A Hebrew Elegy on the York Martyrs of 1190

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It is generally known that the Hebrew sources for the history of the Jews in medieval England are extremely sparse. The chronicler Ephraim of Bonn gives a poignant, but not in every respect accurate, account of the massacres of 1189-90 1 : and historians of a later generation reproduce a legendary story of the Expulsion of the Jews by Edward I, partly deriving as it seems from a lost work of the polemist and grammarian Profiat Duran and partly from the Fortalitium Fidei of the Franciscan Alfonso de Espana.2 Except for one or two oblique allusions, this is almost all. Any new material that comes to light is therefore all the more valuable.

century ago, Zunz called attention to two Hebrew elegies on the English massacres at the beginning of the reign of Richard I. One of them, by R. Menachem ben Jacob, was presented (as far as the portion relating to England was concerned) by Solomon Schechter at the very first ordinary meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of England, and occupies pride of place after the Presidential Address in the earliest volume of its Transactions.* It is heartrending, turgid, and not particularly informative, being conceived in general terms which might apply to any other medieval massacre. It is all the more surprising that Zunz's further indication 4 has not hitherto been followed up, as I discovered not long since to my great astonishment. It is true that he gives no exact information as to the source, which he indicates vaguely as " a French Manuscript " ; but at the time when Schechter wrote, so soon after the Master's death, and while Joseph Jacobs was still engaged in collecting every scrap of evidence relating to the Jews of Angevin England, it would not have been difficult to trace the requisite information. My own quest, made in wartime, with the probability that the manuscript used was in some Central European library, might have seemed desperate. But nowadays, in all matters connected with Jewish lore, one must take account of Palestinian Jewish scholarship : and, in Palestine, the Schocken Institute has put the study of medieval Hebrew poetry on a new and scientific basis, enormously facilitating the student's labour. A tentative inquiry to the present director, Mr. A. M. Habermann, was enough to procure me by return of mail (a process which indeed occupied in the circumstances of 1942-43 something over half a year !) a transcript of the poem for which I was searching, based upon the superb and carefully indexed collection of photographs in the Institute's possession. My gratitude to Mr. Habermann is combined with admiration for the organization that he has evolved.

The poem is apparently to be found in only a single manuscript?MS. 88 in the State Library of Munich, comprising the Liturgy for the whole year according to the Franco-German rite : it is very old?probably of the fourteenth century?and in correspondingly bad condition.

The name of the author of the poem is given in the acrostic at

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