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Jewish Museum, London

Also go to  a-chronology-of-the-jews-in-britain

1066 Establishment of first recorded Jewish settlement in Britain.

Jewish settlers arrive in Britain for the first time, following William the Conqueror across the Channel from Rouen, the capital of Normandy.

1144 The Blood Libel.

Jews are blamed for the murder of a boy called William in Norwich, although there is no evidence, and the sheriff does not think the accusation even justifies a trial. William is hailed as a martyr by the monks of Norwich cathedral, and the story incites attacks against Jewish communities.

1189 Coronation of Richard I.

Richard becomes known as the Crusader King. His crusades against ‘the infidel’ in the Holy Land, and the preaching associated with them, foster a spirit of religious intolerance. This leads to attacks on English Jews.

1190 Clifford’s Tower

The Jews of York take refuge from a mob in Clifford’s Tower, a fortified building in which they are besieged along with their religious leader, Rabbi Yom Tov. He advises them to kill themselves rather than be captured, and they commit mass suicide.

1215 Wearing of the tabula imposed.

After the Lateran Council of 1215, English Jews are forced to wear a distinguishing mark called a tabula - a white piece of cloth shaped like the Ten Commandments. They are encouraged to convert to Christianity.

1233 Expulsions from towns.

A series of expulsions of the Jewish population from various towns begins, and unprovoked attacks are made even in areas where relations had been friendly.

1278 Coin-clipping trials.

Edward I imprisons all Jews, on suspicion of coin-clipping. 293 Jewish people are executed in London alone.

1290 Edict of Expulsion issued.

Edward I has taxed the Jewish community so heavily, and restricted their trading so much, that they have become economically helpless. They are no longer a useful source of revenue for him, and he issues an Edict of Expulsion ordering all Jews to leave the country.

1492 Expulsion from Spain.

Jews in Spain have been subject to violent anti-Semitism, including persecution by the Inquisition. A decree is passed that all Jews must leave the country; those who stay in Spain must choose either baptism or death. Many of them move to Portugal, but they also face persecution there.

1535 Inquisition established in Portugal.

Inquisition established in Portugal. An Inquisition is established in Portugal, and starts to burn people at the stake for practising Judaism. A small number of refugees from Spain and Portugal settle in England; while they attend church and worship outwardly as Christians, they continue to practise Judaism in private.

1594 Execution of Rodrigo Lopez.

The Portuguese Dr Rodrigo Lopez is physician to Queen Elizabeth I, and a secret Jew. He is accused of plotting to poison the Queen, and executed as a traitor, although Elizabeth’s kind treatment of his widow casts doubt on the strength of the accusation.

1600 Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ first published.

‘The Merchant of Venice,’ written in 1598, may well have been inspired by the execution of Rodrigo Lopez. Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘The Jew of Malta’ was revived around the same time.

1655 Menasseh ben Israel comes to England.

A rabbi from Amsterdam, Menasseh ben Israel, visits England to petition Oliver Cromwell to allow Jews to return to England so that the Messianic age can come.

1656 Readmission of Jews to England.

After lengthy discussion in Cromwell’s Parliament, it is agreed that the 1290 Edict of Expulsion applied only to Jews living in England at that time, and that therefore Jewish communities may re-establish themselves in this country. The first settlers to arrive are Sephardi Jews from Spain and Portugal.

1657 First post-readmission synagogue founded.

First post-readmission synagogue founded. Antonio Fernandes Carvajal, a Portuguese wine merchant and long-time resident of London, establishes a small synagogue in Creechurch Lane, Aldgate, for the community of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. A burial ground is also leased.

1692 Great Synagogue founded.

The first synagogue of the Ashkenazi community in England is founded in Duke’s Place, in the City of London. This reflects the fact that Sephardi Jews are being joined in England by Ashkenazim, Jews of Central and Eastern European background, mostly from Germany.

1701 Bevis Marks synagogue founded.

The growth of the Sephardi community necessitates the building of a larger synagogue. Bevis Marks, still in use in the 21st century, can seat 400 men and 160 women, and is the oldest surviving synagogue in Britain.

1707 Hambro Synagogue founded.

The Hambro Synagogue is founded by Marcus Hamburger in his own house in Magpie Alley, Fenchurch Street, in response to a number of disputes between Hamburger and the Great Synagogue. It will remain on this site until 1893.

