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INTRODUCTION:
A NEW APPROACH TO MODERN JEWISH LITERARY HISTORY

Among the many valuable works relative to woman’s capabilities, influence, and mission, which in the present age are so continually appearing, one still seems wanting.

Grace Aguilar,
Women of Israel (1846)

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE VICTORIAN JEWISH PUBLIC SPHERE

During the nineteenth century, Jews constituted the largest and fastest growing non-Christian minority living on English shores. Their community grew by 1200 percent between 1815 and 1900,1 and during the same period, they began to produce a voluminous Jewish public sphere comprised of periodicals, novels, philosophical and apologetic tracts, theologies, histories, and etiquette manuals. Many of the productions of this burgeoning public sphere were written by women, a circumstance that makes Anglo-Jewry unique among all Jewish communities in the world at that time. Between 1830 and 1880, Jews wrote in order to defend and debate the two salient movements gripping the community—the movement to emancipate themselves from the legal and political disabilities from which they still suffered as British subjects, and the movement to reform their religious institutions and practices. Their demand for emancipation produced such heated debates in Parliament over the nature of English national identity—ought Jews to be allowed full rights in this Christian nation?—that at one point the debate between the Lords and the Commons over the emancipation question threatened to dissolve the government.2 The debate over religious reform threatened for a time to fracture the community irreconcilably. Yet despite this remarkable increase in visibility; the challenge Jews posed to the identity of an increasingly liberal, yet professedly still Christian nation; the bitterness of the reform debate; and the intriguing presence of women in the Jewish public sphere, historians and literary critics of Jewish modernity as well as of the Victorian period have until recently paid little attention to this community.

The population increase of Victorian Jews was remarkable given that only two centuries before, England had been all but depopulated of Jews. After Edward I expelled them from England in 1290, Jews were (officially, at least) absent from English territory for four hundred years. In 1656, Oliver Cromwell readmitted a small group of Spanish-Portuguese Jews led by an Amsterdam-based theologian named Menasseh ben Israel, in the hope that Jews might aid him in increasing commerce as they had the Dutch and the Italians.3 From that point until 1815, the number of English Jews increased slowly—the Spanish-Portuguese, or Sephardim, came first, then gradually during the eighteenth century, the German-Polish, or Ashkenazim. At first these two communities were quite distinct. The Sephardim had fled from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions and upon arrival were quite often wealthy. The Ashkenazim were likewise fleeing from persecution by Cossacks, Poles, and Germans, and at first were mostly poor. During the eighteenth century, the religious and cultural differences between the two groups meant a great deal, so that the earliest English Jews had built two separate communities, which rarely interacted and differed in synagogue practices, clothing, and even languages spoken. As the Anglo-Jewish population began to grow—from a few families to 20,000 persons in London and the provinces by 1815—these two communities gradually became one more or less unified group. By 1880, there were 60,000 Jews in Britain, an increase accompanied by a geometric growth in the number of Jewish communal institutions.4 By the end of the century, due to the mass immigrations following in the wake of Eastern European pogroms of the 1880s, British Jews numbered 250,000.

These Victorian Jews were not merely melting into the British pot upon arrival, Israel Zangwill’s play The Melting Pot notwithstanding. Between the start of Jews’ agitations for relief from political disabilities in 1830 and the mass waves of Ashkenazic immigrants that began fleeing Russian pogroms to England in 1880, English Jews began building and maintaining a distinct communal identity, with autonomous institutions and an articulated set of priorities. They began to develop a “subculture,” a term David Sorkin has used to describe a minority culture that “is largely composed of elements of the majority culture” but that “is nevertheless distinct and functions as a self-contained system of ideas and symbols.”5

During this fifty-year period—called the Anglo-Jewish Enlightenment, or haskalah—Jewish literature and journalism played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of a minority culture with a self-contained system of ideas and symbols. When Maria Polack’s novel Fiction Without Romance; or, the Locket-Watch appeared in 1830—the first novel to be published by an English Jew, in the year of the Jews’ first efforts at parliamentary emancipation—the Jewish public sphere was nonexistent. But during the next fifty years, Jewish women, including Polack, Grace Aguilar, Marion Hartog, Celia Levetus, Anna Maria Goldsmid, and Judith and Charlotte Montefiore published scores of novels, short stories, etiquette manuals, and philosophical, historical, and apologetic tracts. Moreover, the Jewish public sphere grew to include at least a dozen periodical publications in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. These included Morris Raphall’s Hebrew Review and Magazine of Rabbinic Literature, which appeared between 1834 and 1836. Jacob Franklin published the Voice of Jacob between 1841 and 1847. The Jewish Chronicle, which eventually became the standard newspaper of the community, also came into existence in 1841.6 Marion Hartog’s Jewish Sabbath Journal, the first Jewish women’s periodical in modern history, appeared for a short time in 1855. And from 1859–60, Marcus Bresslau’s Hebrew Review and Magazine of Jewish Literature made its appearance. In part due to English Jews’ increase in population, and in part due to their desire to acculturate while remaining distinct, the Anglo-Jewish public sphere began to flourish.

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE ANGLO-JEWISH LITERARY HISTORY DISAPPEAR

Until quite recently, this large and well-developed Anglo-Jewish public sphere has received scant attention, from historians of Victorian Jewish culture, from historians of Jewish modernity in general, or from literary critics of the period. These scholars have missed out on the community’s literature because they have practiced at least five different forms of historical erasure.

First, historians of the Anglo-Jewish haskalah have usually treated the male segment of the community as if it were the whole.7 Because they have focused on men’s achievements, these histories have typically either completely neglected or trivialized and dismissed the production of Anglo-Jewish literature, the vast majority of which was written by women.8 Most histories of the period never mention women, unless it be Judith Montefiore, and then only in her capacity as travelling companion to her famous husband Moses. They have tended to tell the story of the men’s agitation for emancipation from legal, political, and economic disabilities. Or they have told the story of the movement for religious reform, as the men imported it from Germany. With some recent exceptions, those literary critics who have attempted to address the importance of Victorian Jewish women’s literary production have tended to lose sight of the contemporary community by focusing on a single individual (primarily, Grace Aguilar or Judith Montefiore); to minimize the work of women in relation to that of men; or to underappreciate the importance of gender in the emergence of an Anglo-Jewish literary tradition.9

Yet the role played by women is precisely what makes this history and this literature so unique and interesting. In their publishing activities, Anglo-Jewish women differed from every generation of Jewish women that preceded them. When early Victorian Jewish women began to publish books, they were breaking a centuries-old taboo against Jewish women gaining and displaying learning. Women were not prohibited from intellectual work in the framework of Jewish law, or halacha—they were rather “exempted” from the study of Torah, as they were “exempted” from the observance of all time-bound positive commandments. Their work in the economic and domestic spheres was deemed more significant in traditional Jewish gender ideology than their work in the liturgical or analytic spheres. From time to time a woman such as the Talmudic sage Beruria, married to a great scholar or the daughter of one, would come forward as an intellectual and be recognized for her learning. Glückel of Hameln, a wealthy seventeenth-century businesswoman, managed to write her memoirs while seeing to the fates of fourteen children. But these women were exceptional.10 For most women, the exemption had the force of a taboo. More typically, an Ashkenazic woman would publish a book of daily meditations, or tekhinot, a form of women’s writing sanctioned by the traditional male authorities.11 But, except for those few Anglo-Jewish women who could read Yiddish, most of these tekhinot were in a language inaccessible to them. Because of this inaccessibility, when Jewish women in England began to publish, they were for the most part creating a Jewish women’s literary tradition from scratch.12

They not only had few historical models to work from, but they had no contemporary examples to follow. Anglo-Jewish women writing in the 1830s preceded women elsewhere in Europe and the United States into print by fifteen years. Even in Germany, where Jewish salonières like Rahel Varnhagen were entertaining German literati,13 or the United States and France, where the movement for religious reform was likewise taking hold and offering women more of a public role—even in these places Jewish women in the 1830s and 1840s were not publishing books. But Anglo-Jewish women became active as novelists, poets, polemicists, and speakers in the modernizing Victorian community in these decades. The Anglo-Jewish haskalah witnessed the emergence of the Jewish woman into modern literary and cultural history.

