The Life of the Synagogue

From the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection
Marlene & Nathan Addlestone Library,College of Charleston

Service at Great Synagogue – Diamond Jubilee of H. M. Queen Victoria, Sunday, June 20, 5657—1897

Pen and ink drawing of a synagogue celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee

Service at Great Synagogue
Diamond Jubilee of H.M. Queen Victoria

Pen and ink drawing
1897

The service in London’s Great Synagogue celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, on June 22, 1897, marked her 60 years on the throne, a period of increased prominence and recognition for Jews in British society. Under Victoria, Jews enjoyed many “firsts”: seven Jews served in Parliament; the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London was appointed (David Salomons); the first Jew was knighted (Sir Moses Montefiore); the first Jew was created a baronet (Sir Anthony de Rothschild); and the first Jew was allowed into the House of Lords (Nathan Rothschild).

Jewish occupation of these high-ranking titles allowed Jews in Britain to feel as respected as their gentile peers who had previously enjoyed such exclusive honors. Even before the official Jubilee festivities commenced, the Jewish community prepared to honor the occasion by scattering flowers and ribbons in the national colors in front of synagogues all over the country. The service pictured here was attended by some of the most prominent members of Jewish society, including members of the Rothschild, Goldsmith, Montagu, and Montefiore families.

Despite being mirrored at churches all over the country, the honoring of the queen reflected genuine Jewish patriotism in England at this time, though it was also a time of anxiety over increased Eastern European Jewish immigration to Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. Many of these new immigrants were desperately poor and, while they were allowed to settle in Britain and the colonies, some more established members of the Jewish community feared their presence in London’s East End and in other locations would overshadow the image of acculturated British Jews and the strides they had made in the Victorian Age.