FYI July 18, 2017

1290 – King Edward I of England issues the Edict of Expulsion, banishing all Jews (numbering about 16,000) from England; this was Tisha B’Av on the Hebrew calendar, a day that commemorates many Jewish calamities.
The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England on 18 July 1290, expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. The expulsion edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of increased persecution. The edict was overturned during the Protectorate more than three centuries later, when Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657.

The first Jewish communities of significant size came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.[1] On the conquest of England, William instituted a feudal system in the country, whereby all estates formally belonged to the Crown; the king then appointed lords over these vast estates, but they were subject to duties and obligations (financial and military) to the king. Under the lords were further subjects such as serfs, who were bound and obliged to their lords, and their lords’ obligations. Merchants had a special status in the system, as did Jews. Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the king,[2] unlike the rest of the population. That was an ambivalent legal position for the Jewish population, in that they were not tied to any particular lord but were subject to the whims of the king. That could be either advantageous or disadvantageous. Every successive king formally reviewed a royal charter, granting Jews the right to remain in England. Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of the Magna Carta[3] of 1215.

Economically, Jews played a key role in the country. The Church then strictly forbade the lending of money for profit. That created a vacuum in the economy of Europe that Jews filled because of extreme discrimination in every other economic area. Canon law was not considered applicable to Jews, and Judaism does not forbid loans with interest between Jews and non-Jews.[4] In consequence, some Jews made large amounts of money. Taking advantage of their unique status as his direct subjects, the King could appropriate Jewish assets in the form of taxation. He levied heavy taxes on Jews at will, without having to summon Parliament.[5]

Jews acquired a reputation as extortionate moneylenders, which made them extremely unpopular with both the Church and the general public. While an anti-Jewish attitude was widespread in Europe, medieval England was particularly anti-Jewish.[3] An image of the Jew as a diabolical figure who hated Christ started to become widespread, and myths such as the tale of the Wandering Jew and allegations of ritual murders originated and spread throughout England as well as in Scotland and Wales.[6]

In frequent cases of blood libel, Jews were said to hunt for children to murder before Passover so that they could use their blood to make the unleavened matzah.[7] Anti-Jewish attitudes sparked numerous riots in which many Jews were murdered, most notably in 1190, when over 100 Jews were massacred in York.[7]

The situation only got worse for Jews as the 13th century progressed. In 1218, Henry III of England proclaimed the Edict of the Badge requiring Jews to wear a marking badge.[8] Taxation grew increasingly intense. Between 1219-72, 49 levies were imposed on Jews for a total of 200,000 marks, a vast sum of money.[5] The first major step towards expulsion took place in 1275, with the Statute of the Jewry. The statute outlawed all lending at interest and gave Jews fifteen years to readjust.[9]

In the duchy of Gascony in 1287, King Edward ordered the local Jews expelled.[10] All their property was seized by the crown and all outstanding debts payable to Jews were transferred to the King’s name.[11] By the time he returned to England in 1289, King Edward was deeply in debt.[12] The next summer he summoned his knights to impose a steep tax. To make the tax more palatable, Edward, in exchange, essentially offered to expel all Jews.[13] The heavy tax was passed, and three days later, on 18 July,[14] the Edict of Expulsion was issued. One official reason for the expulsion was that Jews had declined to follow the Statute of Jewry. The edict of expulsion was widely popular and met with little resistance, and the expulsion was quickly carried out.[citation needed]

The Jewish population in England at the time was relatively small, perhaps 2,000 people, although estimates vary.[15] The expulsion process appears to have been relatively non-violent, although there were some accounts to the contrary. One perhaps apocryphal story told of a captain taking a ship full of Jews to the Thames, en route to France, while the tide was low, and convincing them to go out for a walk with him. He then lost them and made it back to his ship quickly before the tide came back in, leaving them all to drown.[11]

Many Jews emigrated, to Scotland, France and the Netherlands, and as far as Poland, which, at that time, protected them (see Statute of Kalisz).

Intermediate period
Between the expulsion of Jews in 1290 and their formal return in 1655, there is no official trace of Jews as such on English soil except in connection with the Domus Conversorum, which kept a number of them within its precincts up to 1551 and even later. An attempt was made to obtain a revocation of the edict of expulsion as early as 1310, but in vain. Notwithstanding, a certain number of Jews appeared to have returned; for complaints were made to the king in 1376 that some of those trading as Lombards were actually Jews (“Rot. Parl.” ii. 332a).

