The city of York, England, is a vacation spot where Londoners like to spend long weekends, enjoying a vibrant café culture and a growing nightlife. But there is said to be a Jewish spiritual curse, or herem, placed on the city–and some Jews are careful to avoid ever eating or spending the night in York.
In 1190, a huge fire broke out in the city. An angry mob accused the Jews of starting it. After attacking some isolated Jewish families, the mob chased all the remaining Jews out of town, to Clifford’s Tower, a wooden fortress atop a hill on the outskirts of the city. When it became clear that the mob would never let them leave alive, every male head of household killed his wife and children, and then the men killed each other. Lastly, the city’s chief rabbi killed all the men before turning the knife on himself. A handful of villagers escaped, offering to convert to Christianity, but they were summarily killed by the angry villagers.
A century later, in 1290, Edward I expelled all the Jews from Britain. It would be more than 350 years before they returned.
Today, Britain has a vibrant Jewish community, with amazing artists and a chief rabbi who’s a member of the country’s House of Lords. The city of York, however, has never completely recovered–a recent census showed that only 191 Jews live in York, less than one-tenth of 1% of the city’s total population.
May 31, 2012