Revealing York's medieval Jewish community

A photograph of the Jewish Neighbourhoods project window installation on Coney Street in York.

The StreetLife project uncovered a largely untold story of the significance of the Jewish communities in York, particularly in the 1200s, to the growth and development of York as the second city. We have been working with the current communities in York, Leeds, and London to explore how best to tell this story, commemorate the people of the past and bring this important aspect of York's history to wider attention.

The presentation of the story of Jewish life in York has been, understandably, dominated by the appalling events of March 1190, but our recent research has uncovered a much richer, more nuanced and largely positive story of the communities pre and post 1190. Within twenty years of the massacre a community was re-established in York, thriving and working closely with the city authorities, the Minster and the region to develop York and establish the first common hall for the corporation. Its most prominent and influential members lived on Coney Street, but there were Jewish families throughout the city, living and working alongside their Gentile neighbours.

We have identified the probable sites of the pre- and post-1190 synagogues, a find of enormous religious and devotional significance for sections of the Orthodox community, and located the houses of key figures and scholars from that medieval period. We are working closely with a range of Jewish communities to identify the most appropriate ways to commemorate these sites, to tell these stories of positive cooperation and community harmony and to ensure this vital strand of York's story is woven into the mainstream narrative.