These writers are not only interesting today as historical curiosities. They laid the groundwork for the increase in Anglo-Jewish women’s education and communal participation and influenced their American, German, and French Jewish counterparts; they were some of the most important theorists of the English Jews’ emancipation and reform movements; and they produced an indigenous literature that played a significant role in the invention and maintenance of an Anglo-Jewish subculture.

All of these women’s activities make the Anglo-Jewish haskalah different from versions of the haskalah being played out elsewhere. The study of the haskalah is the study of the Jews’ movement from aliens to citizens, from a more traditional autonomous community to a more integrated and assimilated community, from the middle ages into modernity. In any given European country, the haskalah’s hallmarks are debates over emancipation and reform. Because these are the subjects of Anglo-Jewish women’s writing, their literary production provides a unique opportunity to understand how Jews’ entrance into modernity differed for women and men. The Anglo-Jewish women writers with whom this book deals—principally, Marion and Celia Moss, Grace Aguilar, Charlotte Montefiore, and Anna Maria Goldsmid—reveal much about the disparity that existed in men’s and women’s experience of modernity, at least in a liberal nation. The very existence of their work raises important questions that have never yet been entertained much less answered: What combination of influences compelled these writers to do what almost no other Jewish women before them or contemporary with them were doing? What influence did their books have on contemporary Jews and non-Jews? And why were they and their works almost immediately dismissed and forgotten? The first way to make Anglo-Jewish literary history disappear is to treat its primary writers, women, as if they did not exist.

The second type of erasure bears a structural resemblance to the subsumption of women’s history by men’s. Historians of the European Jews’ haskalah have tended to subsume Anglo-Jewish history under the German-Jewish experience. Until the last decade, most historians of the haskalah took the German-Jewish example as a model for the whole, even though, as the Anglo-Jewish historian Todd Endelman has demonstrated, the assumption that the German-Jewish experience is paradigmatic for all Jews’ experience is inadequate.14 The processes of emancipation and reform took place at different times from one location to another and were not precisely the same from place to place. The Anglo-Jewish emancipation and reform movements began half a century after the analogous German-Jewish movements, and emerged into a different context. While Jews’ emancipation in Germany was limited by anti-Semitism and required Jews’ religious reform, emancipation in England took place in a more tolerant context, and did not require Jews’ religious reform. England served as the liberal vanguard of Europe, at least as regarded subjects living within its domestic borders.

The Anglo-Jewish model offers an alternative history of Jews in Europe to the German-Jewish model: specifically, it offers the history of a flourishing Jewish culture in an increasingly liberal and imperialist state. If part of the value of a given history is its relevance to the context of those who recount it, the Anglo-Jewish experience seems in many ways more analogous to the current American or Western European Jewish experience than does the German-Jewish case. The latter’s particular brand of entrenched religious and political anti-Semitism often leads historians to point teleologically from the German haskalah to the Holocaust. Anglo-Jewish history offers instead a model for understanding the development of liberal and reform Jewish communities, who struggle with the less extreme dilemmas of maintaining Jewish identity in a tolerant context. Victorian Jews’ issues of assimilation and the changing roles of men and women seem similar to current issues faced by Jews in Western democracies.

The third form of erasure of this literature and history has been practiced by scholars of Victorian literature. In most cases, literary critics’ neglect of the Victorian Jewish public sphere is comprehensible as simple ignorance, because the Victorian canon has definitionally excluded non-Protestant members of the British dominions—not only Jews, but also Gypsies, Catholics, Arabs, West Indians, and East Indians. Those scholars who have taken an interest in Jews have for the most part chosen to focus on Christian writers’ representations of Jews rather than on Jews’ own literary productions. Literary critics interested in the “Jewish Question” have tended to turn to the depictions of Jews by Walter Scott, Maria Edgeworth, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, or George Eliot.15 The best of this criticism has argued that these representations are moments in English Christian writers’ negotiation of English national identity in a liberal state. But by focusing only on Christian writers’ vision of Jews rather than seeing these representations in relation to the literature written by Jews themselves, these critics have left out half the available dialogue on the “Jewish Question.” They have assumed that the responses of actual Jews (as opposed to fictional ones) are either nonexistent, unimportant, or unliterary. But, as Nancy Armstrong has suggested, Victorian culture is “a struggle among various political factions to possess its most valued signs and symbols.”16 By neglecting to record the various factions, these critics have been unable to represent Victorian culture fully.

One might expect a difference here between those critics in support of the traditional canon and those who have argued for expansion of the canon. But the latter critics have often neglected literature by and about Jews as well. While feminist literary critics of the period have grown increasingly attuned to class and race differences between groups of women, they, too, have tended not to account for religious or subcultural differences not based on race or class.17 Those feminist scholars who have attempted to deal explicitly with religion have tended to focus only on Protestant and Catholic writers. For these critics, “English woman” still appears to mean “English Christian woman.” The assumption of Christianity’s universality is the fourth type of erasure.

The fifth type of erasure is the subsumption of Jews as “orientals.” Those critics of the canon’s “orientalism” who have considered Jews have, for some good reasons, treated the “Jewish Question” largely as a particular aspect of the “orientalist” conundrum: can an Oriental people be integrated into an Occidental nation? As biological determinism became more popular, expressed in such “sciences” as racist anthropology and England’s own social Darwinism between the 1840s and 1890s, Victorian Christians (as well as a small number of Jews and converts from Judaism such as Benjamin Disraeli) increasingly categorized Jews racially, not as “white,” but as “Semitic.”18 This categorization meant that English Jews were seen as “eastern” or “oriental.” Because of this categorization, Victorian Christian novelists and missionaries used many of the same hegemonic strategies to depict, persuade, and convert Jews as they used on other “orientals.”19 Yet Victorian attitudes toward Jewishness revealed particularities that have eluded scholars of orientalism as well.

None of these five types of critics and historians has adequately proposed or resolved the important questions raised by the Anglo-Jewish subculture’s phenomenal growth and development during the nineteenth century. How did this subculture come into existence, and for what purposes? Were these purposes different for women than for men? And if so, how?

GENDERING MODERN ANGLO-JEWISH HISTORY

If this study is to answer such questions, it will need to provide an alternative to the men-only story that has up to now been transmitted as the history of the Anglo-Jewish haskalah. It will need to show how and why Anglo-Jewish women’s experiences of and attitudes toward historical movements like emancipation and reform often differed from men’s.20 Most importantly it will need to show why men’s attitudes toward these movements led them to produce very little writing, while women’s attitudes led them to break the taboos of centuries and publish books. To lay the groundwork for these inquiries, here are two historical sketches—a sketch of the standard history of Anglo-Jewish men, explaining their reticence, followed by a sketch that suggests what a revised history might look like when taking women’s experiences and production of literature into account.

First Sketch: Anglo-Jewish Men and the Desire for Union

When Jews were readmitted into England in 1656, a few scattered Sephardic families returned with Menasseh ben Israel who had been crypto-Jews—that is, Jews who had survived the Spanish Inquisition by pretending to be Catholics while secretly continuing to practice Judaism. These wealthy Sephardim were the original members of the new Anglo-Jewish community. By the end of the eighteenth century, the majority of English Jews were Ashkenazim. These two communities remained distinct until the controversy in 1753 over the Jewish Naturalization Bill (or “Jew Bill”), which would have enabled a small number of wealthy Jews to become naturalized. The bill passed through Parliament, but engendered a bitter pamphlet war and several violent incidents. Pamphleteers denounced the “Judaising” of the English nation. The incidents resulted in the bill’s repeal a year later. In the wake of this experience, the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities began to correspond sporadically and informally, finding that they shared a set of interests, at least as regarded gaining emancipation from the external Victorian world. After 1760, the two groups sporadically communicated with each other to represent themselves as a single group to the Christian government. In 1817, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the cross-communal institution for liaison with the state, was formalized.21 The necessity of representing themselves to a Christian government that, not recognizing the differences between them, expected them to speak as a body, pressured Ashkenazim and Sephardim to find a common voice for the purposes of diplomacy.

