An Early Stuart Judaising Sect1

Lucien Wolf, writing of the pre-Resettlement period in his introduction to Manasseh Ben Israel’s Mission, remarks: ” Judaical sects arose, the members of which endeavoured to live according to the Levitical Laws, even practising circumcision. Prosecution for such practices may be traced back to 1624. Some of the saints, like Everard the Leveller, publicly called themselves Jews; others went to Amsterdam and were formally received into the synagogue “.2 The incident referred to in 1624 is quoted in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic and concerns a certain James Whitehall who was imprisoned in 1624 for preaching Judaism at Christ Church, Oxford. The State Papers note also another incident in 1635, when one Mary Chester was prosecuted for Judaical practices.3

These chance references have long been known to Anglo-Jewish historians. Now, however, evidence has come to light which affords conclusive proof of the existence of a sect in the early

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