Since 2005, Julia Pascal, Artistic Director of Pascal Theatre Company, has been researching the journeys and histories of the Sephardi Jews who left Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century to find refuge in the Balkans and across the Mediterranean basin.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Discovering & Documenting England’s Lost Jews will continue to explore and document the hidden histories of the Sephardi Jews who came to England during the 17th century and who remained to enrich England’s culture. The aim of this research is to explore this specific history in depth. We will reveal concealed narratives and explore how this group of Jews, who fled the terrors of the Inquisition, remained to become English and British citizens. They arrived with the memory of a Spanish and Portuguese cultural legacy, marking them as quite different from Britain’s later Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. At first, these Sephardim in England hid their Jewish identity and their presence defied King Edward’s 1290 dictum expelling all Jews on pain of death. This royal edict made England the first European country to deport Jews.
We can see the intersection of several languages, cultures and religions in this wide-reaching story of dispersion and exile. Our aim is to bring communities together, to illuminate a rich history, and to help new generations become aware of overlapping histories, customs and experiences.
The project began in January 2019 with a series of free drama workshops at Bevis Marks Synagogue. It continues with a programme of interviews with Sephardim as oral histories to be recorded for future generations.
One Lost Stone, a site-specific performance at Novo Cemetery in Queen Mary University of London, will be presented in September 2019. This will reveal elements of the secret histories of Jews coming to England and will feature dynamic personalities such as the boxer Daniel Mendoza and former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. It will be a collaborative new work written by volunteers under the guidance of Julia Pascal, directed by Thomas Kampe.
The final showing of all work will be in 2020 at a London museum location. The range of our discoveries and of our educational work will be seen on film. At this point there will be talks by personalities of Sephardi background and a panel discussion.
There are many different ways in which you can contribute and participate in our project. Volunteer for training as an oral history interviewer, share your stories, participate as a performer/guide in the performance or join the audiences. Sign up to our mailing list and be first to find out about these and new opportunities. Follow us on social media, and through #LostJews