250 Years of Convention and Contention: A History of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1760-2010

By Rubinstein, William D. | Shofar, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

250 Years of Convention and Contention: A History of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1760-2010


Rubinstein, William D., Shofar


250 Years of Convention and Contention: A History of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1760-2010, by Raphael Langham. London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010. 292 pp. $69.95.

Founded in 1760, the Board of Deputies of British Jews is the central representative body of the Anglo-Jewish community. Although based in voluntary membership in the Jewish community, it has always had a number of features which more closely resemble a European kehttta than the totally voluntary and polycentric American Jewish community. Since 1836 it has been granted a number of legal privileges by the British Parliament, including the right to certify Jewish marriage celebrants and, from the 1930s, the right to grant exemptions for Orthodox Jews to laws prohibiting the opening of shops on Sundays. These legal powers are quite extraordinary for an entirely voluntary body. More significantly, the Board and its Presidents are generally recognized as the central spokesmen for the Anglo-Jewish community, and have a long tradition of taking visible public stances on Jewish issues. For many years in the nineteenth century the Board was headed by Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), the giant figure of Victorian England's Anglo-Jewish community, and then, until the 1930s, by members or associates of the wealthy "Cousinhood" families like the Rothschilds and d'Avigdor-Goldsmids. In 1940 what is often termed a revolution occurred in its leadership when Professor Selig Brodetsky became its President. Brodetsky was born in Russia and grew up in poverty in the East End; he was a ptacticing Otthodox Jew and, more important, one of Britain's leading Zionists. Ever since, the leadership of the Boat d has remained in the hands of post- 1881 eastern European migrants and their progeny, keenly Zionistic and Jewishly conscious in a post-Holocaust sense. …

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