award for his piano playing at the Royal Academy of Music. He completed his studies in Leipzig, Germany, and returned to England. In 1883, Barnett was appointed professor at the Royal College of Music in London.
Barnett wrote piano pieces, chamber music, orchestral works and choral cantatas. Most famous among his compositions are ANCIENT MARINER (1867, text: Coleridge) and EVE OF ST.AGNES (1913, text: Keats). He died in London, England.

Thelma Yellin (1895-1959) Cellist. Born in London, England, as Thelma Bentwich. From 1911 she studied at the Royal College of Music in London and furthered her studies privately with Hekking and Casals in Paris. In 1916 she made her debut in London. Later she performed chamber music mostly with pianist Myra Hess and her sister Margaret Bentwich. In 1921 she settled in Jerusalem and married Eliezer Yellin. She formed the Jerusalem Music Society and between 1932-1937 played with the New Jerusalem String Quartet (primarius: Emil Hauser). Yellin founded the Jewish Music Seminar for Israeli composers in Zichron Ya’acov first directed by Aaron Copland. She died in Jerusalem.

Israel Abrahams (1858-1925), scholar, born in London, England. He was educated at Jews' College London, of which his father was the principal, and was awarded a MA degree from the University of London. He was appointed lecturer in preaching and secular subjects at Jews' College and became a senior tutor at the institution in 1900. He was a member of the committee for the Training of Jewish Teachers and the Anglo-Jewish Association which provided financial assistance to Jewish students in financial need to enter further education or studying for full-time degrees at universities in the United Kingdom. He was for a time secretary of the Jewish Historical Society of England.

In 1902 he was appointed professor of Talmud at Cambridge University, succeeding Solomon Schechter who had been appointed head of the Jewish Theological seminary in New York. In 1914, he published "A Companion to the Authorised Prayer Book", a commentary on and supplement to the prayer book edited by Simeon Singer and which for almost 100 years became the authorized and accepted prayer book for Anglo-Jewry. In 1922 he was invited to deliver the Schweich Lecture of the British Academy. The lectures were published under the title "Campaigns in Palestine from Alexander the Great".

In religion Abrahams favored reform. He supported the Jewish Religious Union and the Liberal Jewish synagogue which developed from it. He was an accomplished lay preacher who was often invited to address congregations.

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Cohen, John Edward (Jack) (1898-1979), businessman and philanthropist, who founded the British Tesco supermarket chain, born in London, England, a son of an immigrant Polish tailor. Initially he worked in his father's tailoring shop in the East End of London, but on the outbreak of World War I he joined the Royal Flying Corps. When he was discharged in 1919, he used his demobilsation payment of GBP 150 to set up as a stall holder in London's Hackney market buying and selling surplus stocks.

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Bentwich, Norman (1883-1971), jurist, scholar and Zionist leader, born in London and educated at St Paul's School in London and at Cambridge University. A brilliant student, he was awarded a scholarship for International Law. In 1908 he became a barrister and four years later in the British Colonial service he worked at the Ministry of Justice in Cairo, Egypt. In 1913 he was appointed commissioner of the courts in Egypt and was also a lecturer at the Cairo Law School. During World War I he served in the British Army in Palestine and was discharged with the rank of major.

From 1918 to 1931 Bentwich was legal secretary and then the first Attorney General of Mandatory Palestine in which capacity he modernised the country's courts and introduced British law and systems to replace the Turkish system which had been in force previously. In 1930 the Mandatory Government removed him from his position on account of his Zionist opinions, although his views were more moderate than most. He constantly advocated rapprochement between Jews and Arabs. In 1932 he became Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and held the position until 1951, when he returned to England. Between 1933 and 1935 he was appointed director of the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees from Germany.
In 1951 he was appointed to the British Foreign Office committee on Restitution in the British zone of Germany.
Within the English Jewish community Bentwich was co-editor of the "Jewish Review" 1910-1913 and again 1932-34, he was President of the Jewish Historical Society in 1960–1962, Chairman of the Friends of Hebrew University and President of London North-Western Reform Synagogue from 1958 until 1971.

