A Haven from Persecution; for a People without a Homeland, Birmingham Provided Refuge for Thousands of Jews. Malcolm Dick Explores the City's Jewish History

The Birmingham Post (England), July 5, 2000 | Go to article overview

A Haven from Persecution; for a People without a Homeland, Birmingham Provided Refuge for Thousands of Jews. Malcolm Dick Explores the City's Jewish History


Birmingham has been a home to people experiencing persecution for over two hundred years.

Eighteenth century sources document the presence of a small number of individuals with Jewish names. The 1851 census records 730 people of Jewish origin and in 1871 the number had increased to 2,360.

The late Zoe Josephs conducted extensive research into Birmingham's Jewish history. Her published investigations provide an insight into the origins, experiences and impact of the City's earliest refugee community.

Many Jews came to Birmingham to escape religious persecution in Central and Eastern Europe, though some came from elsewhere in Europe to flee from the Catholic Church.

The pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an increase in refugees in the late nineteenth century. Others came in the 1930s fleeing from Nazi Germany.

Late nineteenth century census returns show that about one half of Birmingham's Jewish residents were born in Britain. A permanent community had been established, Jews were not only newly arrived immigrants.

The first refugees lacked capital or access to education and were prevented from owning land or entering the professions. As newcomers in an alien city, they were forced to rely on their personal resources and mutual support for survival. In the eighteenth century many scratched a living by street selling and small-scale trading.

In the 'Froggery', where they lived, a damp low-lying area, swept away when New Street Station was constructed in the 19th century, they were able to create a synagogue. William Hutton, the Birmingham historian, described the community with patronising disdain in 1780.

'In the synagogue, situated in the Froggery, they still preserve the faint resemblance of the ancient worship. The whole apparatus being no more than the drooping ensigns of poverty. . . the proverbial expression 'as rich as a Jew' is not altogether verified in Birmingham, but perhaps, time is transferring it to the Quakers.'

In 1851 most Jewish immigrants were located in slums around Hurst Street with their Stibls (meeting houses) and synagogue in Wrottesley Street. Their work as glaziers, slipper makers, tailors and hawkers required little or no training or capital. At the end of the century the slipper makers and tailors developed Jewish trade unions to provide benefit funds, campaign for improved conditions and secure their observance of the Sabbath.

Not all were poor. A prosperous community was emerging focused upon the Singers Hill Synagogue consecrated in 1856. Luck, frugality and industry enabled a class of Jewish entrepreneurs to emerge, benefiting from Britain's international economic leadership and Birmingham's growing prosperity.

By 1871 nearly 100 Jewish families lived in Edgbaston. Others were moving to the Jewellery Quarter and Handsworth, becoming pawnbrokers, jewellers and merchants. There were many prominent nineteenth-century local industrialists who came from first and second-generation refugees. They included S J Levi in silver plating, Isaac Ahronsberg, a silversmith and manufacturer of spectacles and Jacob Jacobs who revived the mid-nineteenth century jewellery trade.

Jacob's most spectacular success was as chairman of the company, which created the Great Western Arcade, Birmingham's focus for fashionable shopping.

Suspicion and hostility remained. Jews were excluded from the prestigious Edgbaston Sports Clubs and traders had problems participating in local markets. There was opposition from within the Church of England which argued that removing legal restrictions upon Jews would 'ruin and demoralise the country.'

The gradual removal of discriminatory legislation in the nineteenth century enabled Jews to enter the professions and politics. Many were active in both the Liberal and Conservative parties and served on the town council and boards of guardians. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Haven from Persecution; for a People without a Homeland, Birmingham Provided Refuge for Thousands of Jews. Malcolm Dick Explores the City's Jewish History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.