There is evidence that Jewish people have lived in England for centuries,(I) although it was the mass immigration of East European Jews between 1881 and 1905 that was to rapidly increase the Jewish population. In this period the Jewish population living in England increased from 65,300 in 1881 to between 250,000 and 300,000 in 1914.(2) The majority of East European Jews came to England to avoid legal restrictions imposed upon them in their own countries, whereas in England, the Jewish population had been granted political and civil liberty.(3)
Historians voice many conflicting arguments on how the immigrants and their children adapted to English life and culture as members of a minority group. Lloyd P Gartner argues that the Jewish immigrants joined the established Jewish communities which were normally situated in the centre or adjoining the centre of towns.(4) The Jewish immigrants were not peasants or illiterates but carried with them a strong religious and cultural heritage.(5) This heritage did cause some conflicts within the larger communities, where the established Jews had rapidly moved towards Anglicisation, especially in language.(6) There would have been a greater rapport between immigrants and established Jews in small provincial communities.(7) Apart from the conflicts, the immigrants and. the established Jews maintained themselves as one body and formed a society apart, with little or no contact with the Gentile population.(8)
He argues that there was no difference in the way the immigrants and the established Jews maintained their religious and. cultural distinctiveness within the established oommunity.(9) The synagogue and its institutions still represented traditional religious life and thought, although the need to work would sometimes cause conflict with the need for strict religious observation.(10) This distinctiveness would also include strict religious observation in the home, strong kinship ties and marital fidelity with Jews only marrying Jews. (11)
Lloyd P Gartner argues that the children of the immigrants did show signs of moving in the direction of Anglicisation and assimilation into English social culture.(12) The Education Actof 1870 had absorbed Jewish children into State Schools and Jewish Schools taught the English language and English habits.(13) Jewish parents were not concerned who taught their children general education but who taught their religious education.(14) Many Jewish children would attend a Cheder for instruction into Hebrew prayer and the study of Jewish law.(15) The periods of study could have been, before normal schooltime, after school or on Sundays.
The Jewish immigrant did face hostility from the Gentile population especially on the employment front. The immigrants were accused of taking jobs away from the English population by being willing to work longer hours for less pay than the accepted level agreed. by English workers.(16) This situation normally occurred in periods of depression. Lloyd P Gartner argues that the Jewish immigrants did not create social problems that did not already exist.(17)
V D Lipman agrees with Lloyd P Gartner that Jewish schools were teaching English habits to the children of Jewish immigrants. He argues Jewish schools were taking in foreign children and turning out children who were indistinguishable from English children. (18) He argues that although by 1914 the process of Anglicisation in English language and habits had gained force, it was not necessarily assimilation in the religious sense.(19) V D Lipman argues that the 1920’s was a relatively quiet period for the Jewish communities with a greater integration into the wider community.(20)
Cohn Holmes argues that although the Jewish people felt secure in England in the 1920’s and 1930’s in comparison to other European countries, they still suffered various forms of discrimination. Some employers would only employ people of the Christian faith, stating in advertisements, "No Jews Need Apply". Property owners would refuse to rent property to Jewish people.(21) He argues there was discrimination against Jews trying to enlist to fight for England in the First World War although he stresses the Jewish people did play their full part in the war effort.(22) Jews faced a wider challenge than any other ethnic minority.
Tony Kushner argues that after 1918 with the increasing Jewish mobility out of the working-class, many barriers were placed in their way in both housing and job markets. The Jews that were advancing into the middle-class faced exclusion from important social institutions such as golf clubs or other priviledged Gentile preserves such as public schools.(23) He argues the Jews themselves had been blamed for causing this discrimination because of their exclusiveness and their unwillingness to mix freely with the wider community.(24) Tony Kushner argues that liberal British society failed to produce an environment for the existence of a positive Anglo-Jewish identity.(25)
The evidence from previously mentioned historians deal with, in the majority, the London Jewish communities or the larger provincial Jewish communities, for example Leeds. Little attention has been given by historians to the small provincial Jewish communities. This dissertation plans to examine evidence from the small provincial Jewish community of Middlesbrough. However, there was one large barrier in the way of this plan, there was very little written evidence and only one oral history transcript that detailed the Middlesbrough Jewish Community.
The only way to gather evidence was to approach the Jewish people of Middlesbrough in the hope that they would allow themselves to become the subjects of oral history interviews. The methodology adopted in preparation for these interviews involved three stages of planning. Firstly, assessing the evidence from the previously mentioned secondary sources. I compiled a model which would predict what features the Middlesbrough Jewish Community would possess in the period I wished to cover.(26) Secondly, I compiled a list of questions from the model.(27) Thirdly, after one rejection, I found three members of the Middlesbrough Jewish Community who were willing to talk to me and answer my list of questions.(28) In fact they were so helpful they contributed much more evidence then I can use because of the word limitation of this dissertation. Indeed there is a need for more research into the Middlesbrough Jewish Community, as there are many areas left which this dissertation does not cover.
There is evidence of Jewish people settling in Middlesbrough from 1862 when the town population was rapidly increasing following the discovery of iron-ore in the nearby Cleveland Hills in 1850 and the building of the first blast-furnace in 1851. Middlesbrough is a well known North Eastern manufacturing town and a shipping port at the mouth of the River Tees. Evidence indicates the Jewish people lived and worshipped in the original town site of Middlesbrough, the parish of St. Hilda.(29) It was not until 1874 that the first permanent synagogue in Brentnall Street was opened to accomodate the needs of the established Jews and the growing number of Jewish immigrants entering Middlesbrough. (30)
The Brentnall Street Synagogue was situated within approximately five hundred yards of the new municipal buildings which housed the New Town Hall in 1887 when it switched from the St. Hilda area.(31) School-rooms and a communal hail were added to the synagogue in 1919 to serve all the communal needs of the Middlesbrough Hebrew Congregation.(32) The second larger synagogue was built in 1938 at Park Road South on the outskirts of town to accommodate the growing needs of the Jewish community.(33)
The first Jewish cemetery was consecrated on 27th July 1885 and a new cemetery was opened in Ayresome Green Lane on 26th June 1932.(34) There were six hundred people in the Middlesbrough Jewish Community in 1914 and probably more in 1924 when the community reached its peak, although exact figures are not known for this year.(35) By the 1960’s the number of Jewish people living in Middlesbrough had probably dto just over three hundred.
This dissertation will use both documentary and oral evidence to answer three main questions. How did the first generation of English-born Jews in Middlesbrough assimilate into English life and social culture by becoming fully integrated with the wider community? Did they face any discrimination in their attempts to assimilate, and if discrimination did occur, could any blame be placed upon the Jewish people? If the Middlesbrough Jewish Community did become fully integrated into English life and social culture was it at the expense of their religious and cultural distinctiveness?
The first chapter of this dissertation will examine the Middlesbrough Jewish Community as it was before 1910. Then it will examine the extent to which the first generation of English-born Jews who chose to reside in Middlesbrough did. integrate into the wider community. The second chapter will examine evidence to assess to what extent the first generation of English-born Jews in Middlesbrough kept their religious and cultural distinctiveness. This dissertation will concentrate on the Middlesbrough Jewish Community between 1910 and 1960.