There are some books, that although considered novels, speak the truth of the time period, including the social mores, the struggles for survival, the mental and emotional environment, and the prejudices captured in a world in which tradition, religion, and assimilation are combined. These issues are often at odds with each other, and one writer, Israel Zangwill, specifically captures those issues quite brilliantly.
Having lived through those very social structures and environs, he understood, firsthand, the pressures involved in assimilation of emigrants to England. He, as a child of immigrants, appreciated the situations his parents found themselves in, in a world where tradition and the Jewish community were often at odds with the native English men and women.
He himself, was born in London, yet, because he was Jewish, did not necessarily fit in, and those around him, did not necessarily consider him an English citizen. He was an advocate for women’s suffrage, for the underdog, the oppressed, Zionism, and so much more.
I have read a few of his novels, and have garnered much information of historical significance from them, regarding the London Jewish community. Below is a list of those books:
Some of his novels contain quite a bit of humor, but within the humor are the serious undertones of survival within an environment of hatred, discord, and overall disdain. Zangwill knew, from his own life experiences, what he was writing about.
For those interested in late 19th century and early 20th century history, regarding the Jewish communities, his works are an important testament to Jewish life during those time periods.