He wrote many books on Zionism and Israel, on the legal system in Israel, on international relations, on Hellenism and also a number of biographies. His autobiography was published in 1961. His wife, Helene, was very active in English local government being chairman of the London County Council in 1956-1957.

Harold Samuel (1879-1937) Pianist.

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Martin Gilbert (1936-2015), historian and author of some 80 books, born in London, England. During WW II he was evacuated to Canada as part of the British efforts to safeguard children. After the war he attended Highgate School, and then completed two years of National Service in the Intelligence Corps before going on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1960 with a first-class BA in modern history. After two years of postgraduate work, he was approached by Randolph Churchill for help in writing a biography of his father, Sir Winston Churchill. Finally appointed Churchill's official biographer Gilbert spent twenty years on the six narrative volumes, releasing a number of other books throughout the time.

In the 1960s, Gilbert compiled some of the first historical atlases. His major works include a definitive single-volume History of The Holocaust, as well as single-volume histories of the First World War and the Second World War. He has also written a notable three-volume series called A History of the Twentieth Century.

Since 2002, he has been a Distinguished Fellow of Hillsdale College, Michigan, USA, and between 2006 and 2007 he was a professor in the history department at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. In October 2008, he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Churchill College Oxford. He continued to lecture around the world on Churchill and Jewish history. Gilbert was appointed in June 2009 as a member of the British government’s inquiry into the Iraq War (headed by Sir John Chilcot). Gilbert's most recent major work is In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands.

In 1995 Gilbert was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

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The Jewish Community of 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.

 

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Barnett, John Francis
Barnett, John Francis (1837-1916) , composer. Barnett was born in London and was the nephew of composer John Barnett. At the age of 12 he won the Queen’s award for his piano playing at the Royal Academy of Music. He completed his studies in Leipzig, Germany, and returned to England. In 1883, Barnett was appointed professor at the Royal College of Music in London.
Barnett wrote piano pieces, chamber music, orchestral works and choral cantatas. Most famous among his compositions are ANCIENT MARINER (1867, text: Coleridge) and EVE OF ST.AGNES (1913, text: Keats). He died in London, England.
Thelma Yellin

Thelma Yellin (1895-1959) Cellist. Born in London, England, as Thelma Bentwich. From 1911 she studied at the Royal College of Music in London and furthered her studies privately with Hekking and Casals in Paris. In 1916 she made her debut in London. Later she performed chamber music mostly with pianist Myra Hess and her sister Margaret Bentwich. In 1921 she settled in Jerusalem and married Eliezer Yellin. She formed the Jerusalem Music Society and between 1932-1937 played with the New Jerusalem String Quartet (primarius: Emil Hauser). Yellin founded the Jewish Music Seminar for Israeli composers in Zichron Ya’acov first directed by Aaron Copland. She died in Jerusalem.

Israel Abrahams

Israel Abrahams (1858-1925), scholar, born in London, England. He was educated at Jews' College London, of which his father was the principal, and was awarded a MA degree from the University of London. He was appointed lecturer in preaching and secular subjects at Jews' College and became a senior tutor at the institution in 1900. He was a member of the committee for the Training of Jewish Teachers and the Anglo-Jewish Association which provided financial assistance to Jewish students in financial need to enter further education or studying for full-time degrees at universities in the United Kingdom. He was for a time secretary of the Jewish Historical Society of England.

In 1902 he was appointed professor of Talmud at Cambridge University, succeeding Solomon Schechter who had been appointed head of the Jewish Theological seminary in New York. In 1914, he published "A Companion to the Authorised Prayer Book", a commentary on and supplement to the prayer book edited by Simeon Singer and which for almost 100 years became the authorized and accepted prayer book for Anglo-Jewry. In 1922 he was invited to deliver the Schweich Lecture of the British Academy. The lectures were published under the title "Campaigns in Palestine from Alexander the Great".

In religion Abrahams favored reform. He supported the Jewish Religious Union and the Liberal Jewish synagogue which developed from it. He was an accomplished lay preacher who was often invited to address congregations.

