Zionism, Aliyah, and the Jews of Glasgow: belonging and believing in postwar Britain

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This article unpicks the meanings of Zionist identification in postwar Britain, making a case study of the Jewish community of Glasgow. It questions how the existence of Israel, especially in times of crisis, impacted on British-Jewish communities and individuals, and what these impacts may tell us about Jewish postwar lives. In particular, the article explores the ways in which Zionism interacted with British society, culture, and politics, particularly as regards issues of multiculturalism, ethnicity, and counter-culture.

Focusing on material from the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, and oral history interviews with Jews that migrated to Israel from Glasgow, the article considers the role of Zionism in rearticulating and redefining Jewishness in the postwar period, notably in the context of evolving Holocaust consciousness, and declining religiosity across the country. It unpicks the workings and meanings of diasporic subjectivities, analysing changing Jewish thinking about belonging and home. Ultimately, I argue, Glaswegian Zionism should be understood as a manifestation of postwar Britishness, which informed and underwrote evolving diasporic consciousness within Jewish communities. British Jews engaged with Israel with motivations and anxieties that reflected their lives in multicultural Britain more than Israeli culture or politics. This reality shaped the nature of British Zionism, explains why comparatively few British Jews made aliyah, and why the overwhelming majority supported Israel on their own terms from their British homes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-294
Number of pages28
JournalShofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019


  • Zionism
  • British-Jewry
  • Aliyah
  • Diaspora
  • Habonim
  • Scottish Jewry
  • British Jewry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Religious studies
  • History


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