There is no comprehensive history of Belgium's Jewish community and its experience during the First World War yet. Throughout the Centenary some output became available, but even the 'smaller' story of Belgian Jews who fled to the UK has hardly been covered.
Although Peter Cahalan and Michaël Amara do take on board the plight of the Jewish fleeing from Belgium - the story of their exile in the Netherlands is of a bigger scope than that in the UK - a first article on the subject was by Janiv Stamberger.
Figures on the number of Jewish Belgians remain unclear, estimates vary between 5,000 to 8,000. One clearer figure spoke of 3,000-3,500 by 1916. The Jews Temporary Shelter (Leman Street), the Manchester Hotel (Aldersgate) and a disused warehouse on Soho's Poland Street were among the locations where Jewish Belgians were accommodated. By the end of 1915 over 600 people stayed in the Manchester Hotel and quite a few of them - it is not clear whether this applied to all - were distributed over 35 houses in North London (Amara 2008:177).
Although a National War Refugee Committee was established to deal with the refugee situation, the Jewish community took it upon itself to provide shelter and food for this influx of Jews. The London Beth Din was very active "in ministering to the religious needs of Jewish refugees from Belgium and in assisting them in finding employment".
- "Records show that a Belgian refugee called Siberstein applied for Beth Din permission to open a shop in Black Lion Yard selling borscht. Later that month either he or someone with the same name applied for a Beth Din licence to manufacture sausages.
- One refugee from Antwerp applied to Beth Din in October to open a kosher food store in Brixton.
- Another refugee was found a placement to serve as a Shochet in Ebbw Vale in South Wales.
- In November, the Beth Din received an enquiry from the South Wales Community of Llanelli as to whether a refugee could be found to assist in Hebrew teaching in that town."
More on Belgian Jewish refugees in the UK here.