Ashkenazic Reactions to the Conversionists, 1800—1850

I. Economic and Social Degradation of English Jewry

At the turn of the nineteenth century there were vast economic, social, and educational inequities within the Anglo-Jewish community. London Jewry, which numbered 13,000/ was composed of two dis? tinct communities?Sephardim and Ashkenazim? and there was widespread poverty within each group. Although a number of small charitable institutions had operated throughout the eighteenth century, English Jewry lacked a co-ordinated welfare structure to deal with indigence. Various joint plans had been tried. One such project failed mainly because the Sephardi leadership refused to dole out large sums of money to help newly arrived German and Polish immigrants. Consequently, each community drew on its own resources. The richer Sephardim, longer estab? lished in London, had developed an organised system of taxation and distribution. The Ashkenazim relied on moneys available in their synagogue treasuries; charity was distributed at the discretion of the local overseers.2


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