Tuesday, July 24, 2012

History of Jews in England: Acceptance and Rejection

Nadene Goldfoot
William I, a Norman,  conquered England in 1066 and discovered that there were no Jews living there. Normandy was a part of Northern France, but originally the people were from Scandinavia.   He knew that it was Jews in France who were the financiers.  In those days, Christians didn’t want to be in finances and thought it was beneath them, so that was about the only  business left for the Jews as they were not allowed to own land.  He invited Jews from Rouen, a city in NW France,  to come into England  an take on the job.  Jews then remained in London near the royal family who were fairly tolerant. They also settled in York, Bristol, Canterbury, etc.  They traded, lent mney to the baronage and advanced money to those who were a part of the Crown.

William II, his son, (1056 - 2 August 1100),  organized a disputation between a Jew and a Christian and seemed to try to promote a real discussion about the two religions.

By 1144 Jews were accused of a ritual murder in Norwich.  This was the 1st blood libel from Christians.  The accusers were trying to say that murder of a child named William  was a part of the Jewish religion as they wanted the blood for Passover and other rituals. . These jealous people knew nothing about Judaism except that they didn’t believe in Jesus as being “G-d, and from what they had learned in their “New Testament.”   One thing that Jews don’t eat is blood, which makes this accusation so very stupid.  Part of the laws of kashrut is eating parts of beef that do not have main veins in them, and then salting and washing the meat to get rid of any trace of blood.  This means that only the tougher parts of a kosher animal is allowed for food being it doesn’t have any blood in it. I repeat:  Jews do not eat, use or touch blood.  It is regarded in the Bible as the seat of life or even as life itself.  The prohibition of its consumption is one of the laws and is repeated several times.

In 1189-90, the time of the 3rd Crusade, there were riots all over the country with much bloodshed, especially in London and York.  The Jews’ business bonds were burned.  This brought about the exploitation of Jewish resources by heavy taxation on them during the reigns of John in 1199-1216 and Henry III from 1216 to 1277.

In  this 13th Century, Christians were also trying to convert Jews and steal their money.  In 1232, Henry III created the House of the Converts to lodge and hire converted Jews and even sent preachers into the synagogues to proselytize.  Another ritual murder accusation happend in 1255 of Hugh of Lincoln and more occurred from 1263-5 during the Barons’ Wars.  No proofs were ever produced, but confessions came through torture.

Medieval English Jewry numbers never was more than about 5,000.

 From 1290 to about 1655.  Jews were not even allowed to live in England.  King Edward I had expelled them.  that's when many Jews went to live in Poland.

 Jews from Spain and Portugal were fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition and tried to get into England around 1509 when Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, but Henry expelled any that arrived then.  He only tolerated Jews coming into England when it was convenient to have them-when he needed money.

 In 1655, Manasseh Ben Israel negotiated with Oliver Cromwell for the re-admission of Jews. He agreed as long as they worshipped in private.  Charles II became king and took over the monarchy in 1660 and confirmed this in writing.

By the 19th century, Jews were tolerated more, probably due to the Jewish philanthropists like Sir Moses Montefiore.  From 1829 on, we see that Lionel de Rothchild was admitted to parliament in 1858.  In 1881 the Jewish community took in Russian Jewish refugees from pogroms.  Jewish communities developed in Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, etc.  Then German Jews arrived from 1933-1939 which brought on an anti-Semitic movement.  Jews in Great Britain in 1990 were estimated at about 330,000 including N. Ireland, and about 300,000 today.  Many have become secular Jews.  .

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_II_of_England
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
www.jewishideasdaily.com/4538/features/the-queens-jewry/?print by Ben Elton 7/23/2012

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