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LASKI, family prominent in English intellectual and public life. NATHAN LASKI (1863–1941), businessman and communal leader, was born in Russia and brought up in Middlesbrough. He settled in Manchester and established himself as a successful cotton merchant with extensive connections in India. In 1906 he became a city magistrate. At various periods he was president of the Manchester Great Synagogue, Jewish Board of Guardians, Jewish Hospital, and Council of Manchester and Salford Jews. He was honorary president of the local Zionist Central Council and for a time treasurer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; he became recognized as the head of the Manchester Jewish community. His wife, SARAH (1869–1948), was a member of the Manchester city council for many years. Their two sons were Harold *Laski and NEVILLE JONAS LASKI (1890–1969). The latter achieved distinction as a lawyer, becoming successively recorder of Burnley, judge of appeal in the Isle of Man, and recorder and judge of the crown court of Liverpool. Within the Jewish community he held many offices, rising to greatest prominence as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (1933–39). He was thus president of the Board during the dark years of ascendant Nazi power and has been criticized for being insufficiently pro-Zionist. His successor as president, Professor Selig *Brodetsky, was a strong pro-Zionist of East European birth; his election is often seen as marking a turning-point in the outlook of Anglo-Jewry. In 1933 Laski was elected co-chairman of the administrative committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and in the following year succeeded to the chairmanship. He was also a vice president of the Anglo-Jewish Association. After his marriage to the daughter of the haham Moses *Gaster, he became a leading member of the Sephardi community. Neville Laski published Jewish Rights and Jewish Wrongs (1939), a collection of speeches; also The Laws and Charities of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation of London (1952). ESTHER PEARL LASKI (1915–1988), known throughout her life as Marghanita Laski, his daughter, was a well-known novelist, writer, and broadcaster. Educated at Oxford, she wrote such novels as Little Boy Lost (1949), psychological studies such as Ecstasy (1961), and literary biographies.

She was nationally known as a broadcaster on the BBC and also contributed no fewer than 250,000 examples of the earliest known usage of English words to the supplementary volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.


JC (Oct. 10, 1941), on Nathan; (March 2, 1945), on Sarah; (March 28, 1969), on Neville. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: ODNB online for Marghanita Laski.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.