Abrahams wrote a number of important works of Jewish scholarship. Abrahams collaborated with Claude Montefiore to write the “Aspects of Judaism”, which was published in 1895. His chief works were "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages" (1896), Studies in "Pharisaism and the Gospels" (1917-1924), "Chapters on Jewish Literature" (1898), and "Hebrew Ethical Will" (1926). In 1889, he became joint editor of the "Jewish Quarterly Review". He was a prolific contributor to periodical literature, and was especially well known for his articles on literary subjects, which appeared weekly in the "Jewish Chronicle" under the title of "Books and Bookmen". He also contributed to the "Encyclopaedia Biblica" (1903). For many years he wrote a weekly column, usually on literary matters, for the "Jewish Chronicle" newspaper and when, in 1919, the anti-Zionist "Jewish Guardian" was founded, Abrahams was an important contributor. He was an ardent advocate of the establishment of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For 20 years from 1888 he was the editor of the "Jewish Quarterly Review".

Cohen, John Edward (Jack)
Cohen, John Edward (Jack) (1898-1979), businessman and philanthropist, who founded the British Tesco supermarket chain, born in London, England, a son of an immigrant Polish tailor. Initially he worked in his father's tailoring shop in the East End of London, but on the outbreak of World War I he joined the Royal Flying Corps. When he was discharged in 1919, he used his demobilsation payment of GBP 150 to set up as a stall holder in London's Hackney market buying and selling surplus stocks.

A shrewd businessman, he soon became the owner of a number of market stalls, and started a wholesale business. Initially the other stalls were run by members of the family, but gradually non-family members were added. Cohen and his wife worked 7 days a week, starting at dawn and counting money until late in the evening. In 1924 he created the Tesco brand and started to open shops in town centres. By 1939 Cohen owned 100 Tesco stores. In 1932 Cohen travelled to the United States to study the self-service stores which were operating there. He was convinced of the potential of such supermarkets in the UK. Tesco continued to grow fast and the business started to buy up many of its rivals. After World War II the Tesco group comprised some 500 supermarkets.

Cohen was an active worker for the Joint Palestine Appeal and established a complex for the elderly in Herzliya.

He was knighted in 1969.
Israel Zangwill

Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), author, born to a poor family in London and raised in Bristol, he studied and taught at the Jews' Free School in London's East End. In 1891 two humorous books launched him on the road to success. In 1892 his Children of the Ghetto, stories of the East End, was an instant success. Numerous books and short stories followed, including The King of the Schnorrers and Dreamers of the Ghetto. His plays included The Melting Pot which had a long run on Broadway and the title was applied to the entire process of American immigrant acculturation. Zangwill became a devoted follower of Theodor Herzl and attended the Firast Zionist Congress in 1897. When Herzl's proposal in 1903 to accept the British offer of a homeland in Uganda was rejected, Zangwill was incensed and he left the Zionist movement to found the Jewish Territorial Organization to seek alternatives to Erets Israel for Jewish settlement.

Aguilar, Emanuel Abraham
Aguilar, Emanuel Abraham (1824-1904) pianist and composer. Born in London, England, Aguilar studied music in Frankfurt, Germany. He enjoyed considerable success as his pieces were frequently performed. In 1848 Aguilar returned to London and devoted himself to teaching.
His compositions include two operas, three symphonies and a set of preparatory pieces for Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. He also noted down the melodies of the Amsterdam Sephardi tradition as sung by David Aaron De Sola, and harmonized De Sola’s Ancient Melodies of the Liturgy of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. He died in London, England.
Daniel Halfon

