Are you curious? Are you well organised? Are you interested in undertaking research? Would you like to contribute to our project?
Discovering & Documenting England’s Lost Jews delves into the heritage of the Sephardim who have settled in this country since the 17th century. A vital part of our project focuses on researching aspects of this exciting history. We will be looking into key political events of an English state turned upside down by Oliver Cromwell at a time of fervent religious debate.
Questions we will ask are what was it like to be a Sephardi Jew – secretly or openly – in a country that had known no Jews for centuries? What did the Jews find in England? What did the English make of the Jews who arrived? What did the Jews bring with them to the host society? What language did the Jews speak when they fled persecution by the Catholic Inquisition? And we need your help to find the answers.
In return, not only will you discover little known narratives about this exciting history, but you will develop research skills, such as reading through archival material; picking out information that helps to illustrate the different project activities; summarising such information and referencing it; and relating it to the history of the periods that the project covers. You will get a chance to make use of the British Library and/or the London Metropolitan Archive, where much relevant material is located.
We will explore how the Jewish communities, who trickled in to England, gradually led to their acceptance as citizens. Elements of our research will be fed in to our site-specific performance One Lost Stone on 22 September at Novo Cemetery. Our discoveries will also inform our programme of educational workshops.
Eight historical moments are key to our research:
- Historical antecedent: the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290.
- The Sephardi exodus: expulsion and departure of Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century.
- The tiny community of secret Jews (crypto-Jews) in England during the 16th and earlier 17th centuries.
- The circumstances around the re-admittance of Jews in the 1650s.
- The slow growth of the Sephardi community following re-admittance, in the second half of the 17th century.
- The Jewish Naturalisation Act 1753, and its subsequent repeal.
- Sephardi Jews prominent in 19th century British society.
- The 20th century wave of ‘new’ Sephardi immigration.
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to know more about this, please contact Stéphane Goldstein, at firstname.lastname@example.org.