A Survey of Anglo-Jewry in 1851

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Statistical study of the Jewish populations of countries other than Britain is generally based on material to be found in official census publications. Since the official censuses in Britain have never classified its population according to religious belief, figures of the numbers of Anglo-Jewry, both in the past and at the present day, are estimates alone. A reasonably reliable estimate of the Jewish population, with details of its distribution, is a desirable concomitant of a survey of Anglo-Jewry at any period but it is probably not possible to find adequate material to do this for any period earlier than about 1859.2 Estimates for earlier dates there, of course, are, but about a century ago there was for the first time a convergence of several independent con? temporary sources of information.

First, in 1848 the Board of Deputies started to collect from all congregations in the British Isles, figures of births (male and female), marriages, interments (male and female) and the number of "seatholders or members of synagogues." It took a few years before any measure of success was attained "because of insufficient records and general indifference."3 The first lists which are available in any completeness are for the year January 1852 to January 1853. Even then only the figures for burials can be regarded as really reliable. Contemporary evidence points to some imperfections in the totals of marriages, and the unreliability of the figures for births, especially of females. The "seatholders and members" figures raise the issue which almost always arises with figures of this kind at this period. Male members of a congregation comprised two classes?"Bcile Batim" ("free" or "privileged") members and "seatholders"; in addition, seats might be let, or appropriated, to persons not members, such as wives or other female relatives of members. Even where, as rarely occurs, the meaning of seatholders is made precise, it is difficult to know what proportion of the total Jewish population of the area they represent.

The second source is the Census of Worship of 1851. As part of that census, special enquiries were made as to the provision for religious worship and for education, and the normal census machinery was employed, though it was discovered at the last moment that there was no legal power to enforce replies to these enquiries. The religious enquiry included the date of erection of the place of worship, the number of seats, free and appropriated, the amount of standing room, the attendances on morning, afternoon and evening of Sunday 30th March, 1851, with averages for the previous six months, and particulars of Sunday scholars attending Divine service. This material is tabulated in the Printed Report on Religious Worship, published as part of the census reports in 1853. The printed totals are, however, a little misleading, at least so far as the Jewish entries are concerned, because they give, as Jewish, congregations of non-Jewish "Israelites" at Bury, Lutterworth and Haslingden; besides the Jewish congregation, an "Israelite" congregation at Leeds is returned as Jewish, and similarly there is no


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