Jewish East End Celebration Society
4A Cornwall Mews South, London, SW7 4RX
[email protected]

The saga of England’s so-called Jew Law of 1753, made law and then repealed within six months, is a little known episode in Anglo-Jewish history that nonetheless has considerable resonance today.

It has now been brought into sharp focus in the latest book by East End born and bred Yoel Sheridan, (whom East End contemporaries may remember as Julius Shrensky, the name he was known by in his earlier years).

The so-called Jew Law was designed to enable people to become English by naturalisation without having to swear that they were taking their oath of allegiance “on the true faith of a Christian”.

In putting the Bill forward the Government argued that it was innocuous as it simply provided a method whereby any rich foreign Jew who had resided in England for three years, could apply for naturalisation through an expensive process that also ensured the worthiness of the applicant to become a British citizen. Applicants had also to prove that they were of the Jewish faith.

Supporters of the Bill and subsequent Act of Parliament argued that the result could only be to the benefit of the country, and cited the spread of prosperity seen in other states where there were levels of Jewish emancipation.

Nonetheless, it unleashed a torrent of anti-Semitism, with arguments that remain horribly familiar today about Jewish characteristics, avariciousness, love of money, lack of patriotism and sense of belonging to any country, and so forth. The ancient blood libel is regurgitated, the supposed role of the Jews in killing Christ is stated as fact, the threat posed to the Christian faith and to Christians is used to garner support for repeal.

Some of the arguments used are seen today used against all immigrants: the stealing of jobs, the destruction of businesses run by native-born Englishmen – it is all horribly familiar.

In Britain in 1753, Catholics were denied equal rights because they had demanded religious supremacy and threatened the throne, Christian Dissidents were denied equal rights because they threatened the religious supremacy and solidarity of the Church of England, and the Jews settled in England, loyal supporters of the King, George II, were denied equal rights as a result of anti-Semitic clamour.

So even the King’s far more tolerant stance is not enough to overcome the powerful feeling against the Act..    

What Yoel does is to look at the how other historians have written about the “Jew Law” and the controversy surrounding it, pointing out that the anti-Semitism of the time and its continuation has been underplayed. He then illustrates his point by examining contemporary pamphlets and other documents that show all too vividly the anti-Semitic stereotyping resorted to, as well as looking at the (far fewer) rebuttals made by those in favour of the new naturalisation law.

He ends with a reflection on anti-Semitism today and how, sadly, such a lot seems not to have changed – indeed, how it seems to be on the rise.

A lot of work has clearly gone into this study, and it has very much paid off in creating a narrative around this little-remembered episode that both illuminates and appals,

Yoel, a one-time member of the East End’s Brady Boys Club, has lived in Israel since 1973. He has written other books with specific East End themes.

Anti-Semitism and the 1753 Jew Law Controversy

Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AA

Paperback £6.99. E-book £3.50.  From

ISBN 9781398442276 (Paperback) ISBN 9781398442283 (ePub e-book)

Latest news

  • East End playwright, novelist and poet Bernard Kops dies aged 97

    Bernard Kops, the great East End playwright, novelist and poet, and honorary president of JEECS, has died at the age of 97 The son of Dutch-Jewish immigrants, Bernard was born in 1926 and brought up in Stepney Green Buildings in a world whose frontier was Aldgate East tube station, a world in which clothing from the Jewish Board of Guardians Read More
  • Seeking the human being within, behind the cloak

    Bernard Kops, the great East End playwright, poet and novelist has died at the age of 97. Honorary life president of JEECS, he was an astute observer of both the old Jewish East End and the modern world. The interview below is from the JEECS magazine The Cable in 2006 and is being republished as a tribute to a great Read More
  • A fresh look at the Siege of Sydney Street

      The Siege of Sydney Street is the subject of a new book published on March 1 that provides a thrilling account of this iconic East End event. Read More
  • From Polish immigrant to East End artist: the lost Whitechapel boy

    Morris Goldstein, a near forgotten member of the remarkable group of artists and writers that flourished in the East End in the early part of the last century, deserves wider recognition. RAYMOND FRANCIS, his son, gives us a taste of his story in this extract from his book about his father's life. This article was published in JEECS's magazine The Read More
  • East End Brady days

    An exhibtion devoted to the history of the Brady Girls' Club opens in London on October 6. So it seemed a timely moment to republish these reminiscences of an iconic East End organisation originally published in our magazine The Cable in 2010. Read More
  • Exhibition celebrates the Brady Girls' Club

    The history of a seminal East End organisation, the wonderful Brady Girls’ Club, is being celebrated in an exhibition at London Metropolitan University opening next month. Read More
  • Sikh peddlers in the Jewish East End

    The role of Jewish East Enders in working with early Sikh arrivals in the UK is set to form part of a new documentary film whose creators are seeking people who can talk to them from a Jewish perspective about the partnerships that developed. Read More
  • Bethnal Green plaque commemorates an unsung war hero

      Fl. Sgt. Jack Nissenthall, an unsung hero of the Dieppe Raid of 1942, has been commemorated with a memorial plaque at Bethnal Green in the Jewish East End. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

For the old Jeecs site, visit