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28 October 2014

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Lincolnshire Jewish Community
The Ark and tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Lincolnshire has a small but vigorous Jewish community - find out more as Eric Weil gives us a history of the community and tells us how you can get in touch.
Services are held on the first and third Sabbath of each month and on High Holy Days


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The Modern Lincolnshire Jewish Community

There was a Jewish Community in Lincoln in the Middle Ages until the expulsion of the Jews in 1290.

It is possible that religious services were held in the same room as that in which they are held now in Jews Court on Steep Hill. The Ark that forms a central feature of the room in which the services take place, with its Star of David on the doors, probably housed the scrolls in earlier times too.

The first Sabbath service in modern times was held on the 12th September 1992 and on the 22nd September 1996 the plaque which you can see in Jews Court was unveiled.

The community now it is small but vigorous and holds services on the first and the third Sabbath of each month as well as on the High Holy Days. They are conducted by the community's lay readers and sometimes by invited lay readers or Rabbis.

Any Jews who would like to get in touch with the community and participate in the services are welcome to contact E.B.Weil on 01526 378574.

Reading from a scroll.

You will see below photographs of one of the community's lay readers about to read from the scroll, and also holding the scroll up for the congregation after the reading. There is also a photograph of the Ark with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments next to it.

One of the most unpleasant libels about Jews in Lincoln in the middle ages concerns the alleged murder of little Hugh. Some facts about this are given below.

The Murder of Little Hugh

On 27th August 1255 in Lincoln, Hugh an eight-year-old boy disappeared whilst out playing. His mother raised the alarm and after a long search, Hugh's body was found at the bottom of the well. People accused the Jews of murdering the child and using his blood to make matzos for Passover. This was a ridiculous accusation since the consumption of blood, even animal blood, is strictly forbidden under Jewish law and Passover occurs in March/April not in August.

Holding the scroll up for the congregation for reading.

Over ninety Jews were arrested, tortured and imprisoned in the tower of London. The Franciscan Friars tried to plead their case in court, but eighteen Jews were executed and the rest kept imprisoned for months until the Jewish community from all over England had raised a massive sum to ransom them.

Why were the Jews falsely accused?

Several Popes and Christian leaders as early as the thirteenth century denounced the blood libels as nonsense and forbade Christians to accuse Jews of ritual murder, but it made little difference for there was another motive involve - money.

Money lending was forbidden by the Christian church, but it was one of the few professions they permitted Jews to follow and many people owed money to the Jews, including the authorities of Lincoln Cathedral. At that time all Jews were servi camerae (chattels of the king) so any money owed to them was technically owed to the throne. But King Henry III, desperate for money had sold his rights over the Jews to the Duke of Cornwall. The only way could get his hands on their money was to have them convicted of a capital offence because the property of anyone executed was forfeit to the king. It is no coincidence that those hanged were among the wealthiest Jews in England. It also suited local people to accuse the Jews since it gave them the opportunity to ransack their houses and destroy the records of debt.


In 1911, Mr Dodgson who then owned Jews Court on Steep Hill, Lincoln charged visitors 3d to see the well in the basement of Jews Court, claiming it was the very well Little Hugh had been found in. Plenty of people bought a ticket, but they were duped for not only was there no connection between Jews Court and Little Hugh, but the well had only been dug in 1910 by Harry Staples of Hereward Street, Lincoln, on Mr Dodgson's instructions.

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