1605: The Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the House of Lords which would be the first move in putting a Catholic on throne, was thwarted today. This event which is tied in the popular mind to Guy Fawkes could have had a negative impact on the small, concealed Jewish population of the British Isles since a Catholic on the throne at this time might have tied the kingdom to Spain the home of the Inquisition.
In 1290 Edward 1 had published the Edict of Expulsion which had not been repealed (and never would be, although Jews were allowed back in the UK after 1660). Jews in the UK were there secretly, illegally and in a few places, officially, as members of a Domus Conversorum (House of Converts) in Oxford, London and in other parts of the country.
There was a recognised community of Jewish believers in Jesus, founded in 1232, and continuing in some form until the end of the 19th century. One member, Jakob Wolfgang (see below) joined the community the year after the plot, so it was a functioning home for Jewish believers in Jesus at the time of Guy Fawkes.
Bernstein gives some details:
Converts in the “Domus Conversorum” in London.
The subject under the above title requires a special paragraph, because it manifests to us the zeal which English Christians in the Middle Ages displayed with regard to the conversion of the Jews, and that their effects were richly blessed.
In an article in the “Hebrew Christian Witness,” 1875, by Christopher Chattoc, of Haye House, Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire, entitled “Traces of Early Anglo-Hebrew Christians from Authentic Sources,” he says:—”All our best historians allege that, at the expulsion of the Jews from this country in 1290, about fifteen thousand were expelled. If we compare this number with the approximate amount of the then population, it is something considerable, and if we take the present population of the country and compare the number of converted and unconverted Jews at the present time, the relative proportion of converted Jews in 1290 would be at least—say, five hundred. This cannot by any means be considered an excessive estimate for men, women and children, as the conqueror is said to have brought over Jews in great numbers, and they were much favoured by the[ 70] three first Norman kings. The ‘Domus Conversorum,’ or home for converts, was established in 1232 (by order of Henry III.), a private one in 1213 in London, and one even much earlier still in Oxford.” He then gives a list of three long pages full of names of clergy and others, in which he traces Jewish names anglicized, and refers to quite a number of historical works. This cannot for want of space be reproduced here. I will only mention that Dr. M. Margoliouth said that there were three Kings in Great Britain by the name of Solomon. But the article by Rabbi Michael Adler, in the “Jewish Encyclopædia,” may be given in abridged form. “The ‘Domus Conversorum’ was situated in Chancery Lane and had a Chapel attached to the buildings. A similar institution, on a much more modest scale, having been commenced by the clergy in 1213. A chaplain was appointed to instruct the converts and a warden to attend to their temporal affairs. Each male inmate received 1½d., equal to about 2s. 6d. of the present currency, and each female 1d. During the fifty years that elapsed from the time of the founding of the ‘Domus’ until the year of the great expulsion, about a hundred Jews in all (?) participated in the benefits of the institution, a small proportion out of the 1,600 Jews in England. All the expenses of the ‘Domus’ were borne by the royal treasury, while some of the bishops left bequests to augment its funds. In addition to these sources of income, a small poll-tax, called ‘the chevage,’ was levied upon all Jews, above the age of twelve, to support their converted brethren. The treasury grant amounted annually to £202 0s. 4d. (in present currency about £4,000). At times this contribution was not forthcoming, and the ‘converts’ were reduced to sore straits of poverty. In 1271 the King addressed a letter to the Mayor of London, and to the Warden of the ‘Domus’ complaining of numerous irregularities in the management of the house; and it was not till the year of 1280, under the custos of John de St. Denis, that definite regulations for the control of the institution were drafted. The records of the ‘Domus’ end at the year 1608. As late as the year 1717 a London converted Jew petitioned King George I. for a grant from the funds of the ‘Domus.'”
In accordance with the method pursued in this work, I give an alphabetical list of the converts mentioned by name, in the above article, as converts in the house:—
Arthur Antoc, 1663.
Aseti Briasti and his wife, Perota, of France, in the 14th century.
Belager, a rabbi of Oxford, entered the house in 1281.
Claricia, a Jewess from Exeter, resided there in 1353.
Elizabeth, described as the daughter of Rabbi Moses, Episcopus Judæorum, joined the converts in 1339. She remained in the house for seventeen years.
Edward of Westminster lived there from 1461 to 1503.
Edward Scales, from 1503 to 1527.
Elizabeth Ferdinando, admitted in 1603.
Elizabeth Baptista, from 1504 to 1532.
Elizabeth Portugale, from 1492 to 1538.
Fortunati Massa, admitted in 1581.
Henry of Stratford, 1416-41.
John of Castile, admitted in 1366.
John de Sancta Maria of Spain, 1371-1405.
John Durdragt of Dordrecht, Holland, 1425-55.
John Fernando of Spain, 1487-1503.
Katherine Wheteley, admitted in 1532.
Mary Crook, admitted in 1532.
Martin, son of Henry of Woodstock, 1413-1468, the longest period of residence.
Nathaniel Menda, from the Barbary States, 1578-1608. He was baptized in London by John Foxe, the author of “The Book of Martyrs.”
Philip Ferdinandus, a learned Polish Jew who had taught Hebrew at Oxford and Cambridge and Leyden, resided and died in the ‘Domus’ in 1600.
Wolfgang, Jacob, from Germany, was admitted in the year after the Gunpowder Plot.
For Michael Adler’s history see here
For a petition to re-open a Domus Conversorum in the UK see here
Poem to ponder:
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!
Lord, forgive us our vindictive jingoism, and help us to seek your ways of justice, peace and reconciliation. In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, we forgive our enemies, and ask their forgiveness of us, in our stereotyping of the other as enemy. Amen