The formation of a cross-communal institution served them, for like other Western European Jewish communities during the early nineteenth century, the Anglo-Jewish community was beginning to modernize. That is, it was beginning to undergo the two transitions of emancipation and reform. Reformers in Germany and France were completely revamping their communities—dismantling the communal systems of government, changing the practices and architecture of the synagogue, altering the education systems, and introducing new literary forms such as the sermon into Jewish life. Perhaps most importantly for the purposes of this study, continental Jewish reformers’ pens were busy in the service of their cause: they produced an enormous number of tracts, histories, novels, sermons, and periodicals arguing for various reforms. Parallel with this internal revolution, Jewish men were attempting to revolutionize relations with the external world, the dominant cultures of their host countries. Emancipationists were arguing for the removal of all legal, political, economic, and social disabilities from which Jews suffered at the hands of European governments. Like religious reformers, these emancipationists produced an enormous number of books and tracts.

Compared to their continental contemporaries, Anglo-Jewish men produced very little in the way of polemical writing about either of these movements. In fact, several prominent historians of Anglo-Jewish culture have claimed that English Jews produced no significant emancipation movement because they produced little emancipationist theoretical or polemical writing. Rather, the argument goes, the English Jews were much more practical than their continental brethren, preferring to stand for office rather than to write a book, or to use their influence and wealth to gain emancipation rather than to use the public press.22 If they did not experience an emancipation movement that required manifestoes, the standard history argues that English Jews did not experience a reform movement that required them, either. Traditionalists and reformers basically overcame their differences after a short period of troubling debate with a few pragmatic alterations in synagogue decorum. According to this argument, in both the external movement for emancipation and the internal movement for religious reform, English Jews were pragmatists, not ideologues or writers.

It is true that Anglo-Jewish men’s pragmatic approach to gaining emancipation did not call for a great deal of polemicizing. For the most part, they felt that emancipation was a much less urgent affair than did their continental contemporaries. Nor did reform in England, in their estimation, require a great deal of polemic. Their relative equanimity can be explained by their comfort in the increasingly liberal English context. By 1830, when English Jews first began to argue for the removal of civil and municipal disabilities, their community was for the first time beginning to feel comfortably settled. As V. D. Lipman explains, Victorian Jewry, “though containing a number of recent immigrants, was, in the main, a community of some standing; the bulk of its members was of families settled over fifty years, due to the most marked period of immigration having been between 1750 and 1800.”23 This settledness marks a fundamental difference between English Jewry of the period and other West European communities as in Germany and France, who were undergoing a period of profound instability and change. Reformers in these communities were struggling against centuries-old national, communal traditions. By contrast, the Anglo-Jewish community in 1830 was only just reaching a size that would permit the men to begin the process of creating communal structures. Early nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish men were the architects of a period of growth, homogenization, and consolidation. In creating communal structures they did draw on reformist ideas of their German and French coreligionists. Still, unlike the continental reformers, the Anglo-Jewish men did not necessarily feel that they needed to reject their heritage first before they could build the community. Relatively small and young as their community was, they did not have to fight well-established communal traditions in order to form it.24

Indeed, at first, the community-building effort was not in the least driven by a desire to reform the traditional ritual and synagogue practices. Rather, the effort was driven by the desire to overcome religio-cultural diversity between Sephardim and Ashkenazim within the community and present a unified front to the government. The formation of a common institution for contacting the external world enabled a crossover in social contacts in the internal world, perhaps best measured by the number of Sephardic-Ashkenazic intermarriages that began to appear. Already by 1850, the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim were substantially integrated, with 38 percent of brides at Bevis Marks (the Sephardic synagogue) of Ashkenazic descent.25 Other cross-communal institutions including the Jewish Board of Guardians (1854) and the Jews College (1855) were soon formed. The Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities brought very different cultural heritages to England—but as both groups had reason to seek to be recognized as “British Jews,” both were increasingly able to reinterpret their differences so as to support union rather than dissension. The desire to build a strong “Anglo-Jewish” community increasingly outweighed the desire to maintain religio-cultural particularity.

Although both Ashkenazic and Sephardic men emphasized union, they did so for different reasons. The Sephardim were the oldest, most settled, and most wealthy segment of the community, having almost wholly comprised the small Jewish community in England from resettlement in 1656 until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Having descended from crypto-Jews or New Christians who fled from the Inquisitions in Spain and Portugal to Amsterdam and from there to England, they were undergoing a process that has been called rejudaisation. That is, they were rediscovering and claiming their Jewish heritage. One result of this rediscovery was their desire to create a Jewish communal structure. Forced to hide their Judaism from the Holy Office of the Inquisition, they often took full advantage of the opportunity to bring their Judaism into the open in more liberal and tolerant countries. Their experience as crypto-Jews led some Sephardic expatriates to convert to Christianity in their new homes, if only because of the practical gains to be had by conversion, and because over time they came to feel estranged from Jewishness.26 But those crypto-Jewish men who did not convert were not so invested in denigrating traditional Judaism as, say, German-Jewish reformers. As Spanish and Portuguese Jews, they looked back for heroes to the Golden Age of Spain in the tenth through twelfth centuries, and found their “enlightened” example in Maimonides, the medieval Sephardic philosopher, commentator, and teacher. Their rejudaisation supported a sense of solidarity with other Sephardim, and with other Jews.

On the other hand, rejudaisation did not necessarily mean adopting the traditional religious or communal practices. Having experienced the effects of persecution firsthand, Sephardim in England were likely to adopt from their new host country a liberal ideology that emphasized tolerance of minority groups—indeed, some historians argue that crypto-Jews invented the ideology of liberalism.27 At the very least, crypto-Jews had brought with them from Amsterdam a philosophy emphasizing skepticism, tolerance, and individual choice over communal authority. This liberal approach affected the way they structured their community. When they first arrived in England, Anglo-Sephardic men did reproduce the kind of coercive communal structure traditional to Sephardic communities, with severe regulations called Ascamot. Perhaps this was a last attempt to preserve the traditional Jewish structure of halachic communal regulation. But this structure was in tension with their liberal approach, and could not last in a liberal environment like England. By 1830, they were rejecting this form of communal life.28 They increasingly wanted to create a community in which institutions would rely on Jews’ voluntary contributions and support. This desire was supported by the structure of most Protestant communities in Victorian life. Sephardim tended to use liberal means to make their voices heard—though a minority of English Jews by 1830, they were prominent among the founders of the Anglo-Jewish public sphere, creating journals and literary institutions, and writing books meant to be consumed both by Jews and by the general public.29 Among men who did publish, they were at the top of the list. Increasingly, although they showed a religio-cultural pride that almost amounted to a sense of nobility at various times,30 their liberalism meant a desire to become emancipated and anglicized—that is, free of political and social disabilities and reflecting in their customs and manners an “English” national identity. It also meant a toleration for the differences between them and the Ashkenazim. Both their desire for acceptance as full citizens and their toleration of differences among themselves were necessary elements in their ability to create a voluntary British community.

