London: Wertheimer, Lea, 1898-1900. Item #42566
1st edition. Original advertisers' wrappers (one lacking), 8vo, ca. 28 pages each issue. 24 cm. Continued after Vol III by “Israel: the Jewish magazine.”
Some issues include a membership form for the “Young Israel League” in which the applicant promises, “1. To be true to my religion. 2. To endeavour to perform one kind act each day. 3. To protect and be kind to all animals.”
“The monthly periodical Young Israel provides a rare opportunity to hear nineteenth-century voices of ‘the other’” in Victorian society “participating in constructions of their own difference. YoungIsrael sought to foster a love of Jewishness and Judaism in young reader swhile resisting the imposition of a rigid self-identity on its target readership. The publication insisted that Jewish children were capable of being exposed to lively and often heated debates about issues of the day. These discussions provide a glimpse of the varied ways in which Jews tried to construct a hybrid cultural identity for their children.
The only periodical of its kind for young Jews in Great Britain at the fin de siècle, Young Israel models itself to a degree on other children's magazines of the time, leading to surprising similarities and differences in their representations of Jewish people.
The brainchild of its editors, Leopold Greenberg and Joseph Jacobs,Young Israel was published monthly between 1897 and 1901. Beginningin 1907, Greenberg owned and edited the Jewish Chronicle, the largest and most influential Jewish newspaper in Britain. Jacobs, an Australian,was best known for his work as a folklorist, but he was also a journalist and anthropologist, as well as one of the earliest historians of Anglo-Jewry.Although the two men were well known both within the Jewish community and beyond it, neither was part of the Jewish establishment, nor did they have any qualms about publicly disagreeing with leaders of communal organisations, many of whom came from high-profile, well-connected families.
Jacobs was part of a circle of scholars, writers, and journalists known first as ‘The Wanderers of Kilburn’ and later, in modified form, as ‘The Maccabeans.’ The group included a roll call of Jewish intellectuals, including Israel Zangwill…; Lucien Wolf, a historian, foreign affairs expert, and journalist; Israel Abrahams, academic and co-founder of theJewish Quarterly; Moses Gaster, Hebrew scholar, folklorist, and spiritual leader; and Oswald Simon, writer and campaigner on behalf of persecuted Russian Jews. According to Norman Bentwich, who was many years later chairman of the Jewish Historical Society of England, which was founded by Jacobs and Wolf, the group 'formed a set as momentous for the thought and literature of Anglo-Jewry as the Bloomsbury set, forty years later, was in English thought and literature.' Though it was edited by Greenberg, who was not part of the group, and Jacobs, whom Bentwich describes as an 'independent rebel against the bourgeois Philistines' of the community,Young Israel was, in effect, the group's house magazine….
Jews were integrating ever more successfully into British society…but with this progress came pitfalls. The eroding boundaries between Jews and non-Jews in commercial, political, and social life had implications for Jewish adolescents and young adults. Concerns...that young Jews were engaging in unsuitable leisure activities, such as gambling, frequenting music halls, and loitering in the streets, rather than participating in more genteel pursuits, were supplemented with the new worry that too much intermingling of Jewish and Gentile youth at respectable social events would lead to intermarriage….
Yet too much association with fellow Jews, it was felt, would lead to accusations of exclusivity. Where, then, should the line be drawn? How could Jewish young people be English and still remain Jews? Young Israel was an attempt to address these questions.
David Cesarani notes that the magazine's title 'echo[es] Young Ireland and Young Italy,' the nineteenth-century national political movements.' It is likely, however, that the inspiration was more prosaic: Young England was the title of a Victorian boys' magazine published monthly by the Sunday School Union. At a cost of three pence, Young England provided a mix of competitions, songs, adventures, humorous stories, profiles of famous men, and articles about animals and geography.' Young Israel followed a similar template. Priced at two pence, the magazine came in a wrapper advertising Fry's cocoa. It consisted of twenty-two pages of text in two closely-spaced columns devoted to pastimes, celebrities, puzzles, competitions, songs, stories, and book reviews….
Given this approach, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the most striking ways in which Young Israel differed from other publications for young people at the time was in its general attempt to avoid didacticism. The magazine aired a wide range of views, with its contributors holding differing opinions on such heated topics as religion, Zionism, and politics or on the question of whether there should be social boundaries between Jews and non-Jews and, if so, where this line should be drawn.
The publishers managed to be forthright without antagonising the great and good of the community, many of whom they enlisted for fundraising tasks, including philanthropist Nathaniel Cohen and his wife Julia Waley Cohen, who invited readers of Young Israel to their Hyde Park home for a fundraising bazaar when the magazine implemented a campaign to purchase a bed for a poor child at the Jews' Hospital. Jacobs and Greenberg took great pains to assert their editorial independence, both when the magazine was launched and again after three years of publication: 'We have always endeavoured to maintain a rigid and inflexible independence, publishing what we have thought it for the good of the community should be published, no matter how hitherto unknown the writer, nor how unconventional his views.'
Therefore, the monthly 'Jews of Today' column was not merely a celebration of high-ranking members of the community; it was an eclectic mix of politicians, philanthropists, artists, musicians, rabbis, athletes, journalists, chess play- ers, and the occasional 'Jewess.' In an interview for the column, Israel Zangwill gives the publication his endorsement: 'I entirely approve of the existence of such a paper as Young Israel , as it is in childhood that impressions are strongest, and children should be made to feel from the beginning that their Judaism is living reality that does not end with the Synagogue….’
Although in some respects Young Israel took its place alongside other children's periodicals of the time, its title trumpeted the cultural difference of its readership rather than taking a more circumspect approach. In the first issue, the editors make it clear that readers of Young Israel are set apart from their Gentile peers: 'There is no paper for Young Israelites bringing before their notice and trying to interest them in matters specifically Jewish. And therefore Young Israel will try to do this in an English way, and thus be both English and Jewish.'
Later in the issue, they begin to flesh out how the children's Jewishness would be treated in the publication: Your festivals are not the same as theirs, and other similar reasons keep you a little apart. Here, however, we all meet as Jews and Jewesses and in the competitions... we shall often suggest subjects which are only suitable for children of our faith…. I particularly want you to understand what I mean by being true to your religion. Boys and girls who mix with children of another faith are sometimes ashamed of confessing they are Jews and Jewesses. To me it seems the very thing in which they should take the most pride.'
There is a confidence here that differs palpably from the attempt by some Jews to minimise their Jewishness in order to avoid negative response from Gentiles. This is particularly noteworthy considering that the magazine was not intended merely to facilitate private discussion among Jews.
Given that the magazine was available on newsstands and in railway stations, these discussions were clearly intended to extend into the public domain. The emphasis here, then, is not on assimilating English values, for readers' Englishness is a given. Instead, the aim is to refocus readers’ attention on their Jewishness. This meant Judaism, certainly, but also their “racial” heritage, for one of the editors, Joseph Jacobs, supported the theory that Jews were a distinct race” (Travis, Madelyn. “‘Both English and Jewish’: Negotiating Cultural Boundaries in ‘Young Israel,’ 1897-1901.” In 46, no. 1 (2013), pages 116–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43663165).
SUBJECT(S): Jews -- Periodicals. Juifs -- Pe´riodiques. Jews. OCLC: 233654911. OCLC lists 10 institutions with holdings, though these are generally incomplete. Advertising wrappers (without textual content but bearing the magazine’s masthead and a teaser for a lead article) lacking in one issue, and general split and edgeworn in other issues. Text paper, of higher quality, remains strong and bright with some toning and edgewear. Good Condition thus. Important Victorian Jewish youth periodical (BR-12-33-'dx).