Occasionally permits were given to individuals to visit England, as in the case of Dr Elias Sabot (an eminent physician from Bologna summoned to attend Henry IV) in 1410, but it was not until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 that any considerable number of Sephardic Jews found refuge in England. One of these as early as 1493 attempted to recover no less a sum than 428,000 maravedis which the refugees from Spain had entrusted to Diego de Soria.[citation needed] In 1542 many were arrested on the suspicion of being Jews, and throughout the sixteenth century a number of persons named Lopez, possibly all of the same family, took refuge in England, the best known of them being Rodrigo López, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, and who is said to have been the origin of Shylock.[16]

Aside from certain distinguished converts like Immanuel Tremellius and Philip Ferdinand, the most remarkable visitor was Joachim Gaunse, who introduced new methods of mining into England. Occasional visitors, like Alonzo de Herrera and Simon Palache in 1614, are recorded. The writings of John Weemes provided a positive view of the resettlement of Jews in England.[17]

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1895 – Olga Spessivtseva, Russian-American ballerina (d. 1991)
Olga Alexandrovna Spessivtseva[1] (Russian: Ольга Алекса́ндровна Спеси́вцева (18 July [O.S. 6 July] 1895 – 16 September 1991) was a Russian ballerina whose stage career spanned from 1913-39.

One of the maxims prima ballerinas of the twentieth century. Excellent classical technique, immaculate style and scenic spirituality is considered the embodiment of the romantic ballerina.

Olga Spessivtseva was born in Rostov-on-Don, the daughter of an opera singer and his wife. After her father’s death, she was sent to an orphanage with theatrical connections in St. Petersburg, a center of culture . She entered St. Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet Academy in 1906, where she was a student of Klavdia Kulichevskaya and later of Yevgenia Sokolova and Agrippina Vaganova.

After graduating in 1913, she joined the Mariinsky Theatre company, where she was promoted to soloist in 1916. An exquisite romantic dancer with perfect technique, ideally suited for roles such as Giselle and Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, she quickly became one of the most admired dancers in the company.

In 1916, Sergei Diaghilev invited her to tour with the Ballets Russes in the United States, where she danced with Vaslav Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and the “Bluebird pas de deux” from The Sleeping Beauty. In 1918 she returned to the Mariinsky, renamed the Petrograd Opera and Ballet Theater after the Russian Revolution of 1917. She was promoted to the rank of ballerina. At this time she was almost unknown in the West.

She continued to perform with the Ballets Russes abroad, dancing “Aurora” in Diaghilev’s renowned The Sleeping Princess in London in 1921, and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1923. With the aid of her ex-husband Boris Kaplun, a Bolshevik functionary and lover of the arts, she left Russia for the last time in 1924. She had accepted an invitation to dance as an étoile (prima ballerina) at the Paris Opera Ballet, where she remained until 1932. During that time, she maintained her relationship with the Ballets Russes. In 1932 she made another historic guest appearance in London, dancing Giselle with Anton Dolin of the Royal Ballet. From 1932 to 1937, she toured with a number of companies throughout the world, performing roles from both the classical repertoire and contemporary ballets by choreographers such as Michel Fokine and Bronislava Nijinska. When dancing abroad, she was frequently inaccurately billed as Olga Spessiva.[citation needed]

Spessivtseva had experienced periods of clinical depression as early as 1934, when she showed signs of mental illness in Sydney and needed hospitalisation. In 1937 she left the stage due to a nervous breakdown. She did some teaching, then briefly returned to performing, making her farewell appearance at the Teatro Colón in 1939. That same year, she moved to the United States, where she taught and served as an advisor to the Ballet Theatre Foundation in New York City. She suffered another nervous breakdown in 1943, for which she was hospitalized.[2]

The BBC produced a short programme about her life in 1964, and two years later Anton Dolin wrote a book about her. Both works are titled The Sleeping Ballerina. Expert dance writers have described her as “the greatest of Russian ballerine at this period”,[3] and “The supreme classical ballerina of the century”.[4]

In 1998, Russian choreographer Boris Eifman made her the heroine of his ballet, Red Giselle.[5]


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