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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in England 02: 1553-1800

Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal - Jews more accepted since Cromwell's protestantism - protection laws - Jews in the Empire and from Holland - Ashkenazi immigration - naturalization bill fails

from: England; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<The Resettlement Period.

[Time of Henry VIII and Edward VI: Jews from Spain and Portugal coming - Jews in the civil war between Catholics and Protestants under queen Mary since 1553 - Jews under queen Elizabeth - connections with Spain]

This almost absolute isolation was broken by the repercussions of the expulsions from Spain and Portugal and of the activities of the Inquisition in the Iberian Peninsula, which drove refugees throughout Western Europe. A small *Marrano settlement was established in London in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI but broke up on the accession of Mary in 1553 and the Catholic reaction which ensued. In the reign of Elizabeth, a semi-overt congregation existed for some years in London and Bristol, comprising among others Dr. Hector *Nunez whose commercial connections were found useful by the government in Spanish affairs, and Roderigo *Lopez, the queen's physician, who was executed in 1594 on a charge of having plotted against her life.

The latter was connected by marriage with Alvaro Mendes (Solomon *Abenas), duke of Mytilene, who sent diplomatic missions to the English court on more than one occasion. Although this Marrano community at one time numbered approximately 100 persons, it had no legal guarantee of existence. With a change in political and economic conditions in 1906, it disappeared.

[since Cromwell protestant times: Jews are more accepted - and anti-Spanish policy]

Toward the middle of the 17th century, a new Marrano colony grew up in London, partly of refugees who had been settled for a time at Rouen and the Canary Islands. The revolution and the spread of extreme Puritan doctrine among the English people led to the development of a spirit more favorable to the Jews, which increased proportionately with the importance attached to the Old Testament.

Sir Henry *Finch, Roger Williams, Edward *Nicholas, and John Sadler were among the notables who joined in the agitation for the formal readmission of the Jews into England, whether as a measure of humanity or in the hopes of securing their conversion. The economic revival under *Cromwell, coupled with his anti-Spanish policy, combined to create an atmosphere more and more favorable to the Marrano merchants, some of whom, such as Antonio Fernandez *Carvajal, rendered the government valuable service in obtaining intelligence from the continent.

[Prophecy of an end of the dispersion in England]

Meanwhile, the reported discovery of Jews in America by Antonio (Aaron) de *Montezinos had led *Manasseh Ben Israel, the Amsterdam rabbi and mystic, to look forward to the millennium which would be ushered in by the completion of the dispersion through the official introduction of the Jews to the "end of the earth" ( Kezeh ha-Arez = Angle-Terre).

Negotiations with him, which had been going on fitfully since 1650, came to a head with his arrival in England in the autumn of 1655. A petition presented on behalf of the Jews was backed up by his eloquent plea in the "Humble Addresses" (Amsterdam, 1655), presented to the Lord Protector.

[4 Dec. 1655: The Conference of Whitehall about the Jews - safety also after restauration after 1660 - protection laws in 1664, 1673, and 1685]

On December 4, 1655, a conference of notables met at Whitehall to consider the whole question. The judges present decided that there was no statute which excluded the Jews form the country. On the other hand, a large body of theological and mercantile opinion manifested itself, which would consent to readmission only on the (col. 752)

severest terms. After four sessions, Cromwell dissolved the conference before it arrived at a positive conclusion.

In the following March, the London Marranos presented a fresh petition, merely asking for permission to have their own burial ground and to be protected from disturbance in the performance of their religious ceremonies. Their position was meanwhile strengthened by a judicial ruling which restored the property of Antonio  *Robles (seized on the outbreak of war with Spain because of his Spanish nationality), mainly on the grounds that he was a Jew.

In July, as it seems, the petition of the previous March was at last taken into consideration and assented to by the Council of State. Although the relevant pages were subsequently torn out of the minute book, the settlement of the Jews in England was never thereafter seriously questioned. This was far from the formal recall for which Manasseh Ben Israel had hoped, but its very informality secured its continuance even after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and saved English Jewry from that special and inferior status which was the rule elsewhere in Europe.

