Welcome to the
JEWISH KENT HERITAGE TRAIL
Sites with a Jewish connection in the county of Kent
The UK Jewish population peaked at 410,000. Today it is below 300,000.
Some of the earliest known references to Jewish settlement in the UK agree that Jews came with the Norman King, William the Conquerer in 11th century AD. However, Edward the Confessor expelled them in 1290, following a history of persecution. He signed a decree of expulsion and ordered the Jews to leave by Act of Parliament, they settled mainly in France and Spain.
In 1656, during the Republic of Oliver Cromwell, a Dutch Jew, Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, petitioned Cromwell to permit the Jews to settle in Great Britain.
Readmittance of the Jews was attractive to Cromwell for two reasons:
Firstly, religious – Angleterre, French for England, was interpreted by Bible readers of the period as referring to the angle of the earth ie one of the four corners of the known world and accordingly, the messianic age would not come until the Jews were in all four corners of the Earth. The prophet Daniel ch. 12 verse 7, said the final Redemption would begin only when the scattering of the Jews was complete. Cromwell believed this.
The other reason was economic. Jews were more highly taxed than the indigenous population.
Skilled in commerce, they had helped monarchs in the past to raise finance. This was very attractive to Cromwell.
As no Act of Parliament was required to readmit them, they trickled back into these Isles to join the few crypto Jews who had established themselves during the reign of Elizabeth I.
2006 is the year British Jews have chosen to celebrate the contribution to British life and achievements their co-religionists have made during the preceding 350 years.
Special events have been happening throughout the year.
The Jewish Kent Heritage Trail launch on Sunday 29th October 2006 was a great success. Photos taken of the three venues in West Kent can be found on our Events page together with an account of the Thanet Synagogue Trail on 14 October 2007.