Marcus Roberts


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There were no Jews recorded in Lincoln from 1290 until the modern era. In 1655 Oliver Crowell readmitted Jews to England, following the petition of Manasseh ben Israel. Ironically, it had been assumed that the original Expulsion edict expelling the Jews from England was the continuing law of the land, but Cromwell's inquiries revealed it was only a temporary royal prerogative of Edward I and Jews could have returned lawfully in any case.

Jews started returning to Lincoln by the second half of the 18th century. Nathan Elias was identified as coming from Lincoln when he was admitted to membership of the Great Synagogue in 1766/7. He is first named Lincoln Jew of modern times. Another was Samuel Samuel, an itinerant jeweler who died in 1804 -- his son Emanuel was to be one of the first persons of Jewish birth to be admitted to the University of Oxford. Mordecai Moses (originally of Frankfurt) was a silver smith, who died in 1810, and a Lyon Jacob advertised his availability as a teacher of Hebrew in the early 1800s. There was also an S. Cohen in Lincoln in 1848.

Other Jews have now been clearly identified in local records for this period up to 1867 and were largely Jewelers and second hand clothes sellers. Jonas Lazarus was a trader in second hand clothes with a shop on Steep Hill, who often appeared in Magistrates court in the 1840s, because locals would try and sell stolen clothes through his shop, or they would try and steal his own stock. The court records make it abundantly clear that these people are Jews as they are often referred to as such and several sign their name in Hebrew. An Isaac Mayers of 3 Saltergate, a jeweler, also gave evidence in court proceedings of this period and is referred to as 'the Jew' by one of the working class defendants.

It is most likely that the rise of the nearby Jewish community at Grimsby, especially given the coincidence of dates, brought an end to Jewish life in the town. The Grimsby community was founded in 1865 and by 1871 there were over 40 Jews in this community, just when we hear the last of the Victorian Jews of Lincoln.

Cecil Roth wrote in The Rise of Provincial Anglo-Jewry that during these years in Lincoln, '...there was possibly an organised religious life all traces of which have now disappeared'. He also pointed out, given the city's long Jewish tradition: 'It can hardly be imagined that so numerous group did not hold regular religious services.' While there was perhaps a century of tenuous Jewish life into the mid-19th century, the impression is that this second Jewish community died out in its turn. From that time until the re-founding of the modern community, there were few if any Jews in Lincoln.

In 1932 the officers of the Jewish Historical Society of England, including a young Cecil Roth, undertook a visit to see the Jewish heritage of Lincoln and were warmly welcomed by the city and cathedral. At the reception it was joked, to the amusement of all, that if the Jewish party had given the city a little more notice, they could have even produced the work-man who had dug the fake Little St Hugh's well at the Jew's Court!

A correspondent from the Council of Christians and Jews has noted that a 'Jewish Brigade' was based in Lincoln in the Second World War and it is certain there would have been many other Jewish service personnel in and around the city whose stories remain to be told.

In 1992, moves to form the Lincolnshire Jewish Community (LJC) began. Richard Dale, with the help of the Nottingham Progressive Synagogue, held the first meeting of the LJC at the Friend's Meeting House in Lincoln. Then in 1993 an advert was placed in the press, inviting Jews in Lincoln and Lincolnshire to come to an open-day. Sixty people attended and the basis of the LJC community was laid. The community meets regularly at Jew's Court (the headquarters of the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archeology from whom a meeting room is rented to serve as a synagogue). The Community has now celebrated its first circumcision, Bat Mitzvah (the female counter-part of Bar Mitzvah or coming of age ceremony), and wedding. Don Gould was appointed first Life President of the Lincoln Jewish Community in 2004. The Cathedral acknowledges its Jewish connections and has supported a re-born Jewish community in exemplary fashion. The community have cordial inter-faith relations with the Cathedral, which were demonstrated when Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein preached at Lincoln Cathedral. Jewish academics, such as Narin van Court, have spoken about the Jewish heritage of the City and Cathedral, at the Cathedral as well and has been active in opening a debate about the way in which the Jewish history of Lincoln and elsewhere is presented. In 2006 the Dean invited LJC members to a Shabbat evening supper in the Cathedral Chapter House.

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