The United Synagogue’s Jewish Religious Education Board was originally known as the Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge. According to Chief Rabbi Hertz, speaking in 1931, “In arming thousands and thousands of the children of the poor against the moral dangers of life, by teaching them reverence and unquestioned obedience to higher things, and thus emancipating them from the tyranny of low instincts and sordid ambitions, the Board had been rendering a service to the community that could not be over-estimated. It was to the stubborn and unbreakable loyalty of the poor and lowly that Israel’s victorious survival was largely due.”
The Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge was founded by Dayan Barnett Abrahams in 1860 and was supported by the Rothschilds, the Goldsmids, and other wealthy members of the community. It established a school, the equivalent of modern Hebrew Classes, and a synagogue in Union Hall, Artillery Lane, where lectures on the Sabbath were given. it published this series of Bible stories and Sabbath readings. The committee, when issuing the first number of their publications, stated that those papers would “have for their object to impress upon the Jewish mind proper notions of the principles and observances, spirit and mission, of Judaism, and by appeals to the reason rather than to sentiment, to develop and foster the most fervent conviction of the truths of our sacred religion.”
Of course, the tracts, which were given out and intended for children, and also bound into books – one of which I have – have very mid-Victorian attitudes and standards.
My copy includes several years of tracts bound together. It has the stamp of the United Synagogue library, and came from the United Synagogue Jewish Institute Lending Library in Mulberry Street, Commercial Road, E1. It has a note, dated 1930, that says it was paid for.
The regulations of the Jewish Institute Lending Library are pasted in the inside front cover. they are a little faded, but here they are:
And here is a sample tract – remember – this was intended for the education of Jewish children in the 1860s.: