York’s Jewish community was the victim of the bloodiest outbreaks of anti-semitism in the twelfth century. In those days the Jews were well-established alongside the merchant classes, to whom they provided financial services.
However, following the death of Henry II, the protector of the Jews, and the coronation of Richard I, “the Lionheart”, anti-Jewish riots struck.
The slaugther of Clifford’s Tower
On 16 March 1190, while the king was away on a crusade, the barons in debt to the Jewish moneylenders attacked Clifford’s Tower, were the moneylenders had taken refuge. The Jews were trapped: some committed suicide; the rest were slaughtered.
Today, a stone edifice stands on the site of the old wooden castle and visitors to the monument can learn about the terrible massacre.
The Aldwark Synagogue served York’s Jewish community from 1886 until 1975. However at that point the community declined and became affiliated to Leeds United Hebrew Congregation for the purposes of religious services and burial rights. However according to the 2001 census the Jewish population of the city numbered nearly 200. A new Liberal community was established in York in 2014.