Happy birthday Magna Carta! The iconic document was signed 800 years ago today — on June 15, 1215, — when the nobles forced King John of England to guarantee human and economic rights. Three clauses out of the historic document’s total 63 pertained to Jews. By this time, Jews had been settled in England for more than a hundred years. In honor of the big day, here are 8 Jewish facts about the Magna Carta:
1) Jews were legally treated as chattel by the monarchy. The king could tax the Jews without permission from Parliament. He could even mortgage them.
2) When Jews died, much if not all of their estate went to the crown.
3) Jews were forbidden to own or work land, so many turned to money lending and banking.
4) Clause 10: If anyone who has borrowed from the Jews any amount, large or small, dies before the debt is repaid, it shall not carry interest as long as the heir is under age, of whomsoever he holds; and if that debt falls into our hands, we will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.
5) Clause 11: And if a man dies owning a debt to the Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if he leaves children under age, their needs shall be met in a manner in keeping with the holding of the deceased, and the debt shall be paid out of the residue, saving the service due to the lords. Debts owing to other than Jews shall be dealt with likewise.
6 ) Another clause tried to stop the king from gaining more land through the Jews by forbidding any debts to be paid through land, and instead through liquid assets.
7) Later versions of the Magna Carta (from 1216, 1217, and 1225), omit the Jewish clauses.
8) Edward I expelled the 2,500 Jews living in England in 1290. The majority left for France.
English soccer is having a Jewish moment.
The conclusion of David Bernstein’s term as chairman of the Football Association (FA) in July in tandem with the publication in paperback in August of Anthony Clavane’s “Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?” brought the matter of the contribution of Jews to the beautiful game to the fore. At the same time, the reigniting of the debate over the use of the Y-word by Tottenham Hotspur supporters, as well as England midfielder Jack Wilshere’s recent comments concerning what exactly constitutes an Englishman, has focused attention on the place of Jews within soccer, and of the outsider in what has traditionally been a white, working-class sport.
Soccer’s Jewish moment looks set to continue and to grow with the opening October 10 of the Jewish Museum London’s new exhibition, “Four Four Jew: Football, Fans and Faith,” running until February 23. Forming part of the FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations, “Four Four Jew” examines the ways in which soccer became intertwined with and inseparable from English expressions and interpretations of Judaism and Jewishness. Soccer became both a pathway of assimilation into English society and a way of promoting and asserting Jewish identity.
In an educational effort to combat the troublesome phenomenon of anti-Semitism and racism in soccer, England’s national football team will visit Auschwitz and other Holocaust-related sites while in Poland next week for the Euro 2012 tournament.
According to the Algemeiner, the team will visit Auschwitz some time between its arrival in Poland on June 6 and its first game (against France) on June 9. The players are expected to light candles along the train tracks leading to the camp, and to sign the guest book there.
The people of Norwich, England have found some skeletons — not in their closets, but in a well. And the bones belong to Jews.
The remains of 17 bodies dating to the 12th or 13th centuries were found at the bottom of a well in 2004 during an excavation for the construction of a shopping center, but it was not until recent testing (using DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies) that it was discovered that they belong to Jews who were likely killed as a result of religious persecution.
Eleven of the skeletons belong to children aged 2-15, and the remaining ones are those of adult men and women. Seven skeletons were successfully genetically tested, and five of them appear to have been members of a single Jewish family.
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, The Arty Semite is partnering with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Jewish Book Council to present “30 Days, 30 Texts,” a series of reflections by community leaders on the books that influenced their Jewish journeys. Today, Dan Friedman writes about the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Growing up as a progressive Jew in the North of England, I couldn’t decide whether God was an earnest Divinity of social justice or a Zeus-like Old Testament Man-With-a-Beard. Whichever it was, neither had any hold on me as an angst-y, angry adolescent fan of The Smiths, The Cure and The Wedding Present.
Toward the end of high school, though, I read the poems and “Dark Sonnets” of Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Their intense joy and anguish made theology a real living idea for me. It was eye-opening that the sheer beauty of “The Windhover” with its stunningly evocative: “I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple- dawn-drawn Falcon,” could co-exist with the despair of “No worst there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, / More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.”
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