A project milestone

Now that the conclusion has been written, my monograph is complete and has been submitted to the critical eye of anonymous reviewers. It is time to breathe and reflect on this milestone in the Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces project.

I promised a monograph as one of the main ways of bringing the research results of Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces to scholarly and public attention. My contribution to the project, as initially conceived, was first and foremost in the area of religious history, and I had already identified Rabbi Salis Daiches as a person needing scholarly attention. Digging in the archives, it became clear that Salis Daiches’ biography would be a helpful conduit for a reflection on the impact of migration on religious communities. And thus my research resulted in a thematic biography which places Salis Daiches’ life in the context of the wider debates about religious leadership exercising the Orthodox Jewish communities in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century.

My book seeks to contribute to a better understanding of what migrants who came to Britain between 1880-1914 brought to the Jewish religious landscape of Britain. Research on related themes in the earlier parts of the nineteenth century has been initiated and carried out by Abigail Green and Adam Mendelsohn, and Tobias Brinkmann and David Feldman have contributed to the discussion on migration in the early twentieth century. The important work of Green on Moses Montefiore and the ‘Jewish International’, and Mendelsohn on transnationalism in the Anglophone Jewish world, has alerted us to a scholarly neglect of the international networks Jews, particularly Jewish migrants, were part of through travel, correspondence and through their own successive migrations across the world. Brinkmann’s work on transmigrants sheds light on the points of departure and the staging posts of migration in continental Europe, while David Feldman’s recent article in East European Jewish Affairs challenges the dominant perception of the relationships between resident and immigrant Jews through a case study of London’s East End.

My own work applies and extends the insights of these scholars by placing them in the context of the so-called ‘Jewish periphery’ in the northernmost nation of the United Kingdom, Scotland. The biography of Salis Daiches who migrated from Lithuania via Germany to Britain provides a focal point for my narrative. In essence, I hope to show that immigrant rabbis who served in the ‘provinces’ had their own religious ideological agendas which they brought to bear on their work, and that these were shaped through their education, experience of migration, and the international community of Jewish religious functionaries they were part of. Far from ‘provincial’, Jewish leaders in cities significant to British history – such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds – are also important to the historiography of British Jewry, seeing that they actively promoted particular ways of being Jewish and saw their local field of influence as significant to the Jewish world as well as in regard to Jewish/non-Jewish relations.

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