It all started back in 1895. Colonel Albert E. W. Goldsmid, a British Jewish Army officer wanted to provide activities for children of the poor Jewish immigrants (and by poor, we don’t mean only having one car and no Sky TV, we mean penniless bordering on destitute, not being able to speak English and having virtually no job prospects) who flooded into the UK, predominantly from Eastern Europe.
Back then, it was boys only and the emerging group (launched in the East End) was called the JLB – Jewish Lad’s Brigade. On the 16th February 1895 the first company of boys was enrolled and recruits were drawn from what was then called Jews’ Free School, the Norwood Orphanage and local schools. The first summer camp the following year (attended by just 19 boys) was held in Deal in Kent and social and athletic clubs were organised.
In the early days, the JLB provided the boys with things to do as well as food and clothes and gave them opportunities to learn skills that might help them to find work – something we still strive to do, albeit in perhaps slightly better circumstances.
During the first half of the 20th century, the JLB – renamed to JLGB in 1963 with the formation of the first girls’ company – thrived and grew. New groups were set up all over the UK and spread as far as Canada and South Africa as well as the age-specific groups we have today.
We have worked as the only Jewish Operating Authority for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award since its inception in 1956 and today, the JLGB is a highly respected, modern and innovative national youth organisation that has, over the years developed the skills, friendships and moral compass of some of the UK's most successful Jewish business people, entertainers and educators and many of them have chosen to pass on their skills to following generations of young Jewish people.
Almost 120 years after Colonel Goldsmid’s lecture at a meeting at JFS where he proposed the framework of what followed, there have been thousands of people who have passed through our doors who have all experienced the same feelings of belonging, connection and pride in being a JLGB member.
Now it’s your turn.