1753 Naturalisation Act passed.

A law is passed allowing Jewish people born outside England to be naturalised as full citizens without having to take the Sacrament according to the Church of England. There is a popular outcry, and the Act is repealed; the naturalisation of Jews will not be allowed until 1835.

1760 Board of Deputies founded.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is founded to represent the Jewish community’s interests to the government. It continues in its role today as the elected representative body of the British Jewish community on political and legal matters.

1761 New Synagogue founded.

The two German synagogues in London, the Great and the Hambro, are becoming too small for the rapidly increasing numbers of worshippers. Members of these two synagogues and some new immigrants combine to form what becomes known as the New Synagogue.

1788 Mendoza first becomes boxing champion of England.

Daniel Mendoza holds his title as boxing champion for most years from 1788 to 1795 and becomes a popular hero. He is the originator of a new, ‘scientific’ style of boxing which replaces mere brute force. His success encourages other Jewish boxers such as Samuel Elias and helps to improve the status of Jews in Britain.

1795 Norwood orphanage founded.

The organisation later known as Norwood is founded as The Jews’ Hospital. The Hospital will eventually amalgamate with the Jews’ Orphan Asylum, another East London charity. By 1860, 100 boys and 40 girls live there. The orphanage moves to West Norwood, South London, in 1861.

1812 Jews’ Free School founded.

The Jews’ Free School is established initially to educate poor Jewish children. It grows in size throughout the 19th century, and by 1900 is the biggest school in Europe, if not the world, with over 4000 pupils. Today it continues as a beacon school.

1837 Moses Montefiore knighted by Queen Victoria.

Sir Moses Montefiore was president of the Board of Deputies from 1835 to 1874, with only one brief interruption. For much of his life, he devoted himself to diplomatic efforts to improve the situation of Jewish people in countries such as Russia, Romania, Italy, Morocco and the Ottoman Empire.

1840 West London Synagogue founded.

The founding of the West London Synagogue marks a desire by some British Jews to worship in a way more in keeping with the customs of their adopted homeland. This is the start of Reform Judaism in Britain, which will gain support over the following decades.

1841 Jewish Chronicle established.

The Jewish Chronicle is a weekly newspaper which deals with all aspects of Jewish life in Britain and overseas. It is still published in the 21st century.

1855 David Salomons becomes Lord Mayor.

David Salomons, a merchant in the City of London, is elected Lord Mayor. A campaigner for Jewish civil rights, he is the first Jew to hold such a position, and will later be elected as a Member of Parliament.

1856 Jews allowed to take degrees at Cambridge University.

Jews, along with Protestant dissenters, are permitted to take degrees at Cambridge University for the first time. They have been admitted to London University since 1837, and will be allowed to take degrees at Oxford University in 1871.

1858 Lionel de Rothschild takes his seat in the House of Commons.

Lionel de Rothschild is finally admitted as the first practising Jewish Member of Parliament after being elected four times. The removal of the requirement that MPs take an oath ‘on the true faith of a Christian’ allows him to take his seat.

1868 Disraeli becomes PM for the first time.

Benjamin Disraeli, although baptised a Christian before he reached the age of 13, was born into a Jewish family. He will go on to be Prime Minister twice, but will continue to be regarded with suspicion by some members of the public because of his Jewish background.

1870 United Synagogue founded.

The United Synagogue is formed from a union of the Great, Hambro and New Synagogues, the three main Ashkenazi synagogues of London. Many other, smaller synagogues in London and elsewhere join in the following decades.

1871 George Jessel appointed Solicitor General.

George Jessel, a distinguished lawyer, is the first Jew to hold ministerial office. He will become Master of the Rolls in 1873. This is an important step in the increasing emancipation of British Jewry.

1881 Persecution of Jews in Russia leads to increased emigration

Persecution of Jews in Russia worsens as a result of unrest following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. In 1882 the May Laws are passed restricting the areas where Jews are allowed to live, and anti-Jewish riots or pogroms break out in a number of towns. Between 1881 and 1914, over 2 million Jews will emigrate from Eastern Europe.

