London (Oct. 20)
The Hitlerization of Germany has turned London into a world centre of Jewish politics. Here, in the largest capital of the world, we have today concentrated the whole of Jewish political activity Here, also, rests perhaps the entire responsibility for everything that is being done on matters which will decide the fate of the Jewish people. Added to the political activity we have all the relief work on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Germany and the work of providing aid for the Jewish population in Germany itself.
American Jewry’s abdication of priority in relief work in favor of London, subordinating itself voluntarily to the leadership of British Jewry, will certainly add to the prestige which the authoritative Jewish organizations in England enjoy throughout the Jewish world.
London Jewry possesses a considerable number of important Jewish personages of the highest type. The vast task they have assumed at this critical phase in the life of the Jewish people must make them conscious of the immense responsibility that now lies upon them.
CENTER OF ORGANIZATIONS
There are now in London the Zionist World Organization; the Central Relief Fund for German Jewry, the headquarters of the Oze (the organization engaged in worldwide Jewish health work); the Relief Organization for Russian Jewry; the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Joint Foreign Committee, the political department of the Revisionist Organization; the World Union of Progressive Judaism; the World Organization Maccabi, and many other Jewish organizations and institutions whose work is carried on in England such as the Anglo-Palestine Club.
It is fortunate that British Jewry, and particularly the Jews of London, find themselves at this difficult time placed in so favorable a position that they can take upon themselves this important task of leadership. England is not only comparatively, but actually, the most tolerant country in the world.
The British Jew walks about with his head up, a free man and he may live as any other British citizen. There is no Jewish problem as such in England, neither in theory nor in practice. Being a Jew is no hindrance either to the community or the individual.
Jewish equality of rights is today firmly established in England. It fits in with the sound and solid character of the Englishman, of all British institutions. I was brought to a realization of these facts by a speech delivered by Sir Austen Chamberlain, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at the Anglo-Palestine Club. It was a thunderbolt hurled against Hitlerism.
Britain is the only country whose statesmen have in this way brought their international authority to bear against German anti-Semitism, and the service that British Jewry has rendered in mobilizing this great force is invaluable to the cause of tolerance, equality and freedom.
At the present moment, British Jewry has launched its second great appeal for funds to aid German Jews. The manner in which this campaign is being carried on deserves admiration. On one day the whole of British Jewry, the representatives of every section of Jewish opinion, attended a public Conference, sat together in council and issued their appeal jointly, as one united body. One day has been set aside for the collecting activity. Thus, the work is concentrated and carried through as one concerned effort, in one great sustained movement.
According to Sir Osmond d’Avigdor Goldsmith, Chairman of on of the most important Committees engaged in the work, there had not been a single difference of opinion in his Committee, comprising both Zionist and non-Zionist, at the 72 different meetings they had held.
UNITY AMONG LEADERS
Not only the leaders, but the rank and file of British Jewry must be credited with the ability to present such a unity of purpose and unity of front. A very important factor, of course, is the comparative economic stability of British Jewry, which makes it possible for it to play so important a part in the relief work.
In raising funds to aid German Jewry, British Jewry has demonstrated its capacity from the very first. It is a fact that British Jews are economically better off than the Jews of any other country. American Jewry was economically broken by the recent crisis, but even those American Jews who have managed to scrape through the crisis more or less unscathed have not shown themselves so generous in the present German catastrophe. British Jewry is not only more able but also more willing to extend a helping hand to the stricken Jews of Germany. It has taken today that place which American Jewry held during the post war years of American prosperity in the relief work in Europe. American Jewry played at that time a historic part in the life of world Jewry. It may recover that position; today the burden rests upon the Jews of Great Britain and particularly of England.
In other directions Anglo-Jewry is more dried and lean. Even Whitechapel has lost the old East European Jewish look. Linguistically it is Anglicised. There is complete Anglicization among the whole front. The younger generation born in England is assimilated. If you walk down Whitechapel along Petticoat Lane and its adjoining by-streets you will hardly ever hear a word of Yiddish. Shops and market stalls are still reminiscent of a Jewish township in Eastern Europe recalling Lemberg or Warsaw, but Whitechapel has lost its Jewish character. Even on a Sunday, when the shops are open, when everywhere else they are closed, it does not look Jewish. You sometimes hear an occasional Yiddish phrase, but it is generally a “cuss”-word. There is also, in places, the smell of herring and fish, garlic and onions, but it is more a matter of business, of dealing in these particular articles of food, than of the old-fashioned Jewish ways of life. The fact that some non-Jews come to Whitechapel for a shave because the barber-shops elsewhere are closed is also nothing specifically Jewish. At best you find a few Jewish restaurants always packed because they serve good, tasty food.
Of course, Whitechapel has its synagogues, Hebrew schools, public Jewish institutions, but Whitechapel seems to have concentrated in itself all that is left of Jewish-ness in London. You can even find a Yiddish poster on the boardings there.
Does that mean that Judaism in England is weak and decaying? Not at all. It is only changing. It is adopting a different form. The stoppage of foreign immigration is Anglicizing, Westernizing it. The older generation still reads the Yiddish press else the two Yiddish dailies could not exist. But each reader who dies leaves a gap. There are no new ones to take their place. There are Anglo-Jewish weeklies which sell well, and the Hebrew “Haolom” has a number of readers in England.
The garb is changed, he tongue alters, but the Jew remains. The catastrophe in Germany has in fact revived the Jewish feelings of many assimilated Jews, who were on the verge of inter-marriage and blood mixture. I myself have met a young Jewish journalist here who was sent to Germany by an English paper and discovered there for the first time the existence of the Jewish question.