by Jason Lever
Posted on Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:48:34 GMT
Solomon Lever’s life of political and community leadership
How typical was Solomon Lever of first generation, Jewish immigrants, who ‘largely assumed control in the 1930s and 1940s’ of communal and political leadership positions in Jewish and wider society (ref: Gartner)?
He began his long association with the Labour movement at 16 when he joined the Independent Cabinet Makers’ Association trade union. Around the time of his move into local politics, Solomon and Annie took in a Kindertransport brother (Freddy) and sister (Trudi), alongside their daughters, Lily (Lilian) and Isabel. (Their parents survived the Holocaust and the reunited family went to live in Israel.)
For some East End Jews, the decline of religious observance was mirrored by attraction to a rival “faith” of ‘the extreme left and militant atheism’ (ref: Bermant). But this did not apply to Solomon Lever, who eschewed the Communist Party and kept up his Judaism as a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and serving on Hackney Synagogue’s management board.
He was also a Justice of the Peace (JP), a member of the Trades Advisory Council, and a member of the LCC Divisional Tuberculosis Care Committee.
Staunchly Labour, Solomon Lever rejected overtures to stand for Parliament, preferring the independence not to have to always “toe the party line”. He may have identified with the judgement of Bertha Sokoloff, that ‘for good or ill, the Labour Party, warts and all, is the political party of the British Left’ (ref: Sokoloff).
East End historian Bill Fishman summed up the East End Jewish immigrant’s contribution to the host community as being formed of ‘a sense of social justice, derived from their own suffering [from pogroms], which they translated into political action… many joined the labour movement and rendered pioneer and selfless service to their cause’ (ref: Fishman, 1981).
That aptly describes my great-uncle, “Uncle Solly”.
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