The easygoing King Charles II was indeed little disposed, on his return to England, to reverse the arrangement which had become established under the Protectorate, in spite of anti-Jewish agitation fostered by Thomas Violet and embodied in a petition by the City of London. In 1664, in consequence of an attempt at blackmail made by the Earl of Berkshire and Paul Ricaut, the community received from the Crown a formal promise of protection, and in 1673, after another petty persecution, a guarantee of freedom of worship, which was confirmed in similar circumstances in 1685.

[Stuarts: no special taxation - indirect parliamentary recognition of Judaism by Blasphemy act in 1698 - growth of Jewish communities - some restrictions stay - Jews in the Empire - Holland connections]

This pragmatic policy of protection for the Jews was continued throughout the reigns of the later Stuarts. Suggestions for special taxation (which must inevitably have led to special status) were not implemented. The legality of the practice of Judaism in England at last received indirect parliamentary recognition in the Act for Suppressing Blasphemy of 1698.

The community henceforth grew in wealth and in importance. Its numbers were increased by immigrants, principally from Amsterdam, or else directly from Spain and Portugal. Its position was consistently favorable, despite certain vexatious restrictions - e.g., the obligation to support their children even after conversion to Christianity (col. 753)

and the limitation of the number of "Jew Brokers" in the City of London to 12.

The only other community in the British Isles was a small Sephardi group in *Dublin. Nevertheless Jews figures in an increasing proportion in the growing colonial empire - at *Tangier, *New York, *Bombay, and in the West Indies - especially *Jamaica and *Barbados. Numbers rapidly grew in the final years of the 17th century, particularly during the period of the close connection with Holland under William of Orange, when several families came over from Amsterdam.

[1701: new synagogue - coral trade - Jewish financiers - Jews in high professions - Ashkenazi immigration - Ashkenazi professions and communities]

A new synagogue, now classified as an historic monument, was erected in Bevis Marks in London in 1701. The upper class of the community was composed of brokers and foreign traders; the lucrative coral trade, for example, was almost entirely in their hands. Jews entered gradually into various aspects of the country's life. Mention may be made of city magnates, such as Samson *Gideon and Joseph *Salvador, whose financial advice was sought by successive ministries, and of Jacob de *Castro Sarmento, a notable physician and scientist, of Moses *Mendes, the poet, and of Emanuel *Mendes da Costa, clerk and librarian of the Royal Society and a prolific writer.

Meanwhile, an influx of Ashkenazim had followed upon the Sephardi pioneers. The forerunners came principally from Amsterdam and Hamburg, but they were followed by others from other parts of Germany and elsewhere, and later in increasing numbers from Eastern Europe. About 1690, a small Ashkenazi community was formed in London.

In 1706, as the result of a communal dispute, a second was formed, and in 1761, a third. The newcomers were, for the most part, distinctly lower in social and commercial status than their Sephardi precursors. A large number of them were occupied in itinerant trading in country areas where the Jewish peddler became a familiar figure. They  generally returned to pass the Sabbath in some provincial center. Thus congregations, several of which have since disappeared, grew up in the course of the second half of the 18th century in many country towns - Canterbury, Norwich, Exeter and others, as well as ports such as *Portsmouth, *Liverpool, Bristol, *Plymouth, King's Lynn, *Penzance, and Falmouth, and manufacturing centers such as *Birmingham and *Manchester. London remained, however, the only considerable center.

[1753: naturalization by "The Jew Bill" fails because of anti-Semitism - since 1760: Jewish monitoring committee]

The external history of the Jews in England was meanwhile tranquil. In 1753 the introduction to Parliament of the Jewish Naturalization Bill ("The Jew Bill"), giving foreign-born Jews facilities for acquiring the privileges (col. 754)

enjoyed by their native-born children, resulted in an anti-Jewish agitation so virulent that the government withdrew the measure; but it was not accompanied by physical violence. Political opposition, on the other hand, led to greater solidarity among the various sections of the community.

From 1760 representatives of the Ashkenazi congregations began to act intermittently with the deputados [[deputies]] of the Sephardim as a watch-committee in matters of common interest. This gradually developed into the London Committee of Deputies of British Jews (usually known as the *Board of Deputies), ultimately comprising representatives also of provincial and (in a minor degree) "colonial" congregations, which assumed its present form in the middle of the 19th century.> (col. 755)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 753-754
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 753-754
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                            vol.6, col. 755-756
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 755-756