Found: cheder pupils’ ar­chive from WWI


The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY BARRY TO BER­MAN

A RE­MARK­ABLE in­sight into the thoughts of young Lon­don­ers dur­ing the First World War has come to light through a Lon­don Jewish Cul­tural Cen­tre dig­i­tal re­source pro­ject.

Painstak­ingly il­lus­trated po­ems, es­says and car­toons are among a trea­sure trove of ma­te­rial con­tained in two bound vol­umes of work by pupils of the Lib­eral Jewish Sy­n­a­gogue re­li­gion school in 1915 and 1916, when the shul was in its orig­i­nal premises in Hill Street. They had been gath­er­ing dust in stor­age boxes un­til dis­cov­ered by Sharon Lewi­son, a for­mer archivist at the St John’s Wood shul.

Now the digi­tised work is about to be­come a show­piece ad­di­tion to LJCC’s We Were There Too site, record­ing the con­tri­bu­tion to the war by Jewish Lon­don­ers, both on the battlefield and on the home front. The re­source is backed by more than £400,000 in Her­itage Lot­tery fund­ing.

Pro­ject di­rec­tor Alan Fell says the ma­te­rial is of im­mense his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance. “It shows how kids were caught up in the pro­pa­ganda of the day.

“As far as we can find out, there is noth­ing like this in the world — a con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous record of the views of young Jews. It has a res­o­nance to what is hap­pen­ing in the world now.”

Adds the pro­ject’s Mandy King: “You can get stuff about sol­diers. You might find a bit about women, par­tic­u­larly if they were in the Aux­il­iary Corps. This is the miss­ing link.

“These are ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pres­sions of the time.”

The pro­ject team got wind of the ma­te­rial quite by chance. Hav­ing con­tacted around 150 con­gre­ga­tions to pro­mote the re­source through means such as ar­ti­cles in sy­n­a­gogue mag­a­zines, fol­low-up calls were made last sum­mer to 20 larger shuls.

Mr Fell re­calls: “When LJS asked if we would like to see the chil­dren’s books, we knew what we had found with­out Kew [the Na­tional Ar­chives] telling us.

“The fact that an an­nual re­port of a re­li­gion school was so will­ing to re­pro­duce such ma­te­rial showed the mood of the time. The stan­dard of lit­er­acy is amaz­ing. I don’t know if kids to­day could write like this. Schol­ars will beat a path to it.”

Ms King adds: “It was like gold dust

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