London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Charities, Schools, and Education of the Jews.
THE Jewish charities are highly honourable to the body, for they allow none of their people to live or die in a parish workhouse. It is true that among the Jews in London there are many individuals of immense wealth; but there are also many rich Christians who care not jot for the need of their brethren. It must be borne in mind also, that not only do the Jews voluntarily support their own poor and institutions, but they contribute—compulsorily it is true—their quota to the support of the English poor and church; and, indeed, pay their due proportion of all the parliamentary or local imposts. This is the more honourable and the more remarkable among the Jews, when we recollect their indisputable greed of money.
If a Jew be worn out in his old age, and unable to maintain himself, he is either supported by the contributions of his friends, or out of some local or general fund, or provided for in some asylum, and all this seems to be done with a less than ordinary fuss and display, so that the
|recipient of the charity feels himself more a pensioner than a pauper.|
The Jews' Hospital, in the Mile-end Road, is an extensive building, into which feeble old men and destitute children of both sexes are admitted. Here the boys are taught trades, and the girls qualified for respectable domestic service. The Widows' Home, in , , is for poor Hebrew widows. The , built at the cost of Mr. A. L. Moses, and supported by subscription, now contains girls and boys; a school is attached to the asylum, which is in the , Goodman's-fields. The Hand-in-Hand Asylum, for decayed old people, men and women, is in Duke's-place, . There are likewise alms-houses for the Jews, erected also by Mr. A. L. Moses, at Mileend, and other alms-houses, erected by Mr. Joel Emanuel, in , near the Tower. There are, further, institutions for granting marriage dowers to fatherless children; an institution in Bevis-marks, for the burial of the poor of the congregation; "Beth Holim;" a house for the reception of the sick poor, and of poor lying--in women belonging to the congregation of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews; "Magasim Zobim," for lending money to aid apprenticeships among boys, to fit girls for good domestic service, and for helping poor children to proceed to foreign parts, when it is believed that the change will be advantageous to them; and "Noten Lebem Larcebim;" to distribute bread to the poor of the congregation on the day preceding the Sabbath.
I am assured that these institutions are wellmanaged, and that, if the charities are abused by being dispensed to undeserving objects, it is usually with the knowledge of the managers, who often let the abuse pass, as a smaller evil than driving a man to theft or subjecting him to the chance of starvation. gentleman, familiar with most of these establishments, said to me with a laugh, "I believe, if you have had any conversation with the gentlemen who manage these matters, you will have concluded that they are not the people to be imposed upon very easily."
There are Jewish schools in London, in the city, and at the West-end, all supported by voluntary contributions. The Jews' Free School, in , Spitalfields, is the largest, and is adapted for the education of no fewer than boys and girls. The late Baroness de Rothschild provided clothing, yearly, for all the pupils in the school. In the , , are about little scholars. There are also the School, previously mentioned; the Western Jewish schools, for girls, in , and, for boys, in , Soho, but considered as establishment; and the West Metropolitan School, for girls, in Little , and, for boys, in , also considered as establishment.
Notwithstanding these means of education, the body of the poorer, or what in other callings might be termed the working-classes, are not even tole- rably well educated; they are indifferent to the matter. With many, the multiplication table seems to constitute what they think the acme of all knowledge needful to a man. The great majority of the Jew boys, in the street, cannot read. A smaller portion can read, but so imperfectly that their ability to read detracts nothing from their ignorance. So neglectful or so necessitous (but I heard the ignorance attributed to neglect far more frequently than necessity) are the poorer Jews, and so soon do they take their children away from school, "to learn and do something for themselves," and so irregular is their attendance, on the plea that the time cannot be spared, and the boy must do something for himself, that many children leave the free-schools not only about as ignorant as when they entered them, but almost with an incentive to continued ignorance; for they knew nothing of reading, except that to acquire its rudiments is a pain, a labour, and a restraint. On some of the Jew boys the vagrant spirit is strong; they be itinerants, if not wanderers,—though this is a spirit in no way confined to the Jew boys.
