This essay delves into the humanitarian response of British Jews towards the suffering of the Armenians during the Hamidian massacres (1894–7). The essay argues that this humanitarian act is a very early and hardly known attempt by Jews to aid members of other non-Jewish groups. This “external” humanitarian act perhaps fits the scholarly argument concerning the nineteenth century’s watershed of humanitarianism: the transition from an earlier more inward-looking based relief action, to aiding, in the name of all humanity, other, distinct religious or ethnic groups. Most importantly, as this essay argues, these Jewish humanitarian activities mainly derived from rational, practical reasons, primarily resulting from Jewish vulnerability. Rational rather than sentimental humanitarianism, hence, was the main cause for the humanitarian response of British Jews. Indeed, the essay argues, the endorsement of the Armenians was an influential affair in Britain, moving the public as well as British Jews into action. However, some British Jews, and interestingly also German Jews objected to any formal or even non-formal support that might endanger their Jewish brethren in the Ottoman Empire. The support of the Armenians, thus, was also controversial, arousing inner conflicts within the community and even between British Jews and German Jews.
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- British Jews
- Hamidian Massacres