Conceived in 2005 as the UK prepared to mark the 350th anniversary of the readmittance of Jews to England the following year, JTrails was the brainchild of historian, lecturer and author Marcus Roberts, an expert in the field of Anglo-Jewish heritage. Teaming up with Robin and Nitza Spiro, pioneers and innovators in Anglo-Jewish education, the trio have been able to bring considerable experience and enthusiasm to the project, securing support from English Heritage and combining their skills to bring the initiative to fruition. Initially funded by Spiro Ark, JTrails has received further financial backing from, amongst others, the Pears Foundation and the Clore-Duffield Foundation.
Marcus Roberts - Director of National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail
Involved in the study of Anglo-Jewish heritage for the past two decades, Marcus has conducted intensive research into more than 30 Jewish communities across the UK. A member of Council for the Jewish Historical Society of England, he has written a large number of Jewish heritage trails and personally led many visitors on such trails, starting with the Oxford trail in 1990.
Over the years, Marcus has made a number of significant contributions to Anglo-Jewish research. As well as rediscovering the site and remains of Northampton's medieval Jewish cemetery and synagogue, he helped reidentify England's only example of a medieval Jewish tombstone.
Marcus has a number of publications in the field, including an article in the Journal of Medieval Archeology, a book on the history of the Home for Aged Jews at Nightingale House and several articles on Jewish heritage in the Jewish Chronicle and other national and local publications.
A lecturer on Anglo-Jewry at the JHSE, Oxford Museum and many other venues, he has a professional background in the heritage industry, having run his own heritage tour business in Oxford for nearly ten years. He is also a qualified teacher, working in both schools and universities.
Other experience has included working as a freelance copy editor for publishers Vallentine Mitchell and Frank Cass, working on the Holocaust Testimony Library, as well as a number of political titles.
A graduate student at Oxford, Marcus was also one of the founders of the university’s legendary L'Chaim Society, a leading student charity organisation that had 2,000 members and garnered an international reputation with its Jewish educational outreach programmes over its ten year history.
Robin & Nitza Spiro - The Spiro Ark
Recently voted the 37th most influential Jews in Britain, Robin and Nitza Spiro, through the creation and success of the Spiro Institute and latterly the Spiro Ark, have been leading innovators in Jewish historical and cultural education, since 1978.
The Spiro's programmes are multifaceted, with a national and international scope, offering Jewish history, culture, music, theatre, innovative teaching of Hebrew and Yiddish, complemented with cultural and historical tours and heritage trails.
Highlights of their work have included the creation of the ‘Modern Jewish History’ AO Level which was an innovation that attracted several thousands participants over a 20 year period and was backed by the GLC for its valuable contribution to race relations. This innovation was followed by the creation of the ‘The Jewish Enigma’, a joint project of the Spiros in partnership with the Open University and the BBC, and the first multimedia course to be produced in English in any part of the world.
The Spiro Ark has promoted Jewish heritage tours at home and abroad over many years and has, more recently, contributed to the European Day of Jewish Culture with a series of Anglo-Jewish heritage tours led by their JTrails partner Marcus Roberts.
Involved in JTrails since its inception, Robin and Nitza believe promoting awareness of the Jewish community’s history and inviting individuals to research and recount their own histories on the site will further interest in the study of the ‘miracle’ of Jewish history and survival, one of their principal aims from the outset of their work 30 years ago.
As well as launching JTrails with Marcus, 2006 also saw the Spiros introduce Tzavta (‘togetherness’ in Hebrew) as a new department of the Spiro Ark. The object of Tzavta is to present a variety of programmes and events revealing the extraordinary advances of Israel in the fields of science and culture to both the Jewish and general public.