Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jewish Prostitution in England

It is not idle speculation to wonder whether a life of scandal and shame might have been the fate of young Sophia Hettena, had her mother not accompanied her on that fateful voyage to France.

For the Master of the Rolls’ judgment of Eliahoo Joseph as a “scamp” would soon be proved correct. In 1898, he was found guilty of adultery with a Manchester woman, Ada Newsham (nee Cardus), whose husband was away in America. While she was living with Joseph, Ada had a young son by her previous marriage, a boy who became Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus, a famous cricket and music correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. In his autobiography, Neville Cardus describes his mother as a “genteel prostitute.” Joseph may have been her pimp.

Joseph’s courtship of Sophia Hettena – a betrothal, then luring the girl to England – was part of a trend of “irregular marriages” that bothered the Anglo-Jewish community. According to Lloyd P. Gartner's excellent paper "Anglo-Jewry and the Jewish International Traffic in Prostitution, 1885-1914" [pdf link], the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the official voice of the Anglo-Jewish community reported in 1892 that a “great many” irregular marriages were taking place in England. “Such marriages, being known to those who conduct them to be unlawful, are performed in a secret and sinister manner, and every possible means is adopted to prevent the actors being traced.” In one egregious case, a man married nine women in turn “each of these nine marriages being mere idle forms of enabling the conscious perpetrator of the villainy to discard at his pleasure his innocent and unhappy victims.”

It is also possible that Joseph may have his hand in a dirty side business: white slavery. Sophia’s betrothal or kiddushin “marriage” to Joseph was one of the ways that white slave traders ensnared their victims. In Eastern Europe, this was known as the “shtile khupe,” a clandestine, unregistered form of Jewish, but not civil marriage. This betrothal left the girl at the mercy of her would-be husband, who could use his leverage to force her into prostitution and live off her earnings.

The white slave was in full swing in 1890, and Jewish women fetched high prices in brothels overseas, usually in Argentina. Constance Rothschild Lady Battersea, whose father was scion of the Rothschild banking family, founded the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women in 1885 to rescue Jewish women from the white slave trade. The East End of London also saw many poor Jewish women prostituting themselves.

The main reservoir out of which thousands of Jewish women were drawn into prostitution was Eastern European, where there were legions of poor Jewish women desperate to leave behind the shtetl for the New World. The white slave trade preyed on girls from poor communities yearning for a better life and Sophia, fleeing dusty Port Said, would have made an excellent target.

Not coincidentally, the Jewish community in Egypt tightened the rules relating to marriage and ended the practice of kiddushins in 1901. The chief rabbis of Cairo and Alexandria promulgated a “haskama” or communal ordinance to all Jewish communities in Egypt. The rabbis required a ketoubah or marriage contract in all Jewish weddings. Prior authorization was also required from the head of the local Jewish community and no marriage could be performed without a minyan, a quorum of 10 Jewish males.

When we next hear of Joseph it is in yet another breach of promise of marriage case in Manchester. This case was brought by Ada Newsham’s 22-year-old sister, Beatrice Cardus. It became known in local papers as “the case of the lustful Turk.” Beatrice sued the Turkish Consul General, Mustahpha Karsa, a married father of eight, for breaching his promise to marry her. Evidence at the trial in 1902 revealed that Joseph had introduced Karsa to Beatrice. In his autobiography, Neville Cardus reveals that his aunt Beatrice, like his mother, was also a prostitute.

By 1903, Joseph’s creditors forced him into bankruptcy. Joseph owed more than £10,000, but liquidating his estate yielded one-tenth of that sum. A few months later, he was sentenced to two years’ hard labour for spreading lies about a competitor. Sometime before October 1907, he fled home to Baghdad. The few friends he had left behind were brought up on charges of lying in Joseph’s application for British citizenship.

Joseph probably left England with some regret. He had lived a profligate life in Manchester, one that would in all likelihood been out of his reach in Baghdad. During the bankruptcy hearing, Joseph protested more than once that he felt it was a privilege to be considered

He told the court he had "a Jewish face, but an English heart."

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