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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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Introduction: Judaism, Masculinity and Femininity, 1880–1939


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Judaism, Masculinity and Femininity, 1880–1939

The end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century marked a key period in the creation of youth clubs across the UK, the most high profile of these being the Boys’ Brigade and the Scout and Guide Associations. From the 1880s clubs for girls and boys emerged in towns and cities. The clubs were primarily for those aged 14 and older, although some also catered for younger people. Philanthropists and social workers saw this age group as particularly vulnerable and in need of guidance. There were groups that catered for political interests, such as Zionism, groups that considered themselves to be educational and those that were social in nature. This book will focus on social clubs, which played a particularly important role, enabling philanthropists to exercise control, although not always successfully, over young people who were seen as particularly vulnerable to negative influences. Fears of deterioration of the British population, highlighted by perceived military failure in the Boer War and the poverty surveys of Booth and Rowntree, resulted in clubs for boys emphasizing military drill and physical fitness. Girls’ clubs emphasized moral and social purity. Many clubs included a religious element and were often explicitly supported by the churches. The Boys’ Brigade for example, placed an emphasis on ‘the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom’ and the Girls’ Friendly Society claimed a strong connection with the Anglican Church, boasting the Archbishop of Canterbury as one of...

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