Like the Sephardim, the Anglo-Ashkenazic men were substantially less interested in reform than their counterparts in Germany or France. Although the earliest immigrants to England were Spanish and Portuguese Jews, they had been followed by German-Polish Jews seeking economic and political opportunity. By the 1830s there were a number of wealthy or middle-class Ashkenazim in London. English Ashkenazim found that they already enjoyed greater toleration than did their coreligionists in Germany. David Sorkin has argued that the Jewish emancipation and reform movements in Germany depended heavily for their momentum on the partialness of German toleration in an anti-Semitic context. In contrast, he argues, English toleration was virtually already on the books and in the streets, even though there were still a few restrictive laws and occasional incidents of social discrimination.31 Consequently the Anglo-Ashkenazic men felt less need to reform themselves in order to prove their worthiness to be included in the general public life than did their German and French coreligionists. If, like the Ashkenazi editor of the Hebrew Review and Magazine of Rabbinical Literature (1834–36) they cited as a precursor Moses Mendelssohn, founder of the German-Jewish Enlightenment, they also translated great portions of the Shulchan Aruch, the fifteenth-century code of traditional Jewish daily ritual observance.32 If, like the editor, Morris Raphall, they denigrated the legends and lore called Aggadah within the Talmud, they praised the legal debates called halacha “and the discussions connected with them,—conducted with profound wisdom and acute logical reasoning.” Like Raphall, if they called some comments of the rabbis into question, they also declared, “we are neither innovators nor reformers.”33

As a whole, then, most Anglo-Jewish men from both segments of the community had a greater level of comfort with traditional Judaism and a greater desire for a voluntary semiautonomous Jewish communal structure than did the German Jews. Not that the movements for reform and emancipation shaking the continent were ignored by Anglo-Jewish men. On the contrary, they did import these movements, but altered them for their own purposes. When the most radical of the reformers among both the Sephardim and Ashkenazim joined together in 1841 to build their own synagogue, the West London Synagogue for British Jews, there was indeed a grave splintering within the community. The Chief Rabbi responded by excommunicating the reformers, an exceedingly rare move in the history of Anglo-Jewish responses to “heresy.” But although it seemed for a while as if the debate might produce a wide gulf between Jews, for men the debate seemed to resolve itself rather quietly after several heated years. Although they were formally split, the two factions were not as far apart as they seemed. The break had more to do with uniting the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim as “British Jews” than with theoretical distinctions between orthodoxy and reform.

In the first place, most Jewish men who styled themselves “orthodox” were lax in their ritual observance, and had greatly assimilated English manners, speech, and fashions.34 Moreover, as the period progressed, the “orthodox” synagogues came to seem more and more like the “reformers’.” As Cecil Roth puts it, the reformers’ “influence on the conservative majority, though unacknowledged, was nevertheless considerable. Synagogue decorum improved, organized choirs were introduced, the vernacular sermon became the rule, education was reorganized, and ministers of religion began to replace the old type of synagogal factotum.” Even when the break between traditionalists and reformers occurred in 1841, the difference between the two groups “was one rather of presentation than of dogma.”35 The radical reformers in England were not nearly so radical as their German counterparts. Because the groups were not so distinct as in Germany, the men often felt that the two camps had more in common than in dispute. By 1870, the official breach between the two camps had been smoothed over, the reform synagogue invited to join the United Synagogue, the umbrella community structure. In other words, for Anglo-Jewish men the continental agitation for reform was not a point of intense controversy. They had less of an inner drive to reform Judaism, which meant that they had less to say about it. Their quiet pragmatic approach to reform meant a relatively small written production in the form of polemical tracts, fictional, or poetic texts.

They were also relatively tacit on the subject of emancipation, but for different reasons. Whereas the German Jews saw the reform and emancipation movements as complementary, Anglo-Jewish men from both sections of the community felt the movements were separate and required different responses, neither of which were “ideological.” The reform movement in Germany was tied to the movement for emancipation in that the German Jews felt they must regenerate themselves and their “degraded” religion via reform before they could be emancipated and admitted as full members to German society. As they saw it, emancipation required them to rethink their communal structure, rituals, authorities, and beliefs. In other words, the responsibility for centuries of persecution was their own, a problem with their own selves and culture.36 In contrast to this formula of “regeneration for rights,” as David Sorkin has expressed it, Anglo-Jewish men tended to feel that their continued debarment from full civil and municipal participation was a sign of their Christian neighbors’ degradation rather than their own. The greatest spiritual injury done them was a “cramping” of their individual and communal “energies,” implying much less self-blame. Neither the Anglo-Ashkenazim nor the Sephardim, who had experienced English toleration for generations, felt they had to “emancipate” themselves from the “degradation” of centuries of anti-Semitic persecution and rabbinic tyranny. In a more pragmatic and less self-denigrating vein, they felt they had to “agitate for the removal of disabilities.”

If, as Todd Endelman has suggested, Anglo-Jewish men did not produce an indigenous theory of emancipation, it was because they had no autonomous community whose breakdown they had to theorize and explain. Nor did they have to fight a large social or political anti-Semitic ideology. Rather than requiring a renewed vision of Judaism (a reform movement), Anglo-Jewish men’s emancipation required the setting up of an Association for the Removal of Jewish Civil and Municipal Disabilities, repeated lobbying of Parliament, and the standing for election to Sheriff, Mayor of London, and MP to challenge the laws. If Anglo-Jewish men responded to the prospect of reform by quietly changing their synagogues and liturgical practices, they responded to the challenge of emancipation no less pragmatically by exercising influence and standing for office. This is the usual history of English Jews in the period of emancipation and reform.

Second Sketch: Anglo-Jewish Women and the Desire for Equity

But this picture is not complete. A major component of the history of the Anglo-Jewish haskalah is missing, for women wanted different things than men from the emancipation and reform. First of all, if for men the two movements were separate and unrelated, for women the movements were inseparable. The external emancipation of Jews from England’s oppressive laws suggested to them the possibility of an internal emancipation of women from Judaism’s oppressive laws. External emancipation thus inspired and dictated the kind of internal reforms they called for, including among other things, a place in the synagogue next to the men, access to biblical and other Jewish texts through translation, increased female education, perhaps even a ceremony commensurate to the Bar Mitzvah in the life of Jewish girls. For example, Grace Aguilar focuses attention on the emancipation while calling women to read and interpret the Bible:

A new era is dawning for us. Persecution and intolerance have in so many lands ceased to predominate, that Israel may once more breathe in freedom; the law need no longer be preached in darkness, and obeyed in secret; the voice of man need no longer be the vehicle of instruction from father to son. … The Bible may be perused in freedom. … Free to assert their right as immortal children of the living God, let not the women of Israel be backward in proving they, too,… have a station to uphold, and a “mission” to perform, not alone as daughters, wives, and mothers, but as witnesses of that faith which first raised, cherished, and defended them. …37

Aguilar follows this peroration on Jewish and female freedom with a specific set of proposals, bemoaning the “sad scarcity of religious books amongst us, in modern tongues” (2:34), and arguing that “the religious as well as the moral duties of the law are … equally incumbent on woman as well as man” (1:180). If most men felt the reformist controversy was a rather minor debate over synagogue decorum, which flared bright but quickly died down, many women felt they had a great deal at stake in the reform movement, which was not about decorum but about gender inequality. Unlike men, women were hardly silent on the issue. For writers like Marion Hartog, Anna Maria Goldsmid, and Grace Aguilar reform was not primarily about religious dogma or practice, but about women’s roles in the new community.

These women often found that Jewish men attempted to dissuade them from claiming such “modern” freedoms. In the relatively few essays, commentaries on biblical texts, and novels they produced, Anglo-Jewish men depicted Jewish women as undereducated, a sign that women were a “weakness in our camp.”38 While men argued for increased female education (if only so that women would be qualified to impart the tradition to children at home), they did little to achieve this goal, and censored women’s attempts to educate themselves. Reformists and traditionalists alike agreed that women and men should occupy separate spheres, which they feared might collapse if women were educated. In response, Jewish women often wrote stories in which young women represent the “modern” stance, while old men tend to represent the traditionalist stance. Anglo-Jewish women writers often imagined that female education and empowerment and the religious and communal reforms required by modernity went hand in hand. If for Anglo-Jewish men, reform required a gentle critique of an older generation, for Anglo-Jewish women it required an often stinging critique of Jewish patriarchal notions of women’s sphere. It required them to transgress the “exemption” on women’s intellectual work and publish books.

This desire to critique sometimes meant that women were more outspoken than men on inequities occurring within the Jewish community. If men were attempting to produce union rather than dissension, women writers were sometimes the only voices in the community willing to describe publicly the differences between segments of the community. This was true, by and large, of Jewish women writers’ outspoken defense of reformers, women, and the poor. For example, Charlotte Montefiore, noted essayist and member of one of English Jewry’s wealthiest and most distinguished families, attacked conversionist exploitation of the Jewish poor in Caleb Asher (1845) and she attacked the Jewish class system in A Few Words to the Jews. By One of Themselves (1853). Marion Hartog consistently argued for redress of the inequities women suffered in the Jewish Sabbath Journal (1855). While Anglo-Jewish men did have disagreements among themselves, they preferred to deal with them quietly rather than publish them in forums open to the purview of Christians, who Jewish men feared might use Jews’ internal dissension as an excuse to deny them rights. Women, on the other hand, felt that unless they raised the issues of class and gender discrimination within the Jewish community, they and those they spoke for would continue to suffer from them. This provided additional incentive for women to publish.

