members‎ > ‎


posted 27 Sep 2016, 11:55 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin


The Jewish experience in the United Kingdom [England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland] is one of the longest in the world. Anglo-Jewry faced increasing persecution from its entrance into England in 1066 until the expulsion of 1290.

Jews returned in the 16th century, however, they became more and more integrated into society. England was, for a time, one of the most religiously tolerant countries in Europe. British Jewry received formal emancipation in 1858 and has continuously grown larger and stronger. Today, the Jewish population in the United Kingdom stands at approximately 291,000 - the fifth largest Jewish community in the world.

There were individual Jews living in England in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times (80-1066 A.D.), but not an organized community. When William the Conqueror arrived in England in 1066, he encouraged Jewish merchants and artisans from northern France to move to England. The Jews came mostly from France with some from Germany, Italy and Spain, seeking prosperity and a haven from anti-Semitism. Serving as special representatives of the king, these Jews worked as moneylenders and coin dealers. Over the course of a generation, Jews established communities in London, York, Bristol, Canterbury and other major cities. They generally lived in segregated areas by themselves.

During the Middle, Ages, usury, or lending money for interest, was considered a sin by the Catholic Church. Therefore, Christians were forbidden to work as moneylenders and Jews were called to that occupation and were able to set high interest rates. They played a vital role in maintaining the British treasury.

Jews still faced persecution and were not fully protected by the Crown. In 1144, the first blood libel charge of ritual murder was brought against the Jews of Norwich.

In 1189, the Third Crusade, was launched. The Jews were taxed at a much higher rate than the rest of England to finance this Crusade. Even though Jews comprised less than 0.25% of the English population, they provided 8% of the total income of the royal treasury. Despite the Jews financial contribution, the pro-Christian ideology of the Crusade resulted in rioting in England and some Jewish businesses in London were burned.

MASSACRE AT YORK     1180-1194

One of the most notorious riots led to the massacre of the Jews of York. Jews have lived in York since 1170. They felt that they could use York castle for protection and felt secure among York’s elite residents, who used enjoyed Jewish financial services. The situation worsened in July 1189 when King Henry II, a protector of the Jews, died. Richard I was crowned his heir and he refused to grant Jewish representative admission to Westminster Abbey, when they came to offer him gifts. Riots were started and mobs threw stones at the Jews and burned the straw roofs of their houses. Many Jews were murdered, some allowed themselves to be baptized. I had the opportunity to visit the site in York where the massacre took place.

RULE OF HENRY THE 111& the Baron Wars (1217-1290)

In 1217, the English Jews were forced to wear yellow badges in the form of two stone tablets identifying them as Jews. Sounds familiar to the Nazi regime. From the start of Henry III reign in 1232, life went downhill for the Jews. By the mid thirteenth century, more than one third of the circulated coins in England were controlled by a few hundred Jews, leading the king to levy upon them untenable rates of taxation and creating rampant anti-Semitism. In 1232, the king confiscated a newly built London synagogue and in 1253, a decree was issued forbidding the Jews to live in towns that did not have an established Jewish community. In 1255, the Jews were once again accused of blood libel. Conditions became so bad in 1255 that Jews volunteered to leave, however their request was turned down by Henry III who considered the Jews royal property.

During the Barons Wars of 1263, the Jews were seen as instruments of royal oppression and between 1263 and 1266, one Jewish community after another was ransacked and many of its inhabitants killed. In 1265, the Crown started dealing with Italian bankers, minimizing their dependence on the Jews for financial services. In 1269, the Crown further restricted Jewish rights. Jews were not allowed to hold land and Jewish children could not inherit their parent’s money.

Expulsion of 1290

On July 18, 1290, shortly after money lending was made heretical and illegal in England, Edward I expelled the Jews from England, making England the first European country to do so. Most Jews fled to continental Europe, settling mostly in France and Germany, although some managed to remain in England by hiding their identity and religion. There is disagreement over the number — either 4,000 or 16,000) — who were actually forced to leave England. The Jewish exile from England lasted 350 years.


