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Jews' Temporary Shelter


JEWS' TEMPORARY SHELTER , charitable institution in London. In 1885 Simon Cohen, a baker, opened a refuge for East European immigrants who had been arriving in England in large numbers since 1881. It was maintained by Cohen himself and by other immigrants; the Jewish communal authorities, opposing it as encouraging immigration, succeeded in having it closed as unsanitary. Following protests, a new Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter was opened in October of the same year by communal leaders, including Samuel *Montagu and Herman Landau, o.b.e. (1849–1921), an immigrant teacher who became a prosperous stockbroker and communal leader in Jewish religious and charitable work. The Shelter, located in Leman Street, in the East End of London, arranged for immigrants to be met at the docks and provided accommodation for a maximum period of 14 days.

After some difficulties, the Shelter established a modus vivendi with the London Jewish Board of Guardians, the main charitable body of the community, which was anxious not to encourage immigrants, although it later realized that conditions in Eastern Europe made immigration inevitable. It was largely due to the Board's influence that the Shelter prohibited a long stay and did not give cash doles to immigrants. Finally, in 1900, the problem of immigrants from Romania (the fussgayer movement) led to a formal agreement between the two bodies. Until 1914, between 1,000 and 4,000 immigrants and transmigrants a year stayed there.

After the main Russo-Polish immigration ended with the outbreak of World War i in 1914, the Shelter continued to receive immigrants from other countries, although separate arrangements were made for some 9,000 Belgian refugees. During the war the Shelter moved temporarily to Poland Street, in the West Central district of London, but later returned to East London, first to Leman Street and then, in 1930, to Mansell Street.

It was estimated that from 1885 to 1937 the Shelter had been responsible for meeting 1,180,000 immigrants at the docks and that 126,000 had stayed at the Shelter. During the 20th century, the Shelter was associated especially with the brothers Otto M. (1875–1952) and Ernst Schiff (1881–1931). Born in Frankfurt on the Main into the famous Schiff banking family, they settled in London and became members of the Stock Exchange. They were active communal leaders, especially in religious, charitable, and educational work. Ernst Schiff became president of the London Jewish Religious Education Board and warden of the Great Synagogue. Coming under the influence of Herman Landau, the two brothers were active on behalf of refugees, first the Belgian immigrants in World War i and then Jewish refugees in general. Otto Schiff was president of the Shelter in 1922–48, then life president. Both were honored for this work, Ernst Schiff being appointed m.b.e., and Otto Schiff first o.b.e. for his work for Belgian refugees and c.b.e. for his services to German refugees.

After World War ii, the Shelter continued to help immigrants, especially refugees from Hungary and from the Middle East (Aden, Egypt, and other countries), India, and Pakistan. In 1973, it moved from East London to Willesden, an area in North-West London with a considerable Jewish population.


L.P. Gartner, The Jewish Immigrant in England (19732); V.D. Lipman, A Century of Social Service (1959); S. Zweig, House of a Thousand Destinies (n.d. 1937?); Jewish Chronicle (Jan. 1, 1932; Oct. 15, 1952; Dec. 28, 1973).

[Vivian David Lipman]

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