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JTRAILS SELF-STUDY PACK - 'The Story of England's Jews'

This Study Pack is for use as training material by Jewish Heritage Guides (and Guardians)in conjunction with the 'The Story of England's Jews' booklet available in the 'About Us' section of the site.

This pack can also be used for general interest learning if you want a convenient and structured course in Anglo-Jewish History.

This pack has been used by our training guides who have felt that it has helped them to understand the narrative of Anglo-Jewish History and to remember key facts and issues about the the Jewish experience in England.

Questions and activities:

Section 1

Read,' The Story of England's Jews', 'The Jews arrive in England', p. 3- 10.

1. Make a time-line starting with the arrival of the Jews after 1066 and as you read this chapter, and each subsequent chapter, add key events and facts to the time-line as you go along, so that you build up a summary of the history of the Jews in England that will help you review and learn the history as you go along. This can be done on a number of sheets which can later be stuck together and even put up on a convenient wall or notice board. If you use colour and add illustrations on the time-line, or simple cartoon images this will make it more memorable!

2. In what ways were the medieval Jews of England a minority and how were they different to the surrounding population, what relationship did they have to the King?

3. Describe the business of money-lending , why was it so significant to the Jewish community; would you describe it as a secure occupation and why do you think that the historical record is strongly biased to the record of Jewish financial transactions?

4. What other occupations were followed by medieval Jews -- why was it significant that they could not join medieval trade guilds?

5. Describe (and sketch) a typical Jewish stone house that might have belonged to one of the richest members of the Jewish community -- what made them so distinctive? What sort of houses did other Jews live in? What other facilities were there in the community?

Section 2

Read 'The English Jews, from the Conquest to 1200' p. 10-15

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. In medieval times Jews lived in the communities under protection of the King. Mostly relations were peaceful in the 11th and 12th centuries, but they were teased and taxed -- give examples of both of these.

3. Explain the 'blood libel' allegation and give one example; what were the motives behind the blood libels?

4. Why is the reign of Henry II particularly significant to the Jews of England, why was it both a high-point and a turning point?

5. Why were the Crusades so dangerous to the Jewish community -- give examples?

Section 3

Read, 'The Jews from 1200 to the General Expulsion in 1290', p.15-22

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. What was the archae system and why did the increasing transference of debts of the Jews to the Crown make the Jews the target of resentment among the barons in particular?

3. Why did many Jews flee back to Europe in 1214 and why was the Bristol Tallage an important moment in the fortunes of the Jews of England?

4. What was the Edict of Oxford in 1222 and what effect did it have on Jewish life in England?

5. Would it be fair to say that Henry III policies toward his Jews were ones of reckless exploitation?

6. What were the Baron's Wars and what effect did the Baron's Wars have on the Jewish community?

7. What restrictions did Edward I put on the financial activities of the Jews; could he be said to have been a social reformer?

8. What were the results of Edward's policies towards the Jews?

9. Why did Edward I expel the Jews of England in 1290 and what happened next?

Section 4

Read, 'The Middle Period', p. 22-23

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. What sort of Jews lived in England, in the 'middle period' between 1290 and 1655; who were the murrano Jews and where did they mostly come from?

3. Were any Jews officially permitted to live in England?

Section 5
Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p. 24-29

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. The Puritans of the 17th century were sympathetic to the Jews. What was it about Puritan beliefs that made them philo-Semitic?

3. How did the Amsterdam rabbi and scholar, Manasseh ben Israel, persuade Oliver Crowell to re-admit the Jews in 1655. Was the re-admittance of the Jews ever made 'official' and if not, why not?

4. Why were the pro-Catholic kings, Charles II and James II, favourable to the Jews in England? In what ways was William of Orange also tolerant of the Jewish community?

5. Who were the Sephardic Jews and why were they important in the Jewish history of England in this period?

6. What was the Jewish involvement with the Royal Exchange in this period, what did the Royal Exchange later become?

Section 6

Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p. 29 -35

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. Ashkenazi Jews also came over to England from about the 1670's; where did they come from and why did they set up separate communities -- what did the Sephardim think of them?

3. Explain the problems of the Sephardic community in the eighteenth century and how this worked against the long-term success of the community.

4. How did Benjamin Disraeli's father become alienated from the Sephardic community, thus enabling the rise of a baptised Jew as Prime Minister?

5. How and why did the Askenazic Jews spread into the provinces? What were their main trades and occupations? What types of locations were preferred and why? Were they united in their religious practice?

