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 explore how this group of Jews, who fled the terrors of the Inquisition, remained to become 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. 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.
On Sunday 5th July 2020 we will launch One Lost Stone, an interactive website within the Lost Jews site. The site will offer an informative and inspiring artistic journey and multimedia response to the Novo Cemetery.
This will reveal elements of the secret histories of Jews coming to England and feature dynamic personalities such boxer Daniel Mendoza and former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. It will be a collaborative new work, directed by Thomas Kampe.
One Lost Stone was originally planned to take place in the grounds of Queen Mary University, London and at the Novo Cemetery, to reveal aspects of the area’s fascinating, buried communities.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, One Lost Stone will now be an online event, sourced by the stimulating resources collected throughout the project. From 5 July, the website will feature film, performance, poetry, research, exciting stories and music.
There are many different ways in which you can contribute and participate in our project. Volunteer for training as an oral history interviewer, assist in our research or simply share your story.
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Photo top : Hiding and Secrecy Workshop, Bevis Marks Synagogue Photo: Yaron Lapid