Just as women were more serious about reform than men and understood its aims differently, they also approached Jewish emancipation from a different standpoint. Unable to stand for office or hold meetings with the prime minister, Anglo-Jewish women still wanted to be involved with the attempt to gain Jewish emancipation. Like German-Jewish salonières such as Rahel Varnhagen, upper-class women in the community exerted influence by holding great parties to which they invited non-Jews important to the emancipationist cause. Perhaps such parties could be interpreted as female versions of the men’s pragmatic approach.39 With the exception of the very wealthy, however, women did not have the men’s option of standing pragmatically for office in their approach to emancipation. Middle-class women adopted the only other instrument available—the pen.

It is significant that most of the emancipationist novels and polemics by women proceeded from the middle classes, whereas wealthy women’s productions tended to address Jewish-only audiences, as with Judith Montefiore’s etiquette and recipe book, or Charlotte Montefiore’s tracts and the tales in her Cheap Jewish Library. Middle-class women like Celia and Marion Moss and Grace Aguilar tended to be bolder in their criticisms of the Christian Victorians. Perhaps they assimilated the emboldened stance of their middle-class English Christian female contemporaries, who were outspoken as social reformers and novelists.40 Since such female reformism was not as prominent on the continent, that would also help explain why middle-class Jewish women elsewhere did not adopt the same example. By the time the first wave of mass Jewish immigrations to London from Eastern Europe began to arrive in 1880, changing the character of the Anglo-Jewish community completely, Jewish women had been producing these critiques for half a century.

THE ORIGIN OF JEWISH WOMEN WRITERS’ GENRES

Driven in part by their desire to establish a particular communal vision of reform and emancipation, women began to publish books. Yet why did they gravitate toward the novel? The English novel was a secularized Protestant narrative form, foreign to Jewish literary history.41 Why didn’t Jewish women draw on Jewish literary history? To some degree, they did. Sephardic women drew on the crypto-Jewish heritage of women passing down the oral history of the Inquisition. They used the crypto-Jewish experience of passing as Christians as a metaphor for the anglicization they themselves were undergoing. A small number of Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazic women drew on their heritage to produce volumes of tekhinot. Both groups drew on the ancient Jewish literary form of Aggadah, creative retellings of biblical narratives with contemporary relevance, examples of which they read in Anglo-Jewish male periodicals such as the Hebrew Review and Magazine of Rabbinical Literature (1834–36). And both groups drew on the tradition of biblical women’s possession of superior prophetic powers to justify their didactic and polemical appeals for justice, both to Jewish men and to non-Jews. In other words, Anglo-Jewish women did look to Jewish literary history for forms and tropes they could adopt, only to alter these forms and tropes so as to be relevant to their gendered experience of the modern movements for emancipation and reform.

Yet they also wrote novels. The bare fact that they did suggests two important insights about the state of the Anglo-Jewish community. First, it suggests that English Jews encountered a liberal dominant culture in which the novel was a literary form through which many concerns about the place of the Other in society were circulated. Second, it suggests that the Jewish community was itself trying to be liberal and was interested in forming bonds with the dominant culture that went beyond submission to or resistance against coercive measures.

In order to understand why Jewish women felt compelled to write novels, we need to understand what “liberal” meant in Victorian England. Jews and other minorities posed a difficult problem to Anglo-Saxon Protestant Victorians struggling to preserve the myth of an English homogeneity even while their domestic borders were increasingly flooded with peoples of many colors, religions, and nationalities. This influx of heterogeneity was due to the combination of imperial British military and economic expansion abroad with the promise of tolerant liberalism at home. In addition to the diverse groups that had been struggling within the British dominions for centuries—Normans, Saxons, and Jews; Catholics and Protestants; Scots, Welsh, and Irish—the dominant English were experiencing an influx of Indians, West Indians, Arab Muslims, and Gypsies. During the Victorian period, then, dominant white Protestants in Britain increasingly confronted difference, not only in their colonies abroad, but on what they thought of as their own shores.

Theories of what to do with these diverse populations ranged from Carlyle’s defense of the white Protestant character of the nation to J. S. Mill’s proposal to persuade Jews and others to adopt an “English” set of customs, fashions, etc., to T. B. Macaulay’s principle of liberal toleration. In relation to other peoples and nations abroad, the English seemed quite able to support violent practices in order to secure subjugation. In relation to minorities at home, however, Victorians across the spectrum had been so affected by the ideology of liberalism that they no longer supported explicit forms of coercion to secure compliance with dominant cultural expectations. To be sure, there were still members of an old guard who voiced support for severe measures on occasion. Yet, as could be seen in the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1828, the abolition of the slave trade, and the various Jewish emancipation acts, the trend was toward increasing toleration.

The word toleration should be used advisedly, however. While it might mean the abrogation of legal and political disabilities, it did not mean the complete social acceptance of minorities, particularly of Jews. No doubt their coreligionists in Germany or in Eastern Europe still faced a great deal more persecution of the explicit type—murder, extortion, disability under the law. English Jews increasingly faced a different sort of dominant culture—a liberal culture that, having decided not to support coercive measures, still exerted noncoercive pressures on minorities to conform to dominant standards. This “persuasive” attitude toward Jews emerged during the seventeenth century, when Puritans like John Milton and George Withers practiced what they called “philo-Semitism.” Like “toleration,” the term was misleading. It did not mean loving Jews; it meant using love as a political strategy to persuade Jews to convert. The end goal was the same as that of the Holy Office during the Inquisition: Jews’ conversion. Jewishness still had to be eradicated, but now the individual person hidden in the Jew was supposed to be “reclaimed” with self-respect and dignity intact. Philo-Semites can thus be distinguished from other kinds of conversionists by their belief in and use of persuasive carrots rather than coercive sticks. As the old Anglo-Jewish joke had it, “What’s a philo-Semite? An anti-Semite who loves Jews.”42

By the early nineteenth century, this sort of persuasive conversionism had taken a broad hold. Victorian Jews faced several powerful conversionist societies (such as the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Amongst the Jews, established 1807, and the Philo-Judaeans, established 1820), which were sanctioned by the Crown as well as by prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle. These conversionists were among the greatest supporters of Jews’ political emancipation, on the theory that Jews would see how enlightened and moral their Christian neighbors were and would be encouraged to convert. In essence, they offered Jews a bargain: in return for the individual’s agreement to shed his or her mark of difference, tolerant liberal Christians promised full social and political integration.

Jewish women were specifically targeted by “tolerant” conversionist societies. Conversionists attempted to persuade women in a number of specific ways. They referred to Jewish women’s “malleability” and “impressionability,” which was assumed to be part of the charm of their “oriental” natures. In order to undermine women’s allegiance to Judaism and to their families, conversionists also repeatedly called attention to Judaism’s inegalitarian stance toward women: since Judaism (and moreover Jewish men) oppressed women, the plea went, women should be eager to embrace a religion in which they were held in the highest esteem. Indeed, conversionists insisted that under their ideology, religiosity was woman’s innate gift and the inculcation of religion to children was her most important task. The dominant Victorian Christian domestic ideology from which conversionists drew this sentiment considered the public sphere of business and government as the “secular” sphere, while the private domestic sphere was considered the sphere of spirituality and emotionality. Women were thus increasingly identified with religiosity—and women were to be caretakers of a higher, more spiritual feeling than their husbands could afford for themselves, their hands constantly mired in the muck of the marketplace. Feminist scholars of the period have begun referring to this belief in women’s special aptitude for spirituality as the “feminization of religion.”43 Since all women were assumed to tend toward true religiosity anyway, conversionists might well target Jewish women and merely lift the obstructing veil of Judaism from their eyes.

