The Curious Account of the Jews of England, Glorious, but not Always
April 1, 2023( Not an April Fool's Joke)
April 1, 2023( Not an April Fool's Joke)
Video lonk. Discussion starts at 2:00 into video.
Video lonk. Discussion starts at 2:00 into video.
What could be more English than Fish and Chips
Ask Chef Ramsey: He opened one in Vegas ( not this one)
But ---the fish in the chips was brought there by Jews!
The UK tradition of eating fish battered and fried in oil was introduced to the country by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants…They prepared fried fish in a manner similar to pescado frito, which is coated in flour then fried in oil. Fish fried for Shabbat for dinner on Friday evenings could be eaten cold the following afternoon for shalosh seudot, palatable this way as liquid vegetable oil was used rather than a hard fat, such as butter. Charles Dickens mentions "fried fish warehouses" in Oliver Twist (1838), and in 1845 Alexis Soyer in his first edition of A Shilling Cookery for the People, gives a recipe for "fried fish, Jewish fashion", which is dipped in a batter mix of flour and water before frying.
1) The British claim they are the true Israelites—they are “ Brit Ish”( Son of a bris). To which the Irish claim to be “ Ir- Ish”( Ir-Aramaic for Angel=Angelic) ( Termed " British Israelites.)
TTruth is, we were relative late comers, we didn’t swim the channel till:
2) William the Conqueror brought the first Jews in to help him administer his newly conquered England. The later Kings found they could not do without their Jews to finance their wars.( I e King Richard & Crusades)
The new king wanted the skills and capital of the Jewish people to benefit his fledgling kingdom. He invited a group of Jews living in Rouen, Normandy (modern day France) to come to England. William saw the Jewish people only as an economic boon that could be leveraged in his country’s favor.
Jew’s primary role in England was to act as moneylenders. It was forbidden for Christians to loan money with interest (the sin of usury), so they relied on Jews to do so. Their moneylending became crucial to the functioning of England’s economy. Many nobles, barons, and other members of the royal court relied on loans from Jews in order to purchase castles and pay dues to the crown. Furthermore, wars and journeys of exploration were similarly funded.
The unique and precarious situation of medieval Jews in England was codified under the rule of King Henry I. They weren’t true English citizens, instead functioning as royal serfs, a sort of servant/property of the king. Their position came with benefits such as free use of all the royal roads, special legal status, the right to use royal castles and tunnels for protection, and more. In return they paid higher taxes, gave what they earned through usury back to the crown when they died. Their lives and status were at the current king’s whims. For a while the Jews prospered under this system. They built communities in towns across England and by 1168 it was estimated that the Jewish community possessed a quarter of the wealth of the entire country.
There is a famous building-The Star Chamber- which was the seat of a
” supreme court” of medieval England ( an s the locus of some notorious criminal procedings).
Whence the name “ Star” besides stars on the ceiling?
One theory-from Hebrew “ Shtar” a legal note, supposedly the repository of the IOU’s to the Jews of the time.
From Cecil Roth: A HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN ENGLAND
The favour and protection enjoyed by the Jews under the first Plantagenet ruler were not due (as was the case, with certain reservations, later on) simply to their importance as tax-payers. …. But they were at the same time what might be termed Treasury agents, advancing large sums to the Crown to defray day-to-day expenditure or unexpected calls, and being repait,by drafts on the sheriffs, secured on the 'ferm of the Shire' or county revenue. …
Example:Aaaron of Lincoln: on the construction of the famous conventual church at St. Albans, that he used to boast, with more outspokenness than tact, that it was he who had made the great window in the church, and had prepared a home for the saint when he had been without one. When he died, about I I86, Aaron of Lincoln was probably the wealthiest person in England, in liquid assets. ( which the King took over upon Aaron’s death)…
It has been estimated that an average of £9,000-that is, something like one-seventh of the total revenue-was derived at this period from the Jews every year in the normal course of taxation, without taking into account occasional windfalls when individual or community were amerced for some real or imaginary trespass…
.. Thus, the Jewish capital was estimated to constitute more than one-third of the mobile wealth of the nation-certainly an exaggeration, yet at the same time indicative of their relative importance to the Exchequer.
All in all, a small community, maybe 2000.
Unfortunately for us Jews, there is what has been called: Perfidious Albion, an old term for England.
The early Brits, like the rest of the Europeans, did not take well to us:
The devil poking the nose of a Jew( in Jew's hat) from a medieval illustration.
The devil poking the nose of a Jew( in Jew's hat) from a medieval illustration.
They accused the Jews of using human blood, which lead to the story of Little St Hugh of Lincoln, 1245, supposedly killed by Jews for his blood: There were numerous other such accusations.
This charge led to the arrest and execution of Jewish leaders(so the King & lords could expropriate their properties). Plus, the local church profited from his shrine becoming a site of pilgrimage and donations.!
in 1290-, King Edward I- was deeply in debt, imposed a steep tax on his knights, but in exchange, offered to expel all Jews, with their debts wiped out and property confiscated. Resulted in Edict of Expulsion .
Also, the Brits discovered that Italian bankers could do just as well, and they weren’t progeny of the devil.
Here and there, a few Jews crept in, some allowed after baptism, and, after Spanish expulsion, some conversos came in- but-lived in the shadows at great risk-
Dr Roderico Lopes,physician to Queen Elizabeth I
a Portuguese converso, was accused of attempting to poison his patient, Queen Elizabeth , and duly hanged, drawn and quartered.
He was done in by the Earl of Essex ( who, according to some, was the author of Shakespeare’s works. Was this the inspiration for Shylock? He has also been suspect for being the Queen's secret lover!)
It is reported that Essex sought revenge against the doctor for revealing that he had treated him for syphilis. He used the charge of Dr. Lopes being an agent of the Spanish ( our equivalent of the Red Scare of the 50’s) to do him in.
Dr Lopes conspiring to poison the Queen( engraving)
(This may have been the inspiration for Marlowe's The Jew of Malta).
(Perhaps Essex over killed, as finally the Queen, fedup with him, excecuted him as well. What goes around, comes around!)
This concept of the treacherous or vengeful Jew became a staple of English literature:
Chaucer” The Prioress Tale”,
Christopher Marlow-“ The Jew of Malta”,
Shakespeare’s “Shylock” in Merchant of Venice
Even later—Dicken’s Fagin & Scrooge-
TS Eliott’s , considered one of the GOAT of British poetry.(Great Of All Times),
“A lustreless protrusive eye / Stares from the protozoic slime. . . . The rats are underneath the piles. / The jew is underneath the lot.”) (Bliestein) He even insisted on republishing this screed after the facts of the Holocaust were well known!
To be fair, we did get in at least one good Jewish character- in Daniel Deronda- but it took a woman-Mary Ann Sands- writing as a man-George Eliot-to tell the story and later, the most famous Irishman in modern literature, the half-Jewish Leopold Bloom in Ulysses by James Joyce)
We did, by the way , get a formal apology from the Church of England, for the expulsion:
The Church of England on Sunday apologized for anti-Jewish laws that were passed 800 years ago and eventually led to the expulsion of Jews from the kingdom for hundreds of years.
A special service held at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford was attended by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and representatives of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to mark the Synod of Oxford, passed in 1222.
Now, from the period of the book that Judy Alkalay told us about:The Weight of Ink. Some more about what actually took place at that time.
Things changed in the 17th century-primarily result of the shake-up of the English regime, the beheading of the King, the first attempt at a republic, and influenced by the new Protestant movements of the period.
“There was interest in Jewish matters in the leadership of the Commonwealth and Protectorate for two reasons, one pragmatic and the other doctrinal. The pragmatic reason was that based on the international trade and commercial connections of the Amsterdam Jewish community it was recognized that a strong Jewish presence in London would be advantageous. With flourishing links to the East and West Indies and to the New World Jewish traders in London could make the city to Amsterdam as a commercial center.
The doctrinal reason was the belief amongst godly Protestants, including Cromwell, that the conversion of the Jews to Christianity was essential before Christ would return to reign on earth. 1656 was thought by some to be the actual year in which this would happen.
Add that a rediscovery of Hebraic roots of Bible, and increased interest in ancient Israel, and the idea of tolerance of personal faith-created a more positive atmosphere towards allowing the increasing number of “ hidden” Jews to practice openly.( Some of these Protestant groups identified with Jews or saw themselves as Jews).
The case was sealed by the Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, Menasseh ben Israel, who understood their line of reasoning:
Samuel Menasseh ben Israel (B., Holl. 269; H. 146)
This portrait has traditionally been described as being of
Samuel Menasseh ben Israel, one of the most distinguished members of the Jewish
community in Amsterdam. Born in Lisbon in 1604 he was an intellectual prodigy
who, by the age of eighteen, had been nominated rabbi of the Portugese
community in his adopted city. He lived on the same street as Rembrandt, and
their friendship was both profound and long-lasting. Rembrandt was to
illustrate one of his books in later years (see lot 249), and we know that the
rabbi supplied Rembrandt with various texts and Hebrew writings for use in his
paintings. Menasseh ben Israel died in 1657 during his return from a mission to
Oliver Cromwell to secure the readmission of Jews to England.
Yet another etching, from a book of his writings:
Latin: We seek by wandering- image of a wanderer- and Hebrew:Psalms Your words are a lamp unto my feet
Manasseh ben Israel
Reports of 10 lost tribes in the Americas stimulated speculation of impending Messianic era.
