Worcester - the Medieval Community Remembered, by Miri Rubin


On Friday morning, JHSE Trustee Dawn Waterman and I attended a moving ceremony: the unveiling of a plaque in memory of the City's medieval community. That community was one of the poorest, but it shared many traits with other ones: its Jews were embedded in the local and regional economy; its families were few, but developed into dynasties; while most Jews lived and flourished locally, some sought wider networks promoted through advantageous marriages. Like other Jews those of Worcester suffered during the political unrest of the Baron's War, and unlike most they experienced expulsion in 1275 - 15 years before the kingdom-wide expulsion - when the Queen Mother signalled her virtue by expelling Jews from the cities she controlled. The Jews of Worcester had to move to Hereford, and soon after left the land with all other Jews.


There is no material trace of the Jews' homes, synagogue or miqveh, but the site of their residence is known. It is very near the Cathedral, an institutional partner in the financial transactions of many medieval Jews. The ceremony began at the Cathedral's Old Palace, where civic and religious leaders gathered, and marched to Copenhagen St, where the new plaque was unveiled. The Cathedral's Librarian had prepared a selection of medieval manuscripts which mention Jews: charters, medical texts and legal collections. It was pleasing to see some 50 people join the ceremony, beyond the core of invitees who included the sheriff, the Lord Lieutenant, the mayor, the Chief Rabbi's representative, the local MP, and more. Back at the Old Palace, over coffee and rugelach, we heard short addresses, including those of Dawn on behalf of the Board of Deputies, and mine on your behalf. The words of bishops and rabbis were truly moving. The Bishop of Worcester was particularly poignant as he called not only for apologies, but for a true repentance and a future of action towards dignity and respect to all.



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