Posts Tagged ‘Seventh Day Adventists’

Articles on Bristol’s Jewish Community

September 11, 2021

I found a couple of very interesting articles on Bristol’s Jewish community in Max Barnes’ Bristol A-Z: Fascinating Stories of Bristol through the ages, published by the Bristol Evening Post c. 1970. Bristol has had a Jewish community for centuries. There was a Jewish quarter in the city in the Middle Ages. Way back in the 90s a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with the Hebrew inscription, ‘Zacklim’, ‘flowing’, was found on Jacob’s Wells’ Road. They were expelled by Edward I along with the rest of England’s Jews, but returned after Oliver Cromwell once again opened the doors to Jewish immigrants. They were certainly present in the 18th century, when one Bristolian, looking for a doctor, said that he had no objection to a Jewish doctor, provided he claimed to believe in Christianity. In the 1820s one outraged commenter complained that the city’s corporation included not just Anglicans, but also Protestant non-Conformists and even Jews! There was also a very imposing synagogue in Park Row. This had giant Hebrew characters over its entrance and seemed to be cut into the very rock of St. Michael’s Hill. I haven’t seen it recently, so I wonder whether it’s still around, or if it’s simply the case that more recent building work has covered up the Hebrew inscription.

The article ‘Jews’ in the book runs

The first Jews settled in a confined area between St John’s Gate and St. Gile’s Gate. As Jews they were banned from living inside the walled town itself.

Their sole business was money lending. Like Jews down through the ages they suffered a lot of persecution. Once their houses were pillaged and burned by a mob led by William Giffard, a man who had had many financial dealings with the Jews and in 1275 took this brutal course to destroy the records and clear his debts.

Another Jew who refused to pay heavy ransom money to King John was hauled off to Bristol castle.

The king’s torturers pulled out one of his molar teeth each day. He had lost seven teeth before he paid up.

I think it was the poor man’s daughter who persuaded him to pay the money before he lost all his teeth. I think money lending was the only trade Jews in this country could legally pursue. Giffard’s pogrom against them was, I think, part of a number of anti-Semitic attacks and riots led by members of the aristocracy. The real reason behind them was that aristocracy at the time was in debt to Jewish moneylenders, and this was their way of getting out of it.

There’s another article on the Jewish author, Israel Zangwill, who also apparently was educated in Bristol. I doubt many people have heard of him today except experts in modern Jewish literature, but from reading the article he seems to have been a powerful force in the development of modern Jewish literature. The article says

Novelist and playwright (1864-1926) went to school in Bristol.

He was the son of a Russian Jewish refugee who escaped from Russia in 1848 from a death sentence for a military offence. Zangwill was known as a richly gifted but outspoken humanist. He was a champion of unpopular causes. His novel “Children of the Ghetto” was dramatised in 1899 and played in Yiddish and English in New York.

Imperial Russia had a policy of conscripting Jews into the army. It was used as a method of forced conversion, with Jewish troopers singled out for bullying and beating. I suspect that Zangwill’s father may have not taken the abuse, hence the death sentence for some kind of military offence. More recent victims of such maltreatment in the Russian army included Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostalist Christians under Communism. I can’t remember which one, but one of these sects was persecuted because they’re pacifists who reject military service. And the Pentecostalists were subjected to the persecution under the guise of all kinds of stupid conspiracy theories. They’re abstainers, refusing to touch tobacco and alcohol, and as a result tended to be wealthier than ordinary Russians. As a result, there was a story propagated that accused them of receiving money from the CIA through a ship that landed annually at a secret location. It’s the same kind of stupid, murderous rumour about treachery as the source of secret wealth that has been used against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Bristol’s Jewish community seems to have had a fascinating history, and its monuments are part of the city’s rich architectural heritage.

And real persecution and conspiracy theories are wrong and dangerous, whether levelled against Jews, Christians, Muslims or anyone. They are not things to be cynically used to expel left-wing peeps and non-Zionist Jews from Labour.