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On Thursday 21st May 2015 Irina Fridman spoke to the group about the history of Jews in Medway.

When William the Conqueror arrived in England he found a backwater with no financial system. Jews were brought from France to operate finance. This was one of the few opportunities open to them as they were banned from joining guilds. However they were second class citizens and resided outside the city walls. In 1198 there was civil unrest and Jews asked for safety within Rochester. By 1276 jews were in Rochester by royal decree but were banned from England by 1290. Some went back to the Continent, others “converted” to Christianity. One ship was grounded off Sheerness. The Jewish passengers were misled, got out of the boat to walk on the sand and were drowned by the incoming tide. In 1648 Cromwell unofficially allowed jews back into England but it was not until 1850 were they allowed to take part in civic life.

Report written by Polly Chandler.

Last Revised: 01-Jun-2015

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