From a literary historical standpoint, this philo-Semitic sort of “toleration,” with its emphasis on using persuasive methods, had crucial effects on Christian novelists’ representation of Jews. One of the most visible persuasive methods conversionists developed was the romance of Jewish identity. Conversionist romances pitied Jews’ plight and invited them to join English society fully through “radical assimilation” or conversion.44 They particularly targeted Jewish women, typically depicting a Jewish woman abandoning her family and community to convert and marry a charismatic Christian suitor. They drew on the Shakespearean conflict between the Jewish father and daughter in Merchant of Venice, but they no longer cared about Shylock; instead, they increasingly focused on, pitied, and sought to win over Jessica. The Jewish woman was depicted as alien, sensual, “oriental”—and above all, as malleable to the suitor’s persuasive efforts. Moreover, she was increasingly seen as an emblem of the Jewish community as a whole. That is, the Jewish community was understood to be female, in the sense that it could be “conquered” and “wooed” to the truth that is in Jesus by the gentle yet firm persistence of a “tolerant” liberal Christian culture.45

All of the earliest Anglo-Jewish women writers felt that they had to respond to the romance genre. Maria Polack published her antiromance, Fiction Without Romance; or, the Locket-Watch in 1830; Aguilar wrote her historical romance The Vale of Cedars; or, the Martyr between 1831 and 1835 centering on a Jewish woman in the Inquisition in Spain; and the Mosses published the Romance of Jewish History (1840) and Tales of Jewish History (1843), romances that directly assimilated the conversionist romances in order to transform them. In addition, several other Anglo-Jewish women writers, including Judith Montefiore in the preface to her recipe and conduct book The Jewish Manual (1846), and Charlotte Montefiore, in her A Few Words to the Jews. By One of Themselves (1853) took stands against romance. There are at least three reasons for this extended engagement with romance by Anglo-Jewish women. First of all, the romance form, as it appeared in Scott, Edgeworth, Thackeray, Bulwer Lytton, and Lewis, seemed to target Jewish women in particular for conversion. Secondly, since Jewish women frequently appeared in romance, it was a dominant cultural form in which they already occupied a legitimate position. Their adoption of this dominant cultural form was seen by many of them as an entry-ticket into full cultural participation in the Victorian world. The assimilation of the romance form itself is for many of them the emblem of the movement of Jews into the modern world. Finally, romance was frequently aligned with reform in the Jewish community, both the genre and the religious ideology honoring individual freedom over duty to traditional communal affiliations. By adopting or writing against the genre, then, Jewish women could position themselves along a continuum of Jews as traditionalists or reformers.

Women writers thus used the novel to argue not only for women’s emancipation in the Jewish world, but for Jewish emancipation in the Victorian world. Adopting literary strategies from the non-Jewish world was an aspect of their attempt to persuade non-Jews to accept them as full English subjects. On the other hand, adopting literary strategies from Jewish men was an aspect of their attempt to persuade men to accept them as full Jews. In both cases, they not only assimilated the forms they inherited, but altered these forms to meet their needs as women. The tensions between their needs as women, as Jews, and as English subjects created a fluid and dynamic identity in which their gender, subculture, and nationality were often influencing their decisions about literary genre.46

This fluidity makes these texts crucial sources in the current critical debates over whether and how various aspects of a multifaceted identity reinforce and obstruct one another. At some points these writers’ Jewishness suggests one course of action or interpretation of their position in the English nation, while their gender suggests a contradictory course or interpretation. For example, as Jews, these writers would like to refute the conversionist accusation that they are undereducated so as to prove to Christians their worthiness to be accepted as English, while as women they want to agree with the conversionists’ claims so as to persuade Jewish men to provide them with greater educational opportunities. At other points, subculture and gender reinforce one another against nationality. For example, the experience of English national oppression is shared by Jews and women as Victorian subgroups—indeed, the experience of agitating for Jewish emancipation inspires some women to agitate for women’s emancipation. Each writer’s experience of history and choice of genre depends not only on subcultural, national, and gender affiliations, but on her class, religiosity, and on how long her family had been settled in England.

To revise Victorian Jewish cultural history with attention to all of these categories of identity is to rediscover the dialogues that took place between Christians and Jews about what should constitute English national identity. It is to rediscover the dialogues—so often lost—that took place between Jewish women and men at the doorstep of modernity. This commitment to rediscovering dialogues rather than telling a history in only one voice proceeds both out of a profeminist commitment to women’s various and unique articulations of their processes and experiences and out of a progressive Jewish commitment as old as midrash to the possibility of multiple legitimate contending perspectives. Progressive Jews and feminists agree with one another that pluralistic dialogues over contested categories of identity provide the fullest sense critics can achieve of a diverse collective past.47

This is not to suggest that feminism and Judaism are always in concordance with one another. In fact, the dilemma which is at the heart of this study demonstrates that the two often coexist in tension. For, finally, how does one place a value on the development of an Anglo-Jewish women’s novel-writing tradition? When looked at from the standpoint of gender, the history of Anglo-Jewish women’s writing looks like the history of empowerment—from a feminist perspective, a positive development. But if one looks at Anglo-Jewish women’s assimilation of the novel form from the standpoint of Jewish cultural continuity, with a late-twentieth-century perspective on the efficacy of the assimilationist model, then the development of the Anglo-Jewish novel looks like a potentially negative result of hegemony. The two views appear to contradict one another. In fact, since they result from two different positionings, they have no power to cancel each other out, but rather coexist uneasily. To write within this dilemma is the task of profeminist, late-twentieth-century Jewish cultural history.

.  Statistics in this and the following paragraph on Victorian Jewish population growth are derived from V. D. Lipman, Social History of the Jews in England, 1850–1950 (London: Watts, 1954), 65.

.  See David Feldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840–1914 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); and M. C. N. Salbstein, Emancipation of the Jews in Britain: The Question of the Admission of the Jews to Parliament, 1828–1860 (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 1981).

.  See Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England (London: Oxford University Press, 1941), esp. chap. 7.

.  For the growth in communal institutions, see Asher I. Meyers, The Jewish Directory of 1874 … and other interesting information (London: A. I. Meyers, 1874). Meyers lists 72 synagogues, 43 literary, burial, and friendly societies, 36 schools, 70 miscellaneous charities for the poor, 6 hospitals, a home for the deaf and dumb, a home for the blind, 3 charities for widows, 2 for lying-in women, and 2 for providing marriage portions to poor young women; at least 3146 children and adults were attending the schools in 1874, and some 1640 persons were holding official positions in the community.

.  David Sorkin, The Transformation of German Jewry, 1780–1840 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 6. Sorkin maintains that English Jewry cannot be called a subculture because the community is too heterogeneous and small in size (175). Yet, as this study will show, the notion of a “self-contained system of ideas and symbols,” borrowed from the dominant culture but altered for the English Jews’ own purposes, does apply. The term “subculture” is in any case preferable to “nation,” “race,” or even “ethnicity.” In the wake of political Zionism, “nation” is too likely to be apprehended as if it had state-building aspirations, which for most English Jews during most of the nineteenth century it did not. “Race” is likely to be confused for a genetic term, and a post-Holocaust Jewish consciousness will not permit its scholarly use. The concept of Jewish “ethnicity” did not emerge until the late nineteenth century.

.  For a new history of the Jewish Chronicle, see David Cesarani, The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841–1991 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For the centennial history, see The Jewish Chronicle 1841–1941: A Century of Newspaper History (London: Jewish Chronicle, 1949).

.  The most recent example of this tendency is Feldman’s Englishmen and Jews. Other prominent histories include Lipman, Social History; Roth, History of the Jews; Todd Endelman, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History 1656–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Israel Finestein, “Anglo-Jewish Opinion During the Struggle for Emancipation,” Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 20 (1964) 113–43; Albert M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England, A History of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community, 1492–1951 (London: Methuen, 1951); Salbstein, Emancipation of the Jews.

