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The Real Meaning of our Work?

Jewish Youth Clubs in the UK, 1880–1939

Anne Holdorph

Youth clubs like the Boys’ Brigade became a trend in the UK in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Jewish community in the UK began their own clubs to educate and entertain young Jews. These clubs mirrored the examples begun within the Christian community and adapted their models of social control by providing purposeful recreation, religious education and sporting activities to cultivate young minds and bodies. Much primary source material exists on these clubs, including publicity material provided by the clubs themselves as well as oral history accounts given by former members. This book looks at the records left behind by the Jewish clubs and asks to what extent they were successful in providing Jewish education to Jewish youth and how this education was defined by gender. The author ultimately argues that some religious elements were evident in these clubs and that where they were included, inclusive British identities were promoted.

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Chapter 1: Girls’ Clubs, 1886–1939


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Girls’ Clubs, 1886–1939

At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, many girls’ clubs were founded, both in and out of London. A number of these clubs had a religious basis with large numbers underpinned by varieties of Christianity. In areas with a large Jewish population, such as the East End of London, a number of Jewish clubs also emerged. These last mentioned were fuelled by the wave of new immigration to the country and the crowded and insanitary conditions in which many of the immigrant Jews lived. The clubs were focused on improving the lives of the members, both as proto-English females and as Jewish girls. This section will focus on a number of Jewish clubs both in and out of London. Within London, I will look at Leman Street Club, the Beatrice Club and the Butler Street Club, as they were some of the largest girls’ clubs during the early twentieth century. There were also a number of smaller groups, including the Stepney Girls’ Club and the Kilburn Girls’ Recreation Club and these will also be included in this section. Outside London, several cities with large Jewish populations had their own girls’ clubs, including Bristol, Nottingham, Glasgow, Dublin,1 Cardiff and Liverpool.

The period between 1880 and 1939 marked changes in wider society that saw an increase in general philanthropy amongst the privileged classes. In particular, women became involved with charitable causes....

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