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Friday, June 24, 2011

England's Murder of Jews in 1100's-1200's: Antisemitism

Nadene Goldfoot

Jews entered England with William the Conqueror inviting them in 1066.  A few could have been there during the Roman times. 

The Crusades took place from 1095 to 1291 with King Richard, The Lionhearted of England taking part in the 3rd Crusade from 1187 to 1192.  Crusaders, in their zeal to get to the Holy Land and chase out the Muslims didn't mind murdering Jews along the way. 

The 12th and 13th Centuries were bad times for Jews in Europe.  They were often murdered, persecuted or faced banishment from counties.  This was a time when Jews could not buy land, and the only occupation they were allowed to work in was money-lending as this was not only distasteful to Christians but not allowed to them.  Jews actually had been invited by the King to serve as money lenders.  As it happened, the Jews were making money from this occupation.  The Christians resented this and the fact that they were profitting from a business which did not include physical labor made them even angrier as they didn't consider it work. 

In 1190, the Jews of York, which was a center of Torah learning, were burned to death by a church mob.  The rabbis had to proclaim a prohibition to live in that city. 

Jews were executed in the 1230's after people falsely blamed them for kidnapping a Christian child.  In 1290 there were murders of Jews and pillaging of their homes.  King Edward II then banished the Jews from England.  Many drowned in the sea trying to leave. 

The remains of 17 Jews were  found in 2004 at the bottom of a medieval well in Norwich, England.  Norwich had been  thriving Jewish community since 1135.  Many had lived near the well.  The condition of the skeletons told the scientists that they were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, being victims of persecution.  This was reported on the BBC.

The DNA suggests that five of them  were probably members of a single Jewish family.  Forensic anthropologist, Professor Sue Black of the U of Dundee led the investigation team and realized this was a case of persecution and ethnic cleansing. 

11 of the 17 skeletons were children from age 2 to 15.  The 6 adults were men and women.  They were thrown down the well head first. and then the children were thrown in. 

After being ousted in 1290, Jews did not return to England until 1655-57.  By 1690 3,000 had settled there.  There were some Sephardic Jews found to be living in England around 1753.  In the 1800's they were treated badly.  Daniel O'Connell in 1846 tried to make Jews wear identifiable Jewish clothing there. 
Resource: Arutz Sheva by Elad Benari: "Jewish Bodies Found in Medieval Well in England "

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