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Archive for June, 2013

The Council of Christians and Jews is one of my favourite organisations in the UK. I am the Chairman of the Lincoln branch of CCJ. Recently the Leeds branch contacted the Lincoln branch to arrange a visit to Lincoln, to see some of the sights important to both Christians and Jews.

We agreed that a tour of the Lincoln Cathedral and the Jewish Heritage Trail in Lincoln would set the foundation for an educational and interesting visit. We included time for a bit of shopping in the Bailgate area, lunch and a stroll down part of Steep Hill.

Two of my committee members volunteered to help me host the Leeds group for the day. Rev’d Mike Mason took care of the logistics and Dorothy Moss was their guide for the Jewish Heritage Trail and the Cathedral, whilst I filled in throughout the day as greeter to welcome them at the coach and help them get from place to place.

As we gathered in front of Lincoln Cathedral, I gave them a brief history of the Jews of Lincoln, from the past to the present. It is important to note that the Jews of Lincoln lived a good life for a time, owning businesses and homes, and being part of mainstream Lincoln life until anti-Semitism set in. From that point onward, they were then living with persecution. In 1290, the Jews of England were expelled altogether. It would be several hundred years before Jews began to settle in Lincoln once again. I then brought the story full circle to today, in which the Jewish community has a good relationship with the Cathedral, as well as other religious groups, and is an active partner in Interfaith activities here in Lincoln. The Jews of Lincoln today are a small but active community.

A Group Photo at the Bishop’s Palace

A Group Photo at the Bishop’s Palace

We began our tour with a visit to the Bishop’s Palace, one of the most important buildings in England, as it was used to administer the “Super” diocese of Medieval Lincoln, which stretched from the Humber to the Thames – a large part of the country. Aaron of Lincoln, a wealthy Jewish banker, loaned the money to build the Bishop’s Palace, the Bishop’s residence in London and funded  the rebuilding of Lincoln Cathedral after the earthquake of 1185.  We walked to the south side of the Cathedral to see the Judgment Porch. The carvings at the Judgement Porch represent a figure of a defeated synagogue and a triumphant figure holding the Church. A pilgrim following this route would see triumphant Christian spiritual victory of church over synagogue.

The Judgment Porch

Viewing the Judgment Porch

As we approached the West Front of the Cathedral, we saw a Frieze The Bosom of Abraham showing Abraham as the gate keeper to Heaven. Towards the entrance to the cathedral is another frieze Expulsion of Adam & Eve with Adam and Cain tilling the ground and given seeds and perfume by G-d. The Cathedral is rich in Jewish associations. Links to the Jewish community are seen in artworks depicting Jews as well as stories about Jews and Jewish tradition. The 12th century were positive images but the 13th century were controversial with hostile images.

Walking through the cathedral we come to the Dean’s Eye – a large stained glass window with a scene of the Bishop of Lincoln, St. Hughes’ funeral, showing the Jews running alongside the coffin, weeping with grief. He was known to be a friend and protector of the Jews, personally intervening to save the Jews of Lincoln and North Hampton in 1190.

St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln and his Swan

St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln and his Swan

Another stained glass window has a row of Jewish stars – six-pointed stars which symbolized that there were Jewish communities. Another stained glass window depicts The Legend of Theophilus and The Legend of the Jews of Bourges contain both controversial and negative images

The Little Hugh Shrine in the Cathedral is part of the Blood Libels of England from the middle of the 13th century. A local boy, known as Little Hugh, was found dead near the Jewish community and the Jews were falsely blamed for his death. 18 Jews were executed by the King. 800+ years later, a new plaque put up over his tomb with a proper explanation of the incident and the fact that when his body was exhumed there was no damage to his body and that the Jews had nothing to do with his death.

Hearing the Story of Little Hugh

Hearing the Story of Little Hugh

The new plaque was dedicated in 2008 with a very moving service conducted in the cathedral near the tomb where the new plaque was unveiled. It was history in the making as the Dean, other clergy and members of the Cathedral, as well as the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, a cantor from London and the Jewish Community of Lincoln all gathered together to share in this momentous event. The cantor chanted the Kaddish – the Jewish prayer for the dead – for the 18 Jews that died needlessly. This was the first time in the history of the Cathedral this had ever been done, which was another great example of the amazing relationship between the Cathedral and the Jewish Community of Lincoln.

We left the cathedral and everyone had free time to have lunch at one of the many cafes in the Bailgate, and to wander around the shops before meeting up at Jews’ Court, so named for the centre of Jewish life in Lincoln in the 11th and 12th centuries. We gathered at Jews’ Court and went up to the room where the Jewish Community meets for Shabbat services twice a month. The president of the Lincolnshire Jewish Community gave us a brief history of the building itself, the oldest building in Europe that has been continually inhabited, and about the Jewish Community in Lincoln today.

A Visit to Jew’s Court. Home to the Lincolnshire Jewish Community

A Visit to Jew’s Court. Home to the Lincolnshire Jewish Community

The tour ended at The Collection, a museum in Lincoln, where we saw the two Jewish artifacts – an oil lamp  which is one of only four known examples of Medieval Jewish ritual lamps in England, and a roof tile ornament, which is a caricature resembling a Jewish man, with a cap, nose and beard. This roof figure was a sign of wealth in those days, many centuries ago.

As the coach arrived to collect the group for the journey back to Leeds, it was time to say goodbye. I really enjoyed spending the day with them. They are a wonderful group of people and it was our pleasure to have them visit us in Lincoln. They really enjoyed the day and were thrilled to walk the Jewish Heritage Trail, following in the footsteps of those who called Lincoln home, more than 800 years ago.

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5 year Anniversary Living in the UK

Steve’s 35 Year Work Anniversary at the Same Company

It is hard to believe that it was 5 years ago today that Steve & I boarded an American Airlines plane in Los Angeles, California, for London, England. Steve’s work brought us here for what was meant to be two years. Here we are five years later still living in Lincoln, England and still loving it. Coincidentally (or was it a gift from the company) that day was Steve’s 30 year anniversary at work.

I wanted to share this momentous occasion with all of you since you have been following my stories journaling our life in England since I started my blog over two years ago. I will not go into the many details of the past five years. What I will do is give you a brief overview. We have created an incredible life here in England – we really feel at home here. We touch on the fact that we have travelled Europe – England, France, Italy, Prague, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Belarus, Cyprus and Israel.

Our sons Jonathan and Joshua, and Elizabeth, our daughter-in-law have visited us and we all went to Stonehenge, Lincoln, London and Paris together. Also a few good friends from home (USA) have come to visit us.  We are close with my relatives in England and visit them regularly.

I continue to volunteer with over five different organisations, from the Cathedral to the Jewish Community to the Interfaith Group as well as being the Chairman of Council of Christians and Jews Lincoln, and helped with fundraisers sponsored by the Mayor and Sheriff of Lincoln. Steve and I have personally accomplished so much in our lives in the past five years.

We have met amazing people and made “Friends for Life” that have and continue to enhance our lives. We experience “Max’s Magical Moments” regularly and for all of that, we feel truly “Blessed.” We are so thankful for this amazing opportunity. Here’s to many more “Magical Moments” for us all.

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