The first evidence of Jews in Tudor England after the expulsion is in 1494. Under Henry VIII and Edward VI, small numbers of Spanish and Portuguese Converso’s (Jewish converts to Christianity) worshiped secretly as Jews in London and Bristol.

The re-establishment of the Jews in England was a gradual process, one which took many years.  Jews immigrated to England from Holland, Spain and Portugal and opened a synagogue in 1657.


In 1753, the Jewish Naturalization Bill (Jew Bill) was issued to give foreign-born Jews the ability to acquire the privileges of native Jews, but was rescinded due to anti-Jewish agitation. In 1829, Jews began arguing for official equality. The first emancipation bill passed the House of Commons in 1833, but was defeated in the House of Lords

In 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became the first (and only) Jewish Prime Minister. By 1882, 46,000 Jews lived in England and, by 1890, Jewish emancipation was complete in every walk of life. Since 1858, Parliament has never been without Jewish members and recently the Jewish delegation has exceeded 40 members.

 World War I ended Jewish immigration to England and caused some British anti-Semitism. The 1930s brought an influx of refugees from Nazism and fascism. Approximately 90,000 Jews came from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy and other countries. Many later moved out of Britain and, by 1950, about 40,000-55,000 prewar refugees were left.

Anti-fascist demonstrators, including many Jews, clashed with British police on October 4, 1936, in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street. The police were overseeing a march by the British Union of Fascists. One of the leaders of the demonstration was my great aunts brother-in-law, Lord M. Shinwell. I stayed with his niece and my cousin in Leeds.

With the start of World War II, in 1939, mothers and children were evacuated from London. Many men and women were away from home serving in the armed forces. In 1940, refugees were subjected to temporary internment.

Manchester is the bastion of the British Jewish community, with a Jewish population of approximately 30,000. The city has a large population of ultra-Orthodox, who are especially concentrated in the areas of Prestwich and Broughton Park. Most of the kosher meat comes from Manchester and is shipped to other areas. Since there is no Moyle in Scotland, a Moyle comes in from either London or Manchester.  

One of the world’s top institutions for Talmudic learning is the yeshiva at Gateshead. The Conference of European Rabbis is an Orthodox forum that is based in London and is presided over by the British chief rabbi. The Reform movement set up its own rabbinical seminary in 1956, the Leo Baeck College, which attracts students from all over Europe. Significant numbers of Jewish students attend England’s two largest universities Cambridge and Oxford.

Approximately two-thirds of Great Britain’s 350,000 Jews currently live in London. While England's Jewish community has been in decline in recent years due to a low birth rate, intermarriage, and emigration.


Antisemitism in England was largely nonexistent or underground immediately following World War 2, as racial hatred of Jews became unacceptable after the recent tragedies of the Holocaust. Since then the tides of antisemitism have ebbed and flowed with international events, with anti-Semitic attacks and sentiments increasing. British antisemitism has been researched and addressed by government entities on multiple occasions, with recommendations being made to provide further support for the Jewish community. July 2014 saw a drastic spike in anti-Semitic attacks correlating with Operation Protective Edge.  Over 100 attacks occurred including swastika graffiti on Jewish houses, and the beating and subsequent hospitalization of a Rabbi.  Israeli product boycotts followed, and in a controversial act one branch of the Sainsbury's grocery store in London removed the entire kosher food section from the store in response to BDS protestors stationed out front of their store. Anti-Semitism has become more prevalent in certain areas of the United Kingdom, including Manchester which is home to Britain's largest Jewish community. Jewish organizations have stepped up security measures in response. Local Jewish schools in England are guarded by multiple armed officers. You may not be aware but, police in England and Scotland do not carry guns.


The Leeds Jewish community is the second largest provincial community in Britain (exceeded only by Manchester), currently numbering over 8,000However, between 1881 and  World War One, some 150,000 settled in this country  and in the two decades of the 1880s and 1890s alone, more than 10,000 of them settled in Leeds – chiefly Litvak’s, coming from Lithuania and surrounding parts of the north of the Russian Pale of Settlement.  

When they arrived here they set up shuls, or chevrons’, which they often named after the towns and shtetls they hailed from – like Mariupol, Lookover, Shilele, Sesmer and Vilna – all places in present day Lithuania.   Most of the immigrants were very poor and, of those who came to Leeds, few were intellectuals – in any sense.  But though not many were learned, nearly all were observant. I had the opportunity to daven at the shul last Saturday, and to my surprise the congregation was sponsoring the Leeds Maccabi Soccer team (Jewish young men) who were given a portion of the Torah to read.  I was also surprised to learn that the Rabbi was a second cousin to my wife. This shul has a large Orthodox congregant and on the high holidays they do not charge nor does the Scottish shul in Giffnock charge for either members or non-members for tickets.

However, between 1881 and  World War One, some 150,000 settled in this country  and in the two decades of the 1880s and 1890s alone, more than 10,000 of them settled in Leeds – chiefly Litvaks, coming from Lithuania and surrounding parts of the north of the Russian Pale of Settlement.  

When they arrived here they set up shuls, or chevros, which they often named after the towns and shtetls they hailed from – like Mariempol, Lokever, Shilele, Sesmer and Vilna – all places in present day Lithuania.   Most of the immigrants were very poor and, of those who came to Leeds, few were intellectuals – in any sense.  But though not many were learned, nearly all were observant. 



With Scotland in the news, it’s interesting to note that the country has been home to a dynamic Jewish community for 400 years. Here are six surprising facts about Jewish life in this ancient nation.

1. Aristocratic Antecedent

One of the earliest Scottish Jews was an aristocratic convert: Lord George Gordon, the youngest son of the third Duke of Gordon. Lord Gordon befriended Jews in the English city of Birmingham, and converted to Judaism sometime in the 1780s, taking the name Yisrael bar Avraham Gordon.

In 1788, Lord Gordon was arrested on charges of defaming Marie Antoinette and sentenced to five years in Newgate Prison. There, he continued his religious observance: he hung a mezuzah on his cell door, ate and drank only kosher food and wine, prayed daily with a tallis and Tefillin, and was allowed to pray with a minyan – ten men – on Shabbat.

At the end of his sentence, the authorities brought Lord Gordon to court, where he was asked to remove his hat and swear to behave lawfully in the future. As a Jew, Lord Gordon refused to remove his head-covering. The testimony of two Orthodox Jews he brought with him to vouch for him in court was disregarded, and Lord Gordon was returned to prison, where he died the following year, age 41.

2. Ellis Island in Glasgow

Most Scottish Jews, arrived in the 1890s, when Scottish shipping companies were active in transporting Jewish passengers from Eastern Europe to America. Thousands of passengers were routed through Glasgow and when they arrived, many Jewish immigrants – seeing a vibrant community and a peaceful country – decided to cut their journeys short, settling in Scotland instead of New York. Passengers who were unable to meet the rigorous health standards demanded on Ellis Island also sometimes decided to stay in Scotland, and build their new lives there.

Scotland’s Jewish community rose to the challenge of providing for the influx of Eastern European Jews. In 1908, at the peak of Jewish immigration, only 75 received state-funded statutory poor relief in all of Scotland; all other new arrivals had their needs – from housing to health, from education to food – provided by Scotland’s many Jewish charities.

3. Inventing Lox

When Jews began immigrating to Britain in large numbers in the late 1800s, they took their traditions of smoking and brining fish as a way to preserve and imbue flavor with them. British Jews soon discovered the flavorful wild salmon native to Scotland. “The quality of the fish was outstanding,” explains Aaron Forman, great-grandson of the founder of London’s oldest smokery, who still makes lox from fine Scottish salmon today.

The Jewish immigrants called their smoked salmon “lachs” from the Yiddish word for salmon, and their invention soon spread to Jewish communities around the world – as well as to Scotland itself, where smoked salmon is now considered a national dish.

4. Jewish Kilts

Scotland’s Jews now have their own tartan: the distinctive plaid patterns that represent Scottish clans. Tartan kilts are popular in Scotland, but until recently, Scottish Jews have had to borrow the tartans of other groups when they wanted to sport kilts.

That all changed when the Jewish Telegraph, a local newspaper, approached a leading kilt-maker and asked them to come up with three possible tartans to represent Scotland’s Jews. Designs had to conform not only to Scottish tradition, but also to Jewish law: that meant no mixing wool and linen fibers, which the Torah forbids. Three all-wool patterns were developed, and the Jewish Telegraph’s readers voted for the winning pattern: a blue-and-white tartan that echoes both the blue and white of Israel’s flag, and the Saltire, the national flag of Scotland.

The tartan is registered with the Scottish National Register of Tartan in the name of the Jewish Community of Scotland.

5. Kosher Haggis

Doreen Cohen, which is a friend of my wifes, is the world’s only purveyor of kosher haggis, the Scottish national dish consisting of sheep’s “pluck” (organs), mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, and consumed each year on January 25 as the centerpiece in Burns Night Suppers, commemorating the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

“We do vegetarian haggis and meat haggis,” the Glasgow caterer explains. In all, each January she sells some 150 pounds of the delicacy, enabling Scotland’s Jews to honor Scotland’s national poet – all while keeping strictly kosher.

6. Dwindling numbers and Fear

Despite its proud history and vibrant community, the Jews of Scotland have felt more insecure in recent years. Many younger Jews have left; the community is now estimated at 7,000-8,000, with most Scottish Jews living in Glasgow. Only one Jewish school remains in the entire country.

For years, Scotland was proud that it was the sole European nation never to have experienced violence against its Jewish community. But this security is eroding. As anti-Israel sentiment rises across Scotland, many Scottish Jews report rising levels of anti-Semitism as well.

In 2012, a delegation of Jewish students warned Edinburgh University that campus anti-Zionism had created a “toxic” atmosphere, leading a number of Jewish students to quit their degrees or transfer elsewhere. Scottish trade unions have been in the forefront of the boycott, divest and sanction group, calling for cutting ties with the Jewish state. In 2013, the Church of Scotland issued a blistering report denying the legitimacy of Zionism and the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

During the recent war in Gaza, anti-Zionist sentiment hit new highs, with local governments in Fife and Glasgow flying Palestinian flags above official buildings. In August 2014, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities called on national bodies to recognize growing levels of anti-Semitism in the country. “The level of anxiety is unprecedented” said the leader of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council.


For Jews, enlightened Edinburgh can be traced to 1691, the year in which the minutes of Edinburgh Town Council recorded the application of David Brown, a professing Jew, to reside and trade in the city. Whilst it appears that there was an organized Jewish Community by 1780, the first Jew to buy a burial plot in Edinburgh was Herman Lyon. He came to Edinburgh from Germany in 1788 and described himself as a dentist and corn operator.

The Edinburgh Jewish community in 1816 consisted of 20 families. In 1825, the community acquired a tenement in Richmond Court and converted and equipped it for use as a Synagogue with 67 seats. This served the needs of the Community for 43 years. By the turn of the century, the community numbered 500 and had acquired a chapel in Graham Street for conversion into a Synagogue.

In 1909 the Edinburgh University Jewish Society was founded, and is the oldest in Scotland, and possibly in Britain

The Jewish community in Scotland numbered eighteen thousand in the 1950s but has now shrunk to around ten thousand, largely through emigration. The community is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Greater Glasgow area with around a thousand Jews in Edinburgh and smaller numbers scattered around the country.

§  When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, with responsibility for almost all home affairs, the Jewish community set up the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) as a democratic representative body to speak on its behalf. SCoJeC monitors legislation and informs Parliament and civic and religious bodies on Jewish issues and attitudes.

§  SCoJeC has been very successful in influencing Scottish government policy in areas such as family law, looted Holocaust art, the census, and health and safety issues. It also has responsibility for outreach work to scattered Jews in outlying areas, ensuring their access to Jewish facilities in the larger centers as well as arranging activities in remote centers in the Highlands.

