NEW: Launch of our Cambridge Branch

To celebrate the launch of our newest branch in Cambridge, we dip in our 125 year-old archive for interesting articles about the ancient and learned cathedral city.


The Jews of Medieval Cambridge by R B Dobson can be found in Volume 32 of Jewish Historical Studies (1990-2) and makes fascinating reading.

The study of medieval Jewry in Cambridge is not easy.  Evidence of the strong Jewish community that probably existed in the 12th century is virtually non-existent but records of the 13th century record only reflect a time of relative decline.  Even worse, the city did not number the wealthy Jews found in other regions, so it is hard to find official records that would provide some flavour of Jewish life.  To the dismay of contemporary historians, the Jews kept themselves to themselves and were virtually invisible to the Christian chroniclers at the time.  By 1266 the end of the community is in sight when their official records are removed and sent to Ely.  1290 sees their enforced departure.

Dobson lifts the gloom – only partly – by pointing out that the first recorded Jew of Cambridge is Theobald of Cambridge who converted to Christianity, became a monk and gave ‘evidence’ in the Jewish ritual murder case.  However, because of the notoriety surrounding this anti-Semitic trope some doubt his very existence.  At best, one can say that because the record has him saying that he was in Cambridge, ‘a Jew among Jews’ that there was a community established in 1144.

Despite the caveats, it is possible to learn about the first Jewish scholar of Cambridge – ‘Master Benjamin’, a pupil of Rabbi Tam and other personalities.  So too, one can plot the changing fortunes of the community before its quiet and tragic end in 1290.

Revd Solomon Lyon of Cambridge (1755-1820) is the subject of Naomi Cream in Volume 36 of Jewish Historical Studies (1999-2001).  It is a lovely and lively biography of a man born in Bohemia who travelled to Portsmouth before moving to Cambridge between 1789 and 1806 where he taught Hebrew at the university.

In 1951, Miss Stella Wills wrote about The Anglo-Jewish Contribution to the Education Movement for Women in the 19th Century and profiled Louisa, Lady Goldsmid.  Lady Goldsmid was one of the founders of Girton College.

  • The Jews of Medieval Cambridge

    Open access article

    As it happens, this presidential address is being delivered more or less seven hundred years to the day since the last persecuted survivors of the once substantial medieval English Jewry were crossing the Channel into involuntary exile, ‘without the hope

    Journal: Volume 32 | 1990

  • Revd Solomon Lyon of Cambridge, 1755-1820

    Open access article

    Cecil Roth described Solomon Lyon as one of the rare Anglo-Jewish scholars of the eighteenth century. He lived well into the nineteenth century, and although he was a minor figure his story is worth telling.

    Early life

    He was born

    Journal: Volume 36 | 1996

  • The Anglo-Jewish Contribution to the Education Movement for Women in the Nineteenth Century

    Open access article

    In the movement for women’s education in the second half of the Nineteenth Century, two Jewesses, Louisa, Lady Goldsmid and Mrs. Fanny Hertz played a prominent part. Both of them made a considerable contribution to women’s education, the former as

    Journal: Volume 17 | 1951

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