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'From One End of the Earth to the Other'
'From One End of the Earth to the Other'

'From One End of the Earth to the Other'

The London Bet Din, 1805-1855, and the Jewish Convicts Transported to Australia


355 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper, Cloth

Trade Paper, $44.95 (US $44.95) (CA $56.95)

Publication Date: August 2009

ISBN 9781845193669

Rights: US & CA

Sussex Academic Press (Aug 2009)

Price: $44.95


The emancipation of the Jews of England was largely complete when George III came to the throne in 1760. Free to live how and where they wished, English Jews had been specifically exempted from the provisions of the 1753 Marriage Act which made Christian marriage the only legal option for all others. The effect of this exemption was to put the matrimonial causes of the Jews of England exclusively in the hands of their Rabbis and Dayanim (Jewish ecclesiastical judges) for the next one hundred years. No Bet Din (Jewish ecclesiastical court) anywhere in the world has left such a complete record of its transactions - matrimonial and proselytical - as that contained in the extant Pinkas (minute-book) of the London Bet Din from 1805 to 1855. In all other matters, including the offenses punishable by transportation, Jews were subject to the jurisdiction of the civil courts. Of the estimated 150,000 convict transportees shipped to the Australian penal colonies, some 700 were Jews. Matrimonial and related matters involving 20 of these miscreants are recorded in the Pinkas. Jeremy Pfeffer recounts the history of the London Bet Din during these years as revealed by the Pinkas record and relates the previously untold stories of this group of Jewish convict transportees and their families.


“In 1805 R. Solomon Hirschell established the first continuing Bet Din (Rabbinic Court) in the English-speaking world. Two of their Pinkassim (minute books), spanning from 1805 to 1855, which record the decisions of over seven hundred cases related to marriage, divorce and conversion are the subject of Jeremy Pfeffer's groundbreaking research. A few of the cases involving convict transportees were included in an article by Pfeffer in the AJHS Journal (XVIII, Part 3, 2007). Other Australian related cases are included in this publication. …This publication by Jeremy Pfeffer is like an X-ray view of the nerve centre of Halachic Judaism as it mapped a path through a difficult new world.” —Gary Luke, DipFHS, committee member of the AJHS

“Curiosity over a family portrait of a rabbi who served in London’s Bet Din (ecclesiastical court), who travelled to Australia in 1830 to arrange a Get (religious divorce) for the British wife of a Jewish convict transported there, led Pfeffer to research the fate of these couples. Drawing on Bet Din records, he relates this little-known chapter of Jewish history in the contexts of Jewish law (on conversion as well as marriage), and the expulsion and return of Jews to England. Illustrations include marriage registers for Australia and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), and ritual art. This issue is still timely for women unable to remarry when a Get cannot be secured.”  —Reference & Research Book News