I have spent today absorbed in the political and social life of Jewish students in Glasgow between 1909 and 1919. The morning began with a simple aim of finding the announcement of Samuel’s death in the Jewish Chronicle (JC), but from there I was led into a world of student societies and political discussion, where I remained utterly captivated for the rest of the day.
Samuel was active at the very heart of these societies, according to the back-issues of the JC. From 1909 he was President of the Young Men’s Zionist Culture Association, delivering a lecture to them that April on “The Ethics, Morals and Teachings of the Bible“. By 1912 he was President of the newly formed Glasgow University Jewish Society.
In 1913 he is reported to have read a paper on “The Fundamentals of Zionism.” The JC reports that ‘the lecture endeavored to show that Zionism was essentially idealistic in its principle, being based on tradition and the return of national consciousness of the Jewish people’.
By 1917 he was the Vice President of Glasgow’s Social Rooms in the Jewish National Institute.
On Jan 10 1919 he was elected Chairman of the Boei Zion Society and a week later he presided over a meeting of representatives of Jewish Institutions in Glasgow to consider the formation of a Central Zionist Council for Scotland.
In December that year he gave a talk on “The Passing of Medievalism Among Western Jewry.” and a month later at the Jewish Young Men’s Debating Society he addressed the members on “Jewish Emancipation in Western Europe” which was reported as ‘a survey of the progress of Jewish emancipation, with its attending benefits and evils, since the time of the expulsion from Spain till the nineteenth century’.
Reading about the debates of these young educated Jews at the start of the twentieth century: about the formation of a Jewish state, about splits in the English Zionist movement, about whether Jews should be active in British Party politics, about Jewish law and its lack of impact on British law, about the relationship of Glasgow’s Jewish immigrants with Russia, and so on, I had my first insight into the world-view of these students, many freshly arrived in Scotland and keen to help shape the future. Today’s reading leaves me determined to understand more about this great influx of Jews to Glasgow from the Russian territories at the start of the last century.
Finally, one of the great gems I found today was a beautifully crafted letter Samuel wrote to the JC about orthodox vs. liberal Judaism, which will stand on its own in the following blog-post.