Localism and pluralism in British Jewry 1900—80

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The use of terms such as 'Anglo-Jewry', 'British Jewry', 'the Jewish com? munity', 'the Jewish public' and 'the Jewish population' as though they are all synonymous is common today. This imprecise use of language and concepts is indicative of the lack of intellectual rigour which is common in dealing with society, so I must establish my own terms and concepts here with more clarity and at greater length than would otherwise be necessary. I shall use the term 'British Jewry' for the totality of members of the Jewish public and rely wherever possible on the term 'population' for aggregates of individual Jews. I shall restrict my own use of the term 'community' to Jewish institutional or corporate activities.

For a social scientist operating in a contemporary urban context Gans' definition of a community is most helpful. He uses the term when referring to an aggregate of people who occupy a common and bounded territory within which they establish and participate in common institutions.1 In other words, common social institutions, sodalities or representative bodies equal a com? munity. Professor Maurice Freedman agreed, stating: 'In so far as there is a set of institutions, ritual and secular which mark out a distinct sphere of Jewish social life, there exists a Jewish community.2 Anglo-Jewry is heterogeneous in the geographical and cultural origin of its members and the history of their migration. Jewish numerical strength varies in different parts of the country, and peculiar local conditions all affect various subgroups differently and give way to one process or another with varying time-sequences and in different combinations.

However, we must be aware that our analytic framework inevitably biases how we interpret the historical dynamic. This dilemma was clearly set out by Ernest Krausz in a paper to the second Conference of Jewish Life in Britain in 1977. He stated:

In analysing Anglo-Jewry, as in the case of any other Jewish community, the first issue of importance is whether we study the internal structure ofthat community in context of its immediate societal environment and consider the adjustments between the two, or whether we propose to study the Jewish community within a more complex and wider global framework that would take account of the many and variegated other diaspora communities and the nationally and territorially estab? lished Jewish community of Israel.

Taking the first possibility, that is, the study of the Anglo-Jewish community, as a self-contained unit our conceptual framework could be either the host-minority one, with its concepts of ingroup-outgroup segmentation, and dominant-subordinate relationships, or the pluralistic society setting with multi-faceted cultural expressions and more balanced group relationships. Should we on the other hand, adopt the wider context, our conceptual framework would have to shift to the factors and conditions connected with a dispersed people in which a national-territorial base figures prominently.3

Traditionally, Anglo-Jewish historians have taken the self-contained host-minority option in this two by two matrix. In keeping with the fashion of the 1980s and the idea of a multi-cultural Britain and a multi-racial society, I shall rely heavily on

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