Although the wealthier Jews may be induced to give money towards the support of their poor, I heard strong strictures passed upon them concerning their indifference towards their brethren in all other respects. Even if they subscribed to a school, they never cared whether or not it was attended, and that, much as was done, far more was in the power of so wealthy and distinct a people. "This is all the more inexcusable," was said to me by a Jew, "because there are so many rich Jews in London, and if they exerted and exercised a broader liberality, as they might in instituting Jewish colleges, for instance, to promote knowledge among the middle-classes, and if they cared more about employing their own people, their liberality would be far more fully felt than similar conduct in a Christian, because they have a smaller sphere to influence. As to employing their own people, there are numbers of the rich Jews who will employ any stranger in preference, if he work a penny a week cheaper. This sort of employment," continued my Jew informant, "should never be exclusive, but there might, I think, be a judicious preference."
I shall now proceed to set forth an account of the sums yearly subscribed for purposes of education and charity by the Jews.
The Jews' Free School in Spitalfields is supported by voluntary contributions to the amount of about yearly. To this sum a few Christians contribute, as to some other Hebrew institutions (which I shall specify), while Jews often are liberal supporters of Christian public charities— indeed, some of the wealthier Jews are looked upon by the members of their own faith as inclined to act more generously where Christian charities, with the prestige of high aristocratic and fashionable patronage, are in question, than towards their own institutions. To the Jews' Free School the Court of Common Council of the Corporation of London lately granted , through the exertions of Mr. Benjamin S. Phillips, of , a
|member of the court. The Baroness Lionel de Rothschild (as I have formerly stated of the late Baroness) supplies clothing for the scholars. The school is adapted for the reception of boys and girls in equal proportion; about is the average attendance.|
The Jews' in , with an average attendance approaching , is similarly supported at a cost of from to yearly.
The School, in Goodman'sfields, receives a somewhat larger support, but in the expenditure is the cost of an asylum (before mentioned, and containing inmates). The funds are about yearly. Christians subscribe to this institution also—Mr. Frederick Peel, M.P., taking great interest in it. The attendance of pupils is from to .
It might be tedious to enumerate the other schools, after having described the principal; I will merely add, therefore, that the yearly contributions to each are from to , and the pupils taught in each from to . Of these further schools there are already specified.
The Jews' Hospital, at Mile End, is maintained at a yearly cost of about , to which Christians contribute, but not to a of the amount collected. The persons benefited are worn-out old men, and destitute children, while the number of almspeople is from to yearly.
The other asylums, &c., which I have specified, are maintained at a cost of about each, as a yearly average, and the Almshouses, in number, at about half that sum. The persons relieved by these last-mentioned institutions number about , -thirds, or thereabouts, being in the asylums.
The Loan Societies are : the Jewish Ladies Visiting and Benevolent Loan Society; the Linusarian Loan Society (why called Linusarian a learned Hebrew scholar could not inform me, although he had asked the question of others); and the Magasim Zobim (the Good Deeds), a Portuguese Jews' Loan Society.
The business of these societies is conducted on the same principle. Money is lent on personal or any security approved by the managers, and no interest is charged to the borrower. The amount lent yearly is from to by each society, the whole being repaid and with sufficient punctuality; a few weeks' "grace" is occasionally allowed in the event of illness or any unforeseen event. The Loan Societies have not yet found it necessary to proceed against any of their debtors; my informant thought this forbearance extended over years.
There is not among the Jewish street-traders, as among the costermongers and others, a class forming part, or having once formed part of themselves, and living by usury and loan mongering, where they have amassed a few pounds. Whatever may be thought of the Jews' usurious dealings as regards the general public, the poorer classes of their people are not subjected to the exactions of usury, with all its clogs to a struggling man's well-doing. Sometimes the amount required by an old-clothes man, or other street-trader, is obtained by or for him at of these loan societies. Sometimes it is advanced by the usual buyer of the -hand garments collected by the street-Jew. No security in such cases is given beyond —strange as it may sound—the personal honour of an old-clothes man! An experienced man told me, that taking all the class of Jew street-sellers, who are a very fluctuating body, with the exception of the old-clothes men, the sum thus advanced as stock-money to them might be seldom less in any year than , and seldom more than There is a prevalent notion that the poorer Jews, when seeking charity, are supplied with goods for street-sale by their wealthy brethren, and never with money—this appears to be unfounded.
Now to sum up the above items we find that the yearly cost of the Jewish schools is about , supplying the means of instruction to children (out of a population of of all ages, -half of whom, perhaps, are under years). The yearly outlay in the asylums, &c., is, it appears, annually, benefiting or maintaining about individuals (at a cost of nearly per head). If we add no more than yearly for the minor charities or institutions I have previously alluded to, we find expended annually in the public schools and charities of the Jews of London, independently of about , which is the amount of the loans to those requiring temporary aid.
