London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Politics, Literature, and amuse- Ments of the Jews.
PERHAPS there is no people in the world, possessing the average amount of intelligence in busy communities, who care so little for politics as the general body of the Jews. The wealthy classes may take an interest in the matter, but I am assured, and by those who know their countrymen well, that even with them such a quality as patriotism is a mere word. This may be accounted for in a great measure, perhaps, from an hereditary feeling. The Jew could hardly be expected to love a land, or to strive for the promotion of its general welfare, where he felt he was but a sojourner, and where he was at the best but tolerated and often proscribed. But this feeling becomes highly reprehensible when it extends— as I am assured it does among many of the rich Jews—to their own people, for whom, apart from conventionalities, say my informants, for so long as they are undisturbed in money-getting at home, their brethren may be persecuted all over the world, while the rich Jew merely shrugs his shoulders. An honourable exception, however, exists in Sir Moses Montefiore, who has honourably distinguished himself in the relief of his persecuted brethren on more than occasion. The great of the earth no longer spit upon the gabardine of the Jewish millionaire, nor do they draw his teeth to get his money, but the great Jew capitalists, with powerful influence in
|many a government, do not seek to direct that influence for the bettering of the lot of their poorer brethren, who, at the same time, brook the restrictions and indignities which they have to suffer with a perfect philosophy. In fact, the Jews have often been the props of the courts who have persecuted them; that is to say, or Jewish firms occasionally have not hesitated to lend millions to the governments by whom they and their people have been systematically degraded and oppressed.|
I was told by a Hebrew gentleman (a professional man) that so little did the Jews themselves care for "Jewish emancipation," that he questioned if man in , actuated solely by his own feelings, would trouble himself to walk the length of the street in which he lived to secure Baron Rothschild's admission into the . This apathy, my informant urged with perfect truth, in nowise affected the merits of the question, though he was convinced it formed a great obstacle to Baron Rothschild's success; "for governments," he said, "won't give boons to people who don't care for them; and, though this is called a boon, I look upon it as only a "
When such is the feeling of the comparatively wealthier Jews, no can wonder that I found among the Jewish street-sellers and old-clothes men with whom I talked on the subject—and their more influential brethren gave me every facility to prosecute my inquiry among them—a perfect indifference to, and nearly as perfect an ignorance of, politics. Perhaps no men buy so few newspapers, and read them so little, as the Jews generally. The street-traders, when I alluded to the subject, said they read little but the "Police Reports."
Among the body of the Jews there is little love of Literature. They read far less (let it be remembered I have acquired all this information from Jews themselves, and from men who could not be mistaken in the matter), and are far less familiar with English authorship, either historical or literary, than are the poorer English artizans. Neither do the wealthiest classes of the Jews care to foster literature among their own people. author, a short time ago, failing to interest the English Jews, to promote the publication of his work, went to the United States, and his book was issued in Philadelphia, the city of Quakers!
The Amusements of the Jews—and here I speak more especially of the street or open-air traders—are the theatres and concert-rooms. The City of London Theatre, the Standard Theatre, and other playhouses at the East-end of London, are greatly resorted to by the Jews, and more especially by the younger members of the body, who sometimes constitute a rather obstreperous gallery. The cheap concerts which they patronize are generally of a superior order, for the Jews are fond of music, and among them have been many eminent composers and performers, so that the trash and jingle which delights the costermonger class would not please the street Jew boys; hence their concerts are superior to the general run of cheap concerts, and are almost always "got up" by their own people.
Sussex-hall, in , is chiefly supported by Israelites; there the "Jews' and General Literary and Scientific Institution" is established, with reading-rooms and a library; and there lectures, concerts, &c., are given as at similar institutions. Of late, on every Friday evening, Sussex-hall has been thrown open to the general public, without any charge for admission, and lectures have been delivered gratuitously, on literature, science, art, and general subjects, which have attracted crowded audiences. The lecturers are chiefly Jews, but the lectures are neither theological nor sectarian. The lecturers are Mr. M. H. Bresslau, the Rev. B. H. Ascher, Mr. J. L. Levison (of Brighton), and Mr. Clarke, a merchant in the City, a Christian, whose lectures are very popular among the Jews. The behaviour of the Jew attendants, and the others, the Jews being the majority, is decorous. They seem "to like to receive information," I was told; and a gentleman connected with the hall argued that this attention showed a readiness for proper instruction, when given in an attractive form, which favoured the opinion that the young Jews, when not thrown in childhood into the vortex of money-making, were very easily teachable, while their natural quickness made them both ready and willing to be taught.
My old-clothes buying informant mentioned a Jewish eating-house. I visited in the Jew quarter, but saw nothing to distinguish it from Christian resorts of the same character and cheapness (the "plate" of good hot meat costing , and vegetables ), except that it was fuller of Jews than of Christians, by to , perhaps, and that there was no "pork" in the waiter's specification of the fare.