1884 Marks & Spencer founded.

Michael Marks began an impressive retail career with a street stall in Leeds in 1870; a new immigrant from Eastern Europe, he did not even speak English. He founds Marks & Spencer along with a clerk of his acquaintance, and they go on to own a number of ‘penny bazaars,’ which develop into one of Britain’s flagship retail chains.

1885 Jews’ Temporary Shelter founded.

The Jews’ Temporary Shelter is one of numerous charitable institutions set up by the established Jewish community to help new immigrants from Eastern Europe. It provides temporary accommodation, and will serve a continuing need to Jewish immigrants and refugees from different areas for over a century.

1887 Federation of Synagogues founded.

The Federation of Synagogues is founded by Samuel Montagu as a means of uniting the many small congregations set up by the new Eastern European immigrants in East London.

1902 Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues founded.

The Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, initially known as the Jewish Religious Union, draws its inspiration from the work of Claude Montefiore, Lily Montagu and Rabbi Israel Mattuck. The first Liberal synagogue in England will open in 1911 in Marylebone, London, moving to its present location in St John’s Wood in 1925.

1905 Aliens Act passed.

This act is the first legislation restricting immigration to Britain in peacetime, and is aimed primarily at curbing Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe.

1914 Outbreak of the First World War.

Around 50,000 Jews serve in the British armed forces during the war. 27 year old Lieutenant Frank De Pass is the first Jew to win the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for bravery. He loses his life in action near Festubert, France.

1917 Balfour Declaration.

Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour writes a letter to Lord Rothschild pledging the British government’s support for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine.

1926 of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations founded.

Rabbi Dr Victor Schonfeld founds the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. The organisation is based in Stamford Hill, north London, a centre for Orthodox communities.

1932 Establishment of the Jewish Museum.

The Jewish Museum is set up in the library of the new Jews’ College in Woburn House, Tavistock Square, central London. The Museum’s founders include Wilfred Samuel, Cecil Roth and Alfred Rubens.

1936 Battle of Cable Street.

Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, attempts to lead a march through the East End of London, the culmination of a series of attacks on Jewish people and buildings in the area. A crowd of about 100,000 people fill the streets to stop the march, and clash with Mosley’s blackshirts.

1938 Kindertransport begins.

During 1938 and 1939, about 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees are admitted to Britain from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. They escape the worst horrors of Nazism, but many never see their parents again.

1939 Outbreak of the Second World War.

Thousands of Jewish people flee Nazi-occupied Europe, and about 60,000 of them come to England. Nearly half of these people are interned as enemy aliens, but this unpopular policy is soon abandoned and many of them go on to be active in the armed forces or on the Home Front. Around 60,000 Jewish men and women serve in the British armed forces.

1940 Start of the Blitz.

German bombing raids on London take place every night, typically involving 100 to 200 bombers. The East End, where many Jewish families live, is hit particularly hard, mainly because the docks are important targets.

1945 End of the Second World War.

With the end of the war in Europe, more than 250,000 Jewish displaced persons (DPs) are placed in refugee camps in Austria, Germany and Italy. The British government agrees to allow 1000 young survivors of the concentration camps to settle here, but only 732 can be found; the group becomes known as ‘The Boys.’

1948 State of Israel established.

Dr Chaim Weizmann, a research chemist at Manchester University and a prominent Zionist, will become the first President of the State of Israel in 1949. Many Jews are forced to leave Arab countries because of new anti-Israeli hostility. Although the majority settle in Israel, some Jews from North Africa, Iraq, Egypt and Aden come to Britain.

1962 Beginning of Masorti Judaism in Britain.

A theological dispute arises between the religious establishment and Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs, who argues that religious tradition is open to new interpretation drawing on the resources of modern scholarship. He founds the New London Synagogue, which flourishes, and is joined by others to form the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues.

1967 Six Day War.

The British Jewish community offers support to Israel in the form of volunteers, supplies and financial aid during the wars of 1967 and 1973.

2001 First Holocaust Memorial Day.

Holocaust Memorial Day is organised by the Home Office to commemorate all the communities who suffered as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and to demonstrate that the Holocaust is relevant to everyone in the UK today.

2006 350th Anniversary of the Readmission.

Jewish people celebrate 350 years since Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to settle in Britain once again, after the expulsions of the Middle Ages.