27 May 2007

London: Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1907

Thanks to Ann Rabinowitz for this information from the 1907 report of the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter in London.

The very useful database is here.

The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter Database is a project of Professor Aubrey Newman and Dr. Graham Smith, both of the Department of History in University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom. Because many of the people that passed through the Shelter between the years of 1895 and 1914 came to South Africa, the project is of considerable potential interest to the South African Jewish community, and has been financially supported by the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town.

For a detailed paper on the shelter, why it was developed and other issues, click here.

For information on the actual registers which were incorporated into the database, click here.

Ann indicates that the report's synopsis was in the Jewish Chronicle on April 12, 1907, but this can only be accessed by JC subscribers.

Some facts and figures:

In 1907, some 925 boats and 38,848 passengers were met; in 1906, there were 871 boats and 47,831 passengers. From 1900-1906, shipping company rate wars and pogroms encouraged immigration.

Of the 1907 arrivals housed at the shelter, 1,199 of 1,662 went to South Africa; 329 to America; 152 to Canada (the largest number at the time to this destination).

Forty five people were returning to their home countries, a larger number than before. Theories: Either home country conditions improved or immigrants were returning to visit family or bring over other relatives.

Many women and children were residents, indicating that husbands and fathers had already immigrated and were now bringing their families.

Ages of shelter residents: 1,178 were under 20; 566 were aged 20-30, 212 were aged 30-40, 135 were aged 40-50, 57 were over 50. Most inmates stayed only two days, and about 41,280 meals were served (110 per day).

An interesting section concerns the impact of the Aliens Act on the immigrants, causing great hardship for those whose cases were being appealed.

"... there was no receiving place for them and no notification to their relatives and friends as to their status. For the most part, they were oftentimes kept in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. In addition, children were ripped from their parents and vice versa which was painful and heartbreaking to the families."

Of 33,770 passengers arriving in London, 376 were rejected, 220 were released on appeal, 156 were rejected completely, although some rejected passengers may have found other ways to enter the country or continue their journeys.

Ann, thank you for this information.

A forthcoming reference - to be published by the Kaplan Centre of the University of Cape Town - will offer detailed analysis of this and the other annual reports: Jewish Migration to South Africa: The Records of the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1885-1914; edited by Leicester University (UK) Professor Aubrey Newman and Dr. Nicholas J. Evans, Lecturer in Slavery Studies at Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (Hull, UK), and Saul W. Issroff.

Details are recorded of more than 24,000 Jews - using previously unused shelter records - who emigrated from Imperial Russia to South Africa (instead of the United States) from 1896-1914.

To order a copy when available, send contact details to kc@humanities.uct.ac.za.


  1. Anonymous11:54 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hi, Ava

    1. Go to JewishGen's Family Finder and enter your family name and city. Also see others with the same name already entered and contact them.

    2. Check JRI-Poland for your name and city and trace that back.

    3. Join the JRI-Poland list and post a message about your family and location.

    Good luck!


  3. ellen weil12:14 AM

    ellen weil