6. How did the Napoleonic Wars aid Jewish settlement, describe the activities of Navy Agents and Slop Sellers?

7. What was the 'Jew bill' of 1753 and why was it important?

8. Is it fair to say that the arrival of the railways in the provinces from the 1840s was disastrous to provincial Jewry?

Section 6

Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p.35-41

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. Draw a graph of the numbers of Jews in Britain from 1650 to 1880 and try to mark the approximate percentage of Sephardim and Ashkenazim on it?

3. By 1880, where did the majority of Jews live and what was their social class. What political expectations had this group attained? What were the major Jewish occupations in London in the later Victorian era?

4. What difficulties did the need to take the Christian Oath create for 19th century Jews? Explain how this problem was gradually solved?

5. What was the movement for Jewish Emancipation and how was it attained?

6. Who were the 'Cousinhood', describe their effect on Jewish life and religion in the Victorian era -- was their influence positive? Why did their influence wane?

7. Why was the late 19th Century a Golden Era for the Anglo-Jewish community? Why was Sir Moses Montefiore so important in this context?

8. How was Jewish religious life reformed in the 19th century?

Section 7

Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p.41-48

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. What were the main causes of the Great Immigration from 1881 onwards?

3. Make two outline maps of Britain, showing the main locations of Jewish population before and after the great Jewish immigration of 1880 -- 1917.

4. Why was the East End of London the destination of choice for so many immigrants? What were the favoured occupations?

5. What was 'sweated labour' and why were so many Jewish immigrants 'sweated labourers'?

6. Were the new immigrants welcomed by the established Jewish community and its leaders? Were the new immigrants a threat to the established Jewish order in England? How did the established Jewish community help the new-comers?

7. Imagine you are David Levy a new immigrant from Russia in 1890. You are in your 20's and do not speak any English. Write a short letter describing your first weeks in England and how you settled down and found work and how you found life in Britain.

8. Why was the 'Aliens Act' of 1905 introduced and what did it mean for Jewish immigration? Did the act make provision for political asylum? Do you see parallels with current political concerns about immigration?

9. What part did Anglo-Jews play in World War I? What problems did World War I raise for newly arrived Jews of Russian origin eligible for military service? What happened to some Jews who were mistaken for 'enemy aliens'?

Section 8.

Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p.49 -58

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. Why was there a growth in Anti-Semitism after World War I? What was the extent of the problem? Why do you think that Jews continued to anglicise their surnames if they sounded foreign or Jewish?

3. What was the significance of Sir Oswald Mosley and his 'Blackshirts' to the Jews of the East End? What was the battle of Cable Street in 1936 and why was it a turning point?

4. Was the Zionist cause universally supported among British Jews? Why was Britain a particularly important country in the development of Zionism, particularly after the First World War? How did Britain's role in Palestine create difficulties for Jews in Britain?

5. During World War II how were British Jewish loyalties tested in terms of the flood of immigrants and refugees from Nazi occupation? What did British Jews do to help the new immigrants and what were their reservations?

6. What role did British Jews play in World War II? Why were many Jews interned at the start of the War? What role did the Jewish refugees eventually play in the War effort?

7. What effect did the mass movement of Jewish evacuees and refugees have on provincial Jewish communities? What result did the War have on the Jewish East End?

Section 9

Read, 'The Modern Jewish Community, 1655 -- 2006', p.58 -53

1. Continue to develop your time-line of key events and facts.

2. What major change has occurred in Jewish population in Britain since the War -- how do you account for it? Do you think the assertion that that there will be no Jewish community in England in 50 years time as accurate?

3. How fair is it to claim that, 'Support for Israel has replaced religious identity for Anglo-Jews'. What role did support for Israel play in the Jewish community British Jews, following the Six Day War in 1967? How universal is support for Israel currently in the Jewish community?

4. After World War II, what have been the main sources of Anti-Semitism in Britain? To what extent has Anti-Semitism changed in the post-War decades - is resurgent Islam connected to it and changing perceptions of the state of Israel?

5. To what extent can the United Synagogue now claim to represent the religion of Anglo-Jewry? Describe the growth of the Reform and Masorti Movements post-war. Why is Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy increasingly important? How united is contemporary Anglo-Jewry?

6. Look up on the internet the number of Jews in the Cabinet for the last 25 years and then discuss the variations and why you think they occurred?

7. Is there a current problem of 'Jewish identity', do you regard assimilation of Jews to main-stream culture as a significant issue?

By Marcus Roberts and contributions by Hila Bram

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