League of British Jews

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The League of British Jews was an Anglo-Jewish anti-Zionist organization that opposed the Balfour Declaration giving British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The League was founded in November 1917 by a group of prominent British Jews that included Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, Sir Philip Magnus and Louis Montagu, 2nd Baron Swaythling. Its first president was Rothschild, with Montagu and Magnus serving as vice presidents.[1] The League had a small membership, only 18 in 1917, who were "recruited from the highly acculturated upper strata of British Jewry." Despite its small numbers, the League was highly influential. It folded in 1929. [2][3]

The League favored settlement in Palestine by British Jews who chose to live there, but opposed the belief that Jews constituted a separate nationality, the position then held by Reform Judaism.[2][3] At the time it was founded, the objectives of the League were listed as upholding "the status of British Jews holding the Jewish religion," to "resist the allegation that Jews constitute a separate nationality," and "to facilitate the settlement in Palestine of such Jews as may desire to make Palestine their home." Membership was available to all at a cost of one shilling per year.[1]

The views of the League were reflected in a newspaper founded in October 1919, the Jewish Guardian, edited by Laurie Magnus. Its aim was to provide an alternative to the pro-Zionist Jewish Chronicle and Jewish World. [3]

Letter of 'The Ten'[edit]

In the early twentieth century. immigration from Eastern Europe had greatly expanded the number of British Jews. These new immigrants became the targets of anti-immigrant hostility and allegations of sympathy to Bolshevism. This put the Anglo-Jewish community under considerable pressure.[3]

In April 1919, ten prominent members of the League wrote a letter to the London Morning Post titled "Bolshevism and Jewry: a Repudiation." The letter denounced Bolshevism and criticized articles in unnamed Jewish newspapers that "can have no other effect than to encourage the adoption of the theoretic principles of foreign Bolsheviks among foreign Jews who have sought and found a refuge in England." The letter endorsed a call by the Post for British Jews to "dissociate themselves from a cause which is doing the Jewish people harm all over the world." The letter was signed by Rothschild, Magnus, Montagu, Marcus Samuel, Harry S. Samuel, Leonard L. Cohen, I. Gollancz, John Monash, Claude G. Montefiore and Isidore Spielman.[3]

The letter was highly controversial with the British Jewish community. Though not named, the letter had attacked articles in the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish World that had described Bolshevism as a protest against the old social order that had tolerated German militarism. The letter was denounced by the editor of the two newspapers, Leopold J. Greenberg, who denied Bolshevik sympathies and contended that the letter played into the hands of the anti-Semitic press. The Board of Deputies of British Jews passed a resolution saying that it "deprecates the letter" on the grounds that it "differentiates between British and foreign Jews."[3]

Writing in Studies in Contemporary Jewry in 1988, historian Sharman Kadish asserts that "League of British Jews simply accepted the thesis, inspired by antisemitism, that Russian Jews were Bolsheviks." At the time, he writes, both Bolshevism and Zionism "were regarded as alien imports and equally capable of undermining the loyalty of newcomers to Britain."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "To Combat Zionism". The Modern View. 28 December 1917. p. 13. Retrieved 17 April 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b Kolsky, Thomas (1992). Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948. Temple University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-56639-009-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kadish, Sharman (1988). Frankel, Jonathan; Medding, Peter Y.; Mendelsohn, Ezra (eds.). Studies in Contemporary Jewry: IV: The Jews and the European Crisis, 1914-1921. OUP USA/Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. pp. 96–109. ISBN 978-0-19-505113-1.