‘To Their Credit as Jews and Englishmen’: Services for Youth and the Shaping of Jewish Masculinity in Britain, 1890s–1930s

  • Susan L. Tananbaum
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Studies on the construction of masculinity have been something of a growth industry of late, and Jewish historians have also found this approach a fruitful one. Until recently, much historical writing has treated men as ‘entirely ungendered persons’ which, as John Tosh suggests, is ‘myopic’.2 As the field developed, much of the early scholarship emphasised muscular Christianity, identifying ‘a shift in the meaning of manliness from spiritual morality to muscular morality’ that occurred midway through the nineteenth century.3 Likewise, a version of muscular Judaism has also received significant attention. Jews and Gentiles alike came to emphasise ‘character’ — morality, athleticism, pluck and a commitment to fair play — as essential to masculinity. This ideal was especially prevalent among middle- and upper-class British Jews during the late Victorian period. Muscular Judaism, ‘a call for corporeal and spiritual regeneration’, shared much with the Christian form.4 At the turn of the century, many Jews had internalised the value of physicality and athletic manliness, concepts much less integral to traditional Judaism than to the nineteenth-century European world in which adherents of muscular Judaism lived.5 With few exceptions, such as the response to the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1930s and 1940s, only the ‘rougher’ working classes continued to see violence and physical defence as honourable.6


Jewish Community Club Member Jewish History Jewish World Jewish Masculinity 
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Further reading

  1. Black, E. C. (1988) The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1920 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell).Google Scholar
  2. Bermant, C. (1971) The Cousinhood (New York: Macmillan Co.).Google Scholar
  3. Bristow, E. (1983) Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight against White Slavery, 1870–1939 (New York: Schocken Books).Google Scholar
  4. Cesarani, D. (1998) ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Suburbs: Social Change in Anglo-Jewry between the Wars, 1914–1945’, Jewish Culture and History, 1(1), 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dee, D. (forthcoming) Sport and British Jewry: Integration, Ethnicity and Anti-Semitism, 1890–1970 (Manchester: Manchester University Press).Google Scholar
  6. Endelman, T. M. (2002) The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gartner, L. (1960) The Jewish Immigrant in England, 1870–1914 (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd.).Google Scholar
  8. Feldman, D. (1994) Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840–1914 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press).Google Scholar
  9. Kadish, S. (1995) ‘A Good Jew and a Good Englishman’: The Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade, 1895–1995 (London: Vallentine Mitchell).Google Scholar
  10. Knepper, P. (2007) ‘“Jewish Trafficking” and London Jews in the Age of Migration’, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 6(3), 239–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan L. Tananbaum 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan L. Tananbaum

There are no affiliations available

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