“John Dury, while at the Hague in 1644, had heard some stories about the Ten Tribes which had very much interested him. One was to the effect that a Jew, named Antonio de Montezinos, or Aaron Levy, had, while travelling in South America, met a race of savages in the Cordilleras, who recited the Shema, practised Jewish ceremonies, and were, in short, Israelites of the Tribe of Reuben. Montezinos had related his story to Menasseh ben Israel,"
Menasseh ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell Author(s): Lionel Abrahams Source: The Jewish Quarterly Review , Oct., 1901, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Oct., 1901), pp. 1-25 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1450525
“Five years afterwards, when Menasseh was consulted by his Millennarian friends in England as to the restoration of the Jews, it occurred to him that this story might have an important bearing on the matter. He had convinced himself from his Scriptural studies that, before the Jews could be restored, it was necessary that their dispersion over the earth should be complete. The discovery of the tribe of Reuben in America showed that their dispersion was already much wider than had been known. Indeed, if they could only gain admission to England--so the thought must have flashed on him--their dispersion from one end of the earth to the other would be complete, and their restoration to the Holy Land, that event which to Jews and Christians was equally momentous, would be so much the nearer. Satisfied with the validity of his own reasoning, Menasseh published in 1650 a pamphlet entitled the Hope of Israel, in which he repeated and defended the story of Montezino, hoping that the English people might recognize that it was their duty to expedite the ultimate restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land by allowing them to settle in England.”
When Menasseh arrived in London in October, 1655, he brought with him petitions from the Jews of various parts of Europe, and the English manuscript of his own "Humble Address." The latter was at once printed and published, and on October 31 he went to Whitehall and presented copies to the Council of State. The "Humble Address" asked "in behalf of the Jewish nation" for the free exercise of the Jewish religion, " that we may have our Synagogues, and keep our own publick worship, as our brethren doe in Italy, Germany, Poland, and many other places." A detailed list of the concessions that the Jews desired was then drawn up and embodied in a petition presented by Menasseh to Cromwell in person. The concessions were (i) security of life and property, (2) liberty of public worship, (3) the right to acquire a cemetery, (4) permission to trade " in all kinds of merchan- dise like other merchants," (5) the appointment by Cromwell of an officer to examine the passports of Jewish immigrants and to compel them to swear allegiance to the Government, (6) jurisdiction to be exercised by the "Chief of the Synagogue" in disputes between Jews, with a right of appeal to the civil courts, (7) that " if peradventure there existed any laws against the Jews, they might for the sake of greater security be rescinded.”
Consequence- the rights of Jews in North America, now being taken over from the Dutch by the British, was now secured.
(PS- This, plus the Chmielnicki massacres in Ukraine, led to a fervor of Messianic speculation aming Jews and Christians- culminating in the apostacy of Shabtai Zvi and his adoration as the hidden Messiah.)
In England, a swift Jewish rise to prominence:
Daniel Mendoza (1764-1836) is considered to be the originator of modern boxing and was the most celebrated Jewish athlete of his time. He became the sixteenth heavyweight boxing champion of England.
The predecessor, in economic theory, of Karl Marx, and a father of modern capitalism as well:
David Ricardo (18 April 1772 – 11 September 1823) was a British political economist. He was one of the most influential of the classical economists along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith and James Mill. Ricardo was also a politician, and a member of the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. ( Wkipedia)
Ricardo preempted Karl Marx in describing adversarial class relations. Marx, in fact, based a great deal of his economic theory on Ricardo's writings. Although Marx identified capitalists, not landlords, as the source of societal grief he co-opted Ricardo's labor theory of value. Marx also utilized Ricardo's forecast of economic stagnation in predicting a working class uprising.
Baronet Moses Montefiore, Sheriff of London
- a pioneer of Zionism long before Herzl, founder of the first Jewish settlement outside of the walls of old Jerusalem. Also, he helped underwrite the loan that enabled the freeing of the slaves in the British Empire!
Finally, best known:
Benjamin, Dizzy, D’israeli
Novelist and Prime Minister
If today there is a Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, of Pakistani origin or a Prime Minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak, of Indian Punjabi descent—it is on the backs of Jews who opened the doors 400 years ago, after paying the horrible price of persecution and expulsion centuries earlier.
And yet there is an unease in the Jewish community:
Why? Ask Jeremy Corbin
“British Zionists clearly had “two problems: one is they don’t want to study history and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.””
Or Roger Waters, Pink Floyd,
“In a recent interview with Palestinian news agency Shehab, Waters employed a range of antisemitic tropes, claiming that the U.S. is being controlled by Jewish Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, whom he describes as a “puppet master” who is “filling the coffers and pulling all the strings” on U.S. policy regarding Israel/Palestine.In the interview, Waters also directly attacked Zionism, describing it as “an ugly stain” which “needs to be gently removed.”
“those powerful American Jewish bankers” and asserted that the United States government was “utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions over there.”
…in an interview with the British magazine New Statesman. “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews,” he said. “I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
A few months before his death in 1990, Dahl stated outright that he was anti-Semitic in an interview with The Independent.
After claiming that Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was “hushed up in the newspapers because they are primarily Jewish-owned,” he went on to say, “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism. I think they should see both sides. It’s the same old thing: we all know about Jews and the rest of it. There aren’t any non-Jewish publishers anywhere, they control the media—jolly clever thing to do—that’s why the president of the United States has to sell all this stuff to Israel.”