.  See Cecil Roth, “Evolution of Anglo-Jewish Literature” (London: Edward Goldston, 1937), whose manifestly apologetic essay mentions only three Anglo-Jewish women writers (Aguilar, Polack, and Emma Lyons) in a list of twenty Jewish writers, and remarks, without explanation, “If we neglect … Grace Aguilar’s romantical Vale of Cedars, etc., the earliest attempt [of Jews to give a more faithful picture of themselves] was perhaps that of Matthias Levy” (8). Todd Endelman, in the introduction to The Jews of Georgian England, 1714–1830 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), argues that Jews produced no emancipationist theory. Also see Sorkin, Transformation of German Jewry, 175: “English Jewry did not generate a significant Haskala movement. And lacking the political pressures of a comprehensive emancipation process—emancipation turned on the ability to hold office … — English Jewry experienced no conspicuous ideological ferment.” Rachel Beth Zion Lask Abrahams does attempt to reckon with the history of Anglo-Jewish women in “Grace Aguilar: A Centenary Tribute,” Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 16 (1952): 137–48, and acknowledges Aguilar’s “phenomenal popularity” and her “bearing on the period following political emancipation” (137). But her final assessment is that, though Aguilar was “gifted with great facility in the art of expressing herself, she was yet without that equipment and solid learning which could have measured up to her indomitable spirit, her phenomenal industry, and her unquestioning loyalty to her people” (147). The question of how her work influenced Jews and Christians during the emancipation period is left unresolved. A similar argument about women’s subsumption under the banner of “man” appears in Marion A. Kaplan, The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 8–9, 15.

.  Literary critics have had to be more attentive to the women’s works, since these are the majority of Victorian Jews’ literary production. Nevertheless, while Linda Gertner Zatlin’s The Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Jewish Novel (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981) is a useful survey, it characterizes the novels of Aguilar and the Mosses as “propaganda fiction” that “fail to enlighten” (40). Of Anglo-Jewish novels as a whole, Zatlin offers this assessment: “Individual Anglo-Jewish novels do not offer the kind of vision found in the ‘great’ works of the Victorian period. Most characters fit a Procrustean bed and fail to do more than embody a thinly disguised point. … [T]ogether they provide a social history of Victorian Anglo-Jews that vividly depicts problems of this minority group as it became freed from political and social restrictions” (133). Philip Weinberger, “The Social and Religious Thought of Grace Aguilar (1816–1847)” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1970), on the other hand, singles out Aguilar as “sui generis,” making comparison between her and contemporaries impossible. Livia Bitton-Jackson’s excellent Madonna or Courtesan? the Jewish Woman in Christian Literature (New York: Seabury Press, 1982) does not consider how Anglo-Jewish women represented themselves.

.Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith Baskin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), 68–93. Also see Charlotte Baum, Paula Hyman, and Sonya Michel, The Jewish Woman in America (New York: Dial Press, 1976), 12–14. Glückel of Hameln was a medieval German-Jewish merchant’s wife who had fourteen children and ran the business after her husband died. Her fascinating autobiography has been preserved as The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln, trans. Marvin Lowenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1977).

.Imrei Lev, Prayers and Meditations for Every Situation and Occasion in Life (reviewed in JC, Aug. 1, 1856), still did publish tekhinot even during the Victorian period. For a discussion of tekhinot, see Chava Weissler, “The Traditional Poetry of Ashkenazic Women,” in Jewish Spirituality: From the Sixteenth Century Revival to the Present, ed. Arthur Green (New York: Crossroad, 1988), 2:245–75. Weissler carries the discussion forward in “Prayers in Yiddish and the Religious World of Ashkenazic Women,” in Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith Baskin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), 159–81. Also see Weissler’s translation of several examples and her introduction in Ellen Umansky and Diane Ashton, eds., Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 36–37; 51–55. For women’s role in Jewish law, see Rachel Biale, Women and Jewish Law (New York: Schocken Books, 1984); Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1990). The best listing of the “exceptional” women who wrote despite their “exemption” was probably made by the Victorian Jewish apologists themselves. One Dr. Carmoly published a list of short biographies of “Learned Women in Israel” in the Jewish Chronicle; this was subsequently republished three times, as if to ameliorate Jewish women’s demand for recognition (Aug. 6, 1858; Oct. 12, 1860; Mar. 1, 1867; Feb. 18, 1887). The most thorough Victorian rereading of Jewish women’s intellectual role in Jewish history is Grace Aguilar’s set of biographies of biblical, Talmudic, medieval, and modern Jewish heroines, The Women of Israel 3 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1884).

.The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), chap. 2.

.Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988). Hertz argues that for the most part German-Jewish salonières were dilettantes rather than authors who gained standing in the literary community through “some combination of their social standing, occupation, personal charm, friendships, and unpublished writing” (159). Fanny Lewald began writing novels in Germany in the 1840s. See Deborah Hertz, “Work, Love and Jewishness in the Life of Fanny Lewald,” in From East and West: Jews in a Changing Europe 1750–1870, ed. Frances Malino and David Sorkin (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 202–20. The only work by Lewald to be translated into English is The Education of Fanny Lewald: An Autobiography, trans. and ed. Hanna Ballin Lewis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992). In the American context, Rosa Sonneschein did not begin publishing her Jewish women’s periodical The American Jewess until 1895. Women such as Rebekah Kohut, Emma Lazarus, and Henrietta Szold also published late in the century. For discussions of these writers, see Baum, Hyman, and Michel, Jewish Woman in America; Linda Gordon Kuzmack, Woman’s Cause: The Jewish Woman’s Movement in England and the United States, 1881–1933 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990); and Diane Lichtenstein, Writing Their Nations: The Tradition of Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Women Writers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992).

.Jews of Georgian England.

.Constructions of “the Jew” in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Catherine Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: The Prostitute and the Jewish Question,” in Sex, Politics, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Novel, ed. Ruth Bernard Yeazell (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 39–62; Bitton-Jackson, Madonna or Courtesan?; Estelle Chevelier, “Characterization of the Jew in the Victorian Novel. 1864–1876” (master’s thesis, Emory University, 1962); Joseph Gaer, The Legend of the Wandering Jew (New York: Mentor, 1961); Montagu Frank Modder, The Jew in the Literature of England: To the End of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Meridian Books, 1960); Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960); Harold Fisch, The Dual Image (London: Lincolns-Prager, 1959); Harry Stone, “Dickens and the Jews,” Victorian Studies 11 (Mar. 1959): 223–53; Lauriat Lane, Jr., “Dickens’ Archetypal Jew,” PMLA 73 (Mar. 1958): 95–101; Edgar Johnson, “Dickens, Fagin and Mr. Riah,” Commentary 9 (1950): 47–50; M[eyer] J[ack] Landa, The Jew in Drama (New York: William Morrow, 1927); Edward N. Calisch, The Jew in English Literature as Author and as Subject (Richmond, Va.: Bell, 1909); David Phillipson, The Jew in English Fiction (Cincinnati: Clarke, 1889).

.Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 23. Mary Poovey makes a similar point about turning from male representations of women to women’s representations of themselves in The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), xii.

.Other Women: The Writing of Class, Race, and Gender, 1832–1898 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991); Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction; Margaret Homans, Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); Mary Poovey, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Dorothy Mermin, Godiva’s Ride: Women of Letters in England, 1830–1880 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993); and Susan Rubinow Gorsky, Femininity to Feminism: Women and Literature in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992).

.Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1980). Racial representations of Jews in England began to appear somewhat later than elsewhere, especially with the rise of Disraeli to prime minister. See Cheyette, Constructions of “the Jew.” During the period, colloquially Jews were called “blacks.” These biological determinist characterizations should not be confused by the typical Victorian tendency to use the terms “race” and “nation” nonbiologically and interchangeably to describe Jews. “Nation” had the sense of a transnational community, exiled from its geographical home, the different diasporas of which shared a common language, holidays, customs, and beliefs—much the same sense as “the Jewish people” has today.

.Madonna or Courtesan?; Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978); and Billie Melman, Women’s Orients: English Women and the Middle East, 1718–1918 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992).

.Standing Again at Sinai. See also Kaplan, Making of the Jewish Middle Class, 15.

.The Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1760–1985 (London: Valentine Mitchell, 1987), 5.

.Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: A Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1937).

.Social History, 9.

.This did not mean that Anglo-Jewish men always agreed with each other on how community-building ought to proceed. Israel Finestein, “Anglo-Jewish Opinion” identifies the major areas of dissension.

.Demography of Immigrants and Minority Groups in the United Kingdom, ed. D. A. Coleman (London: Academic Press, 1982), 245–62.

