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    The influence of British Jewry

    British Jewry is not identical with English-speaking Jewry as a whole, which includes the United States. In the narrow sense, however, British Jewry has had a significant influence on world Jewry, on Israel and in some ways on human culture as a whole.

    1. Religiously, it produced the urbane centrist orthodoxy known as Minhag Anglia (“The English Usage”) which spread to and moulded communities throughout the colonies and Commonwealth. It created a professional ministry characterised more by general culture than deep rabbinic learning, headed by a chief rabbinate that made religious decisions for constituent congregations. It was a Jewish echo of many of the patterns of the British environment. The Chief Rabbi was the Jewish equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the United Synagogue equated to the established church, the Singer prayer book was the Jewish Book of Common Prayer, the minister was a religious functionary like his Christian counterpart, and, though not a strictly religious publication, the “Jewish Chronicle” was the Jewish version of “The Times”.

    2. It developed a community structure based on a principle of voluntary identification with the community as well as centralised organisation and cohesive institutions, though many of these were at first patrician and undemocratic. British terms such as Board of Deputies, though archaic, were adopted when communities organised themselves on British lines in many parts of the Commonwealth.

    3. It became a model of integration into the host society, believing that participation in both general and Jewish life could be combined. Often the same people held office in both Jewish and public life, and prominent Jewish public figures had at least a basic level of involvement in Jewish communal life. Until recently, residents of the Commonwealth regarded Britain as “home”, and Jews in British countries had a special feeling for Anglo-Jewry. Jews outside the Commonwealth respected British ways even though they had no wish to emulate them.

    4. It contributed to the upbuilding of Israel, at first by promoting the Zionist idea (leading British Jews such as Chaim Weizmann and Chief Rabbi Hertz had an influence on the Balfour Declaration though some of the Jewish gentry feared accusations of Jewish dual loyalty). During the British Mandate a number of British Jews helped to bring British institutions, styles of administration and academic methods to Palestine. Some, such as Edwin Samuel, son of the first British High Commissioner, guided the administration of the new State of Israel.

    5. British Jews, familiar with the political pattern in Britain, participated in Israeli debates on electoral processes by urging Israel to achieve better representation of the electorate and greater national stability by means of preferential voting and involving Knesset members with electors on the local level. Israelis had an Anglophilia despite their resentment of the Mandatory government.

    6. Leading Anglo-Jewish figures made seminal contributions to medicine, science, art, philosophy, literature, music and other disciplines, including pre- and post-war Jewish immigrants to Britain. This pattern repeated itself in many other countries, with Britain being seen as a role model.

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