§  There has been historically little antisemitism in Scotland, and in particular good relations with the churches. Recently there has been a significant increase, much of it associated with events in the Middle East. Specifically, the Scottish trade union movement has pursued a policy of boycotting Israel despite a dialogue with the Jewish community aimed at understanding both sides of the conflict.

Jewish History in Scotland

Jews have been living in Scotland since the end of the eighteenth century. The first community was founded in Edinburgh in 1816.[1] Despite the arrival of German Jewish textile traders in Glasgow and Dundee in the mid-nineteenth century, the modern community in Scotland mainly derives from the more substantial East European immigration from 1891 to 1914.

As Scottish shipping companies became active transporting Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe to North America in the 1890s, tens of thousands of Jews passed through Scotland. Some settled in Dundee and Edinburgh, but most were attracted to Glasgow whose burgeoning population and industries had earned it the title of “Second City” of the British Empire.

By 1914 there were about ten thousand Jews in Glasgow and about 1,500 in Edinburgh, with smaller communities in Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as scattered groups throughout Scotland.  The Glasgow community created a lively and impressive infrastructure of welfare, cultural, educational, and Zionist organizations, which was duplicated, on a smaller scale, in the other Jewish communities.

Despite the arrival of thousands of Jewish refugees in the 1930s and after the war, numbers peaked at around eighteen thousand in the 1950s.  Since then numbers have decreased as a result of intermarriage as well as emigration to England and Israel.

As measured by recorded anti-Semitic incidents the level of hostility faced by Scotland’s Jews is appreciably low.  In 2008, only 10 out of 541 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the UK (1.8%) occurred in Scotland.[15] However, in January 2009 during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, there were 16 recorded incidents in Scotland out of 252 for the whole of the UK (6.3%), and the figure for the whole of 2009 increased to 30. Events in the Middle East, often accompanied by popular conflation of Israelis and Jews, have a habit of leading to outbreaks of anti-Semitic activity. These include anti-Semitic daubing at synagogues and cemeteries as well as threats and verbal abuse.

Other forms of anti-Semitic behavior are less common, and the profile of the hard Right in Scotland has been negligible. Recently, though, the ultra-Right British National Party has announced that it will contest the 2010 general election in East Renfrewshire, the only Scottish seat with a significant Jewish presence. The Community Security Trust[16] works closely with monitor extremist activities, and advises the local Jewish community on security.

In recent years much of the focus of anti-Semitic behavior as perceived by Jews in Scotland has been associated with support for the Palestinians, and with certain comments that have appeared on online newspaper pages.  SCoJeC has successfully brought this to the attention to the authorities; a prosecution has been initiated and the newspapers concerned now moderate their discussion forums more effectively. The Jewish community accepts that many people hold critical views of Israel that most of the community does not share, but when fair criticism shades into extreme incitement it is expected that firm action will be taken.

In line with the Macpherson Report on the racist murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London, the accepted definition of racism is whatever is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person. Unfortunately, many on the Left who are most sensitive to identifying racism against others are swift to dismiss Jewish sensitivities as mere Zionist propaganda. The Jewish community in Scotland has repeatedly had to point out that applying different standards to Jews is itself a form of antisemitism.



Jews and Scots have both gained from their encounters of the past two centuries. There remains a tolerance and respect based on shared traditions, and the years have brought each a better understanding of the sensitivities of the other. The key issue today for Jews in Scotland is the maintenance of Jewish identity in an open society where, until recently, antisemitism has hardly featured. With few younger Jewish activists around, the problems of providing a Jewish environment for the Scottish Jews who remain will become acute. Still, the Jewish line has been remarkably persistent, and Jews in Scotland have good cause to be proud of the twin strands of their identity – once described as “the mosaic in the tartan.”

In conclusion both England and Scotland are wonderful places to visit, they have a vibrant Jewish community, especially in England. The younger Jews of Scotland have migrated either south or to other parts of the world, including Israel. Anti-Semitism does exist as noted especially the boycott of Israeli goods. It should also be noted that food products are not labeled as in Canada with either K COR or P. Since being here I have learned that both the Rabbis at ETZ Chiam and Beth Shlaom in Toronto are related to my wife.

Ref: Wikipedea