.Radical Assimilation.

.Critical Inquiry 17, no. 2 (winter 1991): 306–35.

.Ascamot is Isaac D’Israeli, Benjamin Disraeli’s father, who refused to pay a fine levied by the Haham (leader) of the Sephardic congregation. See James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (London: Trubner, 1875).

.Sephardim of England, 261–64, describes the predominance of Sephardim in Anglo-Jewish literary life. Among other things, the Sephardim were instrumental in operating the Cheap Jewish Library, the Anglo-Jewish Press, and the Association for the Promotion of Jewish Literature (which became the Jews’ and General Literary and Scientific Institution); along with Ashkenazi scholar Morris Raphall, Sephardic Jews translated the Mishnah and the Sephardi ritual into English; and they produced or edited a volume of traditional melodies, a history of the Sephardim, a Hebrew dictionary, a Jewish calendar, novels, polemics, and a cookbook.

.The French Enlightenment and the Jews: The Origins of Modern Anti-Semitism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), explains, Isaac de Pinto gave modern expression to this Sephardic myth in his famous response to Voltaire, when he exclaimed “that only the Portuguese were descended from the tribe of Judah, and that they had always lived apart from all the other children of Jacob, marrying only among themselves and maintaining separate synagogues” (181). “[B]eing superior to all the rest, they deserved more consideration” in French emancipation than Ashkenazim (270). As late as 1834, an Anglo-Sephardic historian of “The Origin and Progress of Literature Amongst the Jews of Spain” argues for Sephardic nobility as compared to the Ashkenazim, and uses it to argue for removal of disabilities: “However great [the Spanish Jews’] influence may have been on the other European Jews, these latter could not, during many centuries, raise themselves to that eminence of merit and dignity which the former occupied. This difference between them affords us the most convincing proof of the great influence which the consciousness of freedom, or the feeling of degradation and slavery, exercises on the minds and actions of men” (HRR 2 (1834): 158). Grace Aguilar saw a downside to the Sephardic “pride,” in that it sometimes manifested itself as “stubborness” which “renders powerless every effort made” for the “Improvement” of Sephardic poor, while the Germans are “more willing to work and push forward their own fortunes … and are more successful as citizens, and, as a class, less difficult to guide” (JC, Jan. 2, 1852, “Social Arrangements of the English Jews”).

.Transformation of German Jewry, 86. Also see Endelman, Radical Assimilation, chap. 5; and Hyamson, Sephardim of England, 217.

.HRR 1 [1834]: 11).

.HRR 1 (1834): 5, 3. At one point, in the “Introduction,” Raphall expresses his belief that the Jewish people “has at all times and in all ages evinced a profound veneration for learning, and an eager thirst for the acquirement of true knowledge …; and they possess as extensive a literature … as any nation that ever existed;—a literature which we may justly characterize, as expressing the profoundest thoughts, the most pious sentiments, and the best precepts for regulating the conduct of man” (1). A cross between a musar periodical based on the ideal of traditional learnedness with a modern periodical based on the Enlightenment ideal of reasoned knowledge, with its translations of Talmudic allegories and its biographies of great rabbis, the Review was not a Reform periodical, as Raphall made clear in his introduction. M. H. Bresslau’s Hebrew Review and Magazine of Jewish Literature, which did not appear until 1859, conforms much more closely to the German Reformers’ periodicals. Its Hebrew title, Ma’asef, imitated that of the original periodical of the German Haskalah, which appeared in 1784. Anglo-Jewry did not articulate a Reform platform until half a century after German Jewry. See Sorkin, Transformation of German Jewry, 45–55.

.Radical Assimilation, 35.

.History of the Jews, 256–58. One must be a little careful with this last statement. There was substantial debate over the divinity of the Oral Law, which was not simply a matter of presentation. Roth sometimes seems to be attempting a retrospective healing between the two groups.

.Geist, and culture, or Bildung, in German Jews Beyond Judaism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985). Arthur Lumley Davids, “On the Emancipation of the Jews,” letter to The Times, May 6, 1831 shows how differently Anglo-Jewish men approached the issue: “he earnestly looked for the emancipation of the Jews, as the means of developing the cramped energies of that people.” Bernard Van Oven, “Ought Baron de Rothschild to Sit in Parliament? An Imaginary Conversation between Judaeus and Amicus Nobilis” (London: Effingham Wilson, 1847), likewise uses the term “cramping” to describe the effects of persecution on Jews’ industriousness and argues that “Jews should be allowed to develop their energies for their own and the public good” (14). As poor Ashkenazic Jews immigrated to England, members of the Jewish aristocracy in London did invoke the German reform regeneration rhetoric. But in general the reform movement was much less tied to the removal of disabilities in England than it was in Germany. As the Jewish Chronicle put it in its retrospect on “Jewish Progress in the Victorian Era” (May 14, 1897), “One body of Jews fought for political equality, while another body fought for the modifications of the arrangements made by the community for its own government. But the former movement had come to a successful end before the latter had resulted in the establishment of our communal institutions as we know them to-day. And thus, the emancipation struggle can best be regarded as a history within a history, separate and complete in itself.”

.Women of Israel, 1:12–13. Subsequent references will be cited parenthetically in the text by volume and page number.

.JC, Nov. 8, 1861.

.The Jewish Manual or Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery, intro. by Chaim Raphael (New York: NightinGale Books, 1983), so that Jewish women could present traditional Jewish foods along with “plain English dishes; and also such French ones as are now in general use at all refined modern tables” (ii). By contrast to this notion of Jewish and English coexistence at the dinner table, gentile German intellectuals of the salon era flocked to the homes of Jewish women who were marginal to the Jewish community, who had taken steps (including in many cases conversion) to place themselves outside of it, and who focused their gatherings on celebrating and analyzing works by German Christian intellectuals. The story of the salons is told in Hertz, Jewish High Society, esp. 101 and chap. 6 passim. Kaplan, Making of the Jewish Middle Class, 31–35, describes the creation later in the nineteenth century of the middle-class German-Jewish Hausfrau, whose homemaking activities were supported by bourgeois domestic ideology as well as by Jewish tradition. This German middle-class type seems to be closer to what the upper class Montefiore was striving to convince her readers to attain; yet, it is still not the same, for like the German salonières, the Hausfrau also strives to appear more “German” and less “Jewish,” a goal that Montefiore would not have advocated.

.Protest and Reform: The British Social Narrative by Women, 1827–1867 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

.The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 318–37, argues that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is one of the earliest examples of what he calls “progressive narrative,” the secularization of “Protestant narrative,” in which the narrator steps into the role of Providence. The novel was a form unknown to traditional Jewish writers.

.Thanks to David Biale for this joke.

.Women’s Orients.

.Radical Assimilation.

.Madonna or Courtesan? has traced the gesture of “orientalizing” the Jewish woman back to a fundamental Christian ambivalence about Jewish women’s bodies. The gesture undoubtedly gained force with the rise of orientalism, as Said, Orientalism; and Melman, Women’s Orients, have documented.

.Uneven Developments, 200, Poovey calls for increased attention to gender, class, race, and national identity in feminist work in order to “produce a history of ideological formulations of difference that might help us understand the impetus behind and resistances to change in ways our old histories have failed to do. This would necessarily entail … analyzing the competitions among various institutions for the right to articulate and legislate difference.”

.The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986): “Jewish feminists and lesbians are of a diverse sort. … Disagreements are fierce; denouncements not uncommon” (9). The editors’ goal is “to express the wide range of Jewish experience and culture, and to develop more empathy and support for Jewish identities we do not share” (10). Also see Ruti Kadish, “Midrash and Feminism” (master’s thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1991). For traditional Judaism’s commitment to polysemous dialogue, see Geoffrey H. Hartman and Sanford Budick, eds., Midrash and Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986). For a useful introduction to Jewish feminism, see Susannah Heschel, ed., introduction to On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader (New York: Schocken Books, 1983). Also see her essay “Feminism,” in Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, ed. Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987), 255–59.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344453
Related ISBN
9780814344446
MARC Record
OCLC
1111982558
Launched on MUSE
2019-08-15
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC
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