By: Joseph Jacobs
Capital town of Yorkshire, England, and seat of a metropolitan see. In the Angevin period it was the second city in the kingdom, and Jews flocked thither in considerable numbers. It is recorded that at the coronation of Richard I. two "noble" Jews of York, Joce and Benedict, went up to London, probably as a deputation from the York community. During a riot which followed the festivities Benedict was forced to submit to baptism, but was permitted by Richard to revert on the following day (Howden, "Chronica," ed. Stubbs, iii. 14); he died shortly afterward at Northampton. Joce escaped and returned to his home in York, which was looked upon as a royal residence on account of its strength and magnificence. He had been one of the agents of Aaron of Lincoln, among whose debtors was one Richard de Malbis, who in 1182 had paid £4 out of the great debt which he owed to Aaron.The Massacre.
De Malbis and others of the York nobles who were contemplating joining Richard in the Third Crusade took advantage of a fire that broke out in the city to raise a tumult against the Jews. The houses of Benedict and Joce were attacked, and the latter obtained the permission of the warden of York Castle to remove his wife and children and the rest of the Jews into the castle, where they were probably placed in Clifford's Tower. This was surrounded by the mob, and when the warden left the castle the Jews in fear would not readmit him. He appealed to the sheriff, who called out the county militia; and Clifford's Tower was surrounded for several days. A certain Premonstratensian monk paced the walls each morning and took the sacrament, as if the work of hounding on the mob was a holy office. He was crushed by a stone thrown by the besieged Jews; this changed the wrath of the mob to a frenzied madness. When the Jews in Clifford's Tower found that they had no alternative but to submit to baptism or perish at the hands of the mob, Yom-Ṭob of Joigny, who had become their chief rabbi some time before, recalled the practise of their ancestors, and urged that they should kill themselves rather than surrender to the cruelty of their enemies. Those who disagreed were permitted to withdraw; and the remainder, having set fire to their garments and goods that these might not fall into the hands of the mob, found refuge in death. Joce with his own hand cut the throat of his wife, Hannah, with the knife used in sheḥiṭah; and finally Joce was killed by Yom-Ṭob, who then stabbed himself, being the only person of the number to take upon himself the crime of suicide. In the morning the few who had withdrawn summoned the besiegers, who killed most of them, sending the remainder to London in the hands of the sheriff. The mob searched the castle for the Jews'deeds of indebtedness, and, not finding them, hastened to the minster and took the deeds from the cathedral treasury, thus showing the real motive of their acts.
William de Longchamp, the ruler of the kingdom in Richard's absence, was much incensed at this insult to the royal dignity, the Jews being under the king's protection. He accordingly marched to York, imposed heavy fines on fifty-two of the chief citizens, and banished Richard de Malbis and various members of the Percy, Faulconbridge, and Darrel families, who had clearly been the leaders of the riot, and each of whom, according to unimpeachable evidence, was indebted to the Jews. Richard de Malbis returned from Scotland ten years later, when he "obtained warren" for his land at Acaster Malbis, five miles south of York, the name of which still recalls the arch villain of the York tragedy.Later History.
For some time after this there is no record of Jews at York. Among the contributions to the Northampton donum of 1194 none are mentioned ascoming from York, although it was the second city in the kingdom; but in the early part of the thirteenth century Jews began again to settle there. In 1208 a Jewess of York was murdered, three Christians being suspected of the crime; a charge of murder was brought against them by Milo, her husband, while her brother Benedict brought a similar charge against Milo himself ("Select Pleas of the Crown," Selden Society, i., Nos. 59, 103). Joce's son, Aaron of York, became the chief Jew of the kingdom in the reign of Henry III., being presbyter, or chief rabbi, of England for a short time in 1237. The widow of Aaron of York claimed dower from Thomas Kyme of Northampton, and in 1270 attempted to recover a considerable number of debts due to her deceased husband (Rigg, "Select Pleas of the Jewish Exchequer," pp. 52-53, London, 1902). When the regulation was issued permitting Jews to reside only in certain towns where archæ were kept for the preservation of Jewish deeds, York was included in the list, showing that it was still an important center of Jewish commerce in 1272. Among the eminent Jews of London mentioned at the time of the expulsion was Bonamy of York. On the expulsion of the Jews from England the lands and chattels of those living in York fell into the king's hands. The Jewish burial-ground at York was between St. Morris and the River Fosse, and the synagogue was on the north side of the Jubbergate, in close proximity to the castle, under the warden of which the Jews of the city were placed by the king's authority.
Since the return of the Jews to England there has been no congregation at York, but a few Jewish tailors have settled there in recent years (E. S. Rowntree, "Poverty, a Study of Town Life," p. 11, London, 1903), and for their benefit a synagogue was erected in the Aldwark in 1892.
- Drake, Eboracum, pp. 57, 94-96, 228, 253-254, 265, 277, 322;
- Raines, York, London, 1892, Index;
- Hargrave, York, ii. 386-388, 558;
- Twyford and Griffiths, Records of York Castle, pp. 25-35;
- R. Davies, The Medieval Jews of York, in Yorkshire Archœological and Topographical Journal, iii. 147-197;
- J. T. Fowler, Certain Starrs, ib. pp. 53-63;
- Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, pp. 101, 112, 116-130, 238, 392.