We have before seen that the number of Jews in London is estimated by the best informed at about ; hence it would appear that the charitable donations of the Jews of London amount on an average to a little less than per head. Let us compare this with the benevolence of the Christians. At the same ratio the sum devoted to the charities of England and Wales should be very nearly , but, according to the most liberal estimates, it does not reach half that amount; the rent of the land and other fixed property, together with the interest of the money left for charitable purposes in England and Wales, is If, however, we add to the voluntary contributions the sum raised compulsorily by assessment in aid of the poor (about per annum), the ratio of the English Christian's contributions to his needy brethren throughout the country will be very nearly the same as that of the Jew's. Moreover, if we turn our attention to the benevolent bequests and donations of the Christians of London, we shall find that their munificence does not fall far short of that of the metropolitan Jews. The gross amounts of the charitable contributions of London are given below, together with the numbers of institutions; and it will thus be seen that the sum devoted to such purposes amounts to no less than , or upwards of a million and -quarters sterling for a population of about millions!
In connection with the statistical part of this subject I may mention that the Chief Rabbis each receive a year; the Readers of the Synagogues, of whom there are in London, from to a year each; the Secretaries of the Synagogues, of whom there are also , from to each; the under Secretaries from to ; and Dayanim a year each. These last-mentioned officers are looked upon by many of the Jews, as the "poor curates" may be by the members of the Church of England — as being exceedingly under-paid. The functions of the Dayanim have been already mentioned, and, I may add, that they must have received expensive scholarly educations, as for about hours daily they have to read the Talmud in the places of worship.
The yearly payment of these sacerdotal officials, then, independent of other outlay, amounts to about ; this is raised from the profits of the seats in the synagogues and voluntary contributions, donations, subscriptions, bequests, &c., among the Jews.
I have before spoken of a Board of Deputies, in connection with the Jews, and now proceed to describe its constitution. It is not a parliament among the Jews, I am told, nor a governing power, but what may be called a directing or regulating body. It is authorized by the body of Jews, and recognised by her Majesty's Government, as an established corporation, with powers to treat and determine on matters of civil and political policy affecting the condition of the Hebrews in this country, and interferes in no way with religious matters. It is neither a metropolitan nor a local nor a detached board, but, as far as the Jews in England may be so described, a national board. This board is elected triennially. The electors are the "seat-holders" in the Jewish synagogues; that is to say, they belong to the class of Jews who promote the support of the synagogues by renting seats, and so paying towards the cost of those establishments.
There are in England, Ireland, and Scotland, about of these seat-holders exercising the franchise, or rather entitled to exercise it, but many of them are indifferent to the privilege, as is often testified by the apathy shown on the days of election. Perhaps -fourths of the privileged number may vote. The services of the representatives are gratuitous, and no qualification is required, but the elected are usually the leading metropolitan Jews. The proportion of the electors voting is in the ratio of the deputies elected. London returns deputies; Liverpool, ; Manchester, ; Birmingham, ; Edinburgh, Dublin, (the only places in either Scotland or Ireland returning deputies), Dover, Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, Canterbury, Norwich, Swansea, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and other places (according to the number of seat-holders), each deputy, thus making up the number to . On election days the attendance, as I have said, is often small, but fluctuating according to any cause of excitement, which, however, is but seldom.
The question which has of late been discussed by this Board, and which is now under consideration, and negotiation with the Education Commissioners of her Majesty's Privy Council, is the obtaining a grant of money in the same proportion as it has been granted to other educational establishments. Nothing has as yet been given to the Jewish schools, and the matter is still undetermined.
With religious or sacerdotal questions the Board of Deputies does not, or is not required to meddle; it leaves all such matters to the bodies or tribunals I have mentioned. Indeed the deputies concern themselves only with what may be called the interests of the Jews, both as a part of the community and as a distinct people. The Jewish institutions, however, are not an exception to the absence of unanimity among the professors of the same creeds, for the members of the Reform Synagogue in , , are not recognised as entitled to vote, and do not vote, accordingly, in the election of the Jewish deputies. Indeed, the Reform members, whose synagogue was established years ago, were formally excommunicated by a declaration of the late Chief Rabbi, but this seems now to be regarded as a mere matter of form, for the members have lately partaken of all the rites to which orthodox Jews are entitled.