Hazzan Daniel Halfon (b. 1955) is a leading exponent of the cantorial style of the Spanish and Portuguese tradition. Born in London in 1955, he grew up in that city’s ancient Spanish and Portuguese community. From an early age he sang in the congregation’s choir. As a young man he was inspired by the artistry of hazzanim such as Abraham Beniso, Halfon Benarroch, and Eliezer Abinun, with whom he studied for many years. In 1978, at the recommendation of Haham Dr. Solomon Gaon, he was invited by Congregation Shearith Israel in New York to serve as assistant hazzan. This allowed him to study the New York and Amsterdam variants of the tradition with Hazzan Abraham Lopes Cardozo.
Since the mid-1980s Halfon has sung in all the major synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese tradition, including the Esnoga in Amsterdam, Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London. He was chosen as the hazzan representing the Western Sephardi tradition in the international festival held in Tel Aviv to mark the 500th anniversary of the expulsion from Spain.
A trained classical baritone, Halfon studied voice in New York with Neil Semer and was coached by Kenneth Newbern. In Jerusalem he studies with Jay Shir. Since 1992, Halfon has served as hazzan of the Yad Harav Nissim Synagogue in Jerusalem, where his command of the different nuances within the Spanish and Portuguese tradition has allowed him to develop a unique repertoire. He lives in Jerusalem.

Bentwich, Norman
Bentwich, Norman (1883-1971), jurist, scholar and Zionist leader, born in London and educated at St Paul's School in London and at Cambridge University. A brilliant student, he was awarded a scholarship for International Law. In 1908 he became a barrister and four years later in the British Colonial service he worked at the Ministry of Justice in Cairo, Egypt. In 1913 he was appointed commissioner of the courts in Egypt and was also a lecturer at the Cairo Law School. During World War I he served in the British Army in Palestine and was discharged with the rank of major.

From 1918 to 1931 Bentwich was legal secretary and then the first Attorney General of Mandatory Palestine in which capacity he modernised the country's courts and introduced British law and systems to replace the Turkish system which had been in force previously. In 1930 the Mandatory Government removed him from his position on account of his Zionist opinions, although his views were more moderate than most. He constantly advocated rapprochement between Jews and Arabs. In 1932 he became Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and held the position until 1951, when he returned to England. Between 1933 and 1935 he was appointed director of the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees from Germany.
In 1951 he was appointed to the British Foreign Office committee on Restitution in the British zone of Germany.
Within the English Jewish community Bentwich was co-editor of the "Jewish Review" 1910-1913 and again 1932-34, he was President of the Jewish Historical Society in 1960–1962, Chairman of the Friends of Hebrew University and President of London North-Western Reform Synagogue from 1958 until 1971.

He wrote many books on Zionism and Israel, on the legal system in Israel, on international relations, on Hellenism and also a number of biographies. His autobiography was published in 1961. His wife, Helene, was very active in English local government being chairman of the London County Council in 1956-1957.
Harold Samuel

Harold Samuel (1879-1937) Pianist.

Born in London, England, he studied at the Royal College of Music and made his debut in London in 1894. Until 1921 he appeared solely as an accompanist. His career began following a Bach recital he gave in London in 1921. Samuel became known as a Bach specialist for his new interpretations. He died in London.

Martin Gilbert

Martin Gilbert (1936-2015), historian and author of some 80 books, born in London, England. During WW II he was evacuated to Canada as part of the British efforts to safeguard children. After the war he attended Highgate School, and then completed two years of National Service in the Intelligence Corps before going on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1960 with a first-class BA in modern history. After two years of postgraduate work, he was approached by Randolph Churchill for help in writing a biography of his father, Sir Winston Churchill. Finally appointed Churchill's official biographer Gilbert spent twenty years on the six narrative volumes, releasing a number of other books throughout the time.

In the 1960s, Gilbert compiled some of the first historical atlases. His major works include a definitive single-volume History of The Holocaust, as well as single-volume histories of the First World War and the Second World War. He has also written a notable three-volume series called A History of the Twentieth Century.

Since 2002, he has been a Distinguished Fellow of Hillsdale College, Michigan, USA, and between 2006 and 2007 he was a professor in the history department at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. In October 2008, he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Churchill College Oxford. He continued to lecture around the world on Churchill and Jewish history. Gilbert was appointed in June 2009 as a member of the British government’s inquiry into the Iraq War (headed by Sir John Chilcot). Gilbert's most recent major work is In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands.

In 1995 Gilbert was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.