The London School of Jewish Studies has until 1998 been known as Jews' College, and is one of the oldest Anglo-Jewish institutions in existence. It was founded by Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler and opened on 11 November 1855. The College has always had very close links with the Chief Rabbinate, as many Jewish leaders, including Lord Jakobovits and Sir Israel Brodie have graduated from the institution.
The formation of the College was planned on 4 January 1852 at a public meeting in Sussex Hall. Chairmanship of the meeting was under Sir Moses Montefiore who was the head of the Sephardic community in England and the generally recognised head of the Anglo-Jewish community. When the College opened three years later with 33 pupils it was "for the purpose of affording a liberal and useful Hebrew and English education to the sons of respectable parents, and training of ministers, readers and teachers." (A.M. Hyamson, Jews' College London 1855-1955). Thus the college was to combine a Jewish day school and a ministerial training college.
Jews' College was first located at 10 Finsbury Square, which was a house in one of the most fashionable parts of London. It was also where many prosperous London Jews lived. Since then the College has had five more locations.
In 1881 new premises were found in Tavistock Square, in a house previously owned by Charles Dickens. Soon after in 1900 the college moved to Queen's Square in Guildford Street, then to Woburn House in Upper Woburn Place in 1932, to Montague Place in 1957, most recently to Albert Road, Hendon in 1984. The London School of Jewish Studies is still at this location existing as a recognised department of the University of London.
When the college first opened scholars included boys aged 9-15 years, however at the turn of the century higher education had taken priority at the college and the day school gradually ceased to exist. Many of the changes at the college emerged after 1945, for example the Rabbinical Diploma class, the Hazzanuth class, and the Faculty for the training of teachers were established. This broadening in the scope of teaching lef to teachers being trained to university level, and other diplomas, degrees and postgraduate courses being offered. The college has now developed into Britain's only institution of higher Jewish learning with accreditation under Jewish auspices. Since the war, the college has also been the major supplier of rabbinical and communal leadership.
The academic head of the College was originally the headmaster, but the title later changed to become principal. The first headmaster was Louis Loewe.
Within the 150 years of the existence of the college there have been many problems arising including financial difficulties, changes of premises, lack of students and sometimes community support. However the London School of Jewish Studies has become one of the central institutions for the intellctual and spiritual growth of the community.
Jews' College Library
The Jews' College Library is one of the best in Europe. The major sections are the Sussex Hall collections, the A.L. Green Library, the Montefiore Library, the Lowy Library, and the current accessions and smaller benefactions.
There was no properly constituted library at the college until 1860. This originated in 1859 when the Jews and General and Literary and Scientific Institution in Sussex Hall closed and the library was brought by Major Lewis Rothschild for Jews' College.
In 1861 Mr. Walter Josephs presented on trust "the Hebrew Library", but by 1882, it had been transferred as a gift and called the Michael Josephs Collection.
The A.L. Green Library (named after the Reverend Green, the Honorary Secretary of Jews' College 1852-1864) was a Hebrew and theological library and was offered first in trust and then in perpetuity to Jews' College.
In 1897 the Montefiore Library of printed books and manuscripts was transferred on trust to Jews' College.
By 1902 the Jews' College Library had an estimated 25,000 volumes. In 1949 50,000 printed volumes of classical rabbinical literature and 670 Hebrew manuscripts started arrivng at the College. These were given by Dr. Oskar Rabinowicz who was holding the material on behalf of the Committee on Restoration of Continental Jewish Museums, Libraries and Archives.
In 1950 the library was granted approved status by the Library Association.