A Plea for a Genealogical and Historiographical Section of the Jewish Historical Society of England

Articles Image

The purpose of my paper is to plead for the co-ordination and systematisation of efforts in the spheres of Anglo-Jewish genealogy and historiography and the setting up of a genealogical and historio? graphical section in that behalf by our Society. That there has been much individual and a certain measure of co-operative endeavour in such genealogy and historiography is evident from the amount of published material available, either readily or upon investigation, and it may be safely conjectured that there must be very much more, most probably on the genealogical side, which is unpublished and inacces? sible. Anglo-Jewish historiography in the wider sense covers a large field and includes records both personal and local, the spheres of genealogy, institutional history and topography. These spheres are not mutually exclusive and at times and in places overlap. The field of Anglo-Jewish historiography in general was comprehensively sur? veyed in the Presidential Address delivered by the Rev. S. Levy, M.A., at the inaugural meeting of the session 1907-1908 (see Trans, vi). The survey, however, dealt with Anglo-Jewish history as a whole, and our more urgent need is the Anglo-Jewish history of the parts. Quoting Dr. Cecil Roth's Presidential Address, 1936 : " We English Jews have our roots deep in this country, not in the capital alone.

Yet, of all places. . . three only have had their chronicle more or less comprehensively compiled." (See Bibliographical Note A.) The same writer observed in "The Portsmouth Community and its Historical Background" (Trans, xiii, p. 180): "Hitherto (it has been said before, but it is none the less true) the study of Anglo-Jewish historiography has been rigorously confined to London. The general picture has been thrown completely out of perspective by this fact. Before we can construct a true picture of Anglo-Jewish life in its historic development, it is necessary to take into consideration, too, the communities of the Provinces ". When we survey the work accomplished in the sphere of genealogy there is more to report but
obviously there ism ore to be done. The area has been charted by Mr. Wilfred Samuel in his address to the Society of Genealogists entitled
"Sources of Anglo-Jewish Genealogy " (The Genealogist's Magazine, December 1932, vol. vi, and reprinted as JewishM useum Publications No. 2, 1933). (See Bibliographical Note B.)

Taking the sphere of Anglo-Jewish historiography first, in a discussion before our Society some forty years ago dealing with the scope of its objects, my late father (Baron Louis Benas) is recorded as having observed1 that "Anglo-Jewish history contained material for scores of learned volumes. For instance, the history of the provincial and colonial congregations had not yet been written." I have thus a traditional interest in continuing the plea implicit in those observations. The field is still for the most part uncultivated.

The first requisite is a survey of congregational records, and this survey should be directed from a central guiding source, properly equipped for its task. There is a pre-requisite, and that is salvage. The condition of historical

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today


24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More


Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More


Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More


Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More

Your Cart