2 Friday, December 22, 1918
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
In the Process of Remembering Incidents of Mass Resistance
to Tyranny, the Great Tragedy of York, the Most Cruelly
Anti-Semitic in British History, Must Not Be Forgotten
A Repetitive Masada Incident Now Atoned for in York,
Where 150 Jews Were Suicides Rather Than Submit to Torture
There is no disputing the fact that suicide is preferable to torture and slavery, as the
Jewish martyrs preferred on the mount of Masada.
There was another such incident, in York, England, where, in 1190, 150 Jews ended
their lives rather than submit to torture.
There were brief references to the tribute to the martyrs in what was described as the
most brutal occurrence in British history.
The deranged cultists' mass murder-suicide in Guyana revived interest in Masada.
Why didn't the story give its due attention to the York Massacre?
Brief items were published referring to the erection of a monument in tribute tothe
victims of the horrible outburst of anti-Semitism nearly 800 years ago. Let the story be
told in as much completeness as possible.
In its issue of Oct. 31, 1978, the London Times carried this story by Philip Howard:
Nearly eight centuries after the most savage act of persecution of Jews in
English history, the victims are to be officially commemorated. Though it is no
consolation to their shades, it puts the record straight. On the night of Friday,
March 16, 1190, about 150 Jews and Jewesses of York, having taken refuge from a.
ravening mob in the royal castle, chose to die at each other's hands rather than
renounce their faith. This afternoon a commemorative tablet for them is being
unveiled by the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of York at Clifford's Tower, the
site of the ancient heroism, mass suicide, and massacre.
It has been erected in cooperation with the Ancient Monuments Division of the
Department of the Environment with money subscribed through the Jewish
Historical Society of England. A Hebrew quotation from Isaiah inscribed on the
tablet means "they ascribe glory to the Lord and his praise in the isles." In
medieval Hebrew usage the name for England was "the Island"; and this verse is
quoted in one of the contemporary Hebrew elegies on the tragedy.
Until the coronation of Richard the Lion-Heart the Jews settled in London and
the main provincial towns of England had been spared the atrocities already
suffered by their compatriots on the mainland of Europe. But Richard's depar-
ture for the Holy Land stirred up ugly crusading fervor. A series of anti-Jewish
riots broke out and attempted to exterminate the urban Jewries by arson. The
only possible sanctuary for the Jews was in the local royal castle. The catas-
trophe at Clifford's Tower at York was partly the consequence of the collapse of
In Spirit of Fairness —
The Israel Position
Once again — it happens so often! — Israel is portrayed
as the villain. The scapegoat becomes the offender and
malefactor in the latest developments involving the failure
in attaining Dec. 17, 1978, as the target date for peace
between Israel and Egypt.
With the negations implanted on the Camp David de-
cisions, on the treaty which was assumed to be a fact after
the historic meetings that followed Camp David at Blair
House, there have developed attitudes involving President
Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israel
Prime Minister Menahem Begin out of which have
emerged compliments and accusations; praise for Sadat,
innuendo for Begin, with President Carter the judge who
has cast both praise and blame on the two leaders in the
search for peace.
In fairness to Israel, portrayed as the "culprit," it is
important that the Israeli position should be judged fairly.
Therefore both the Israel and American Jewish positions in
the matter should be viewed with respect.
At the outset, it is vital that the Israeli communique
should not be ignored. Menahem Begin and his cabinet
issued this communique about the latest developments:
1. The government of Israel is prepared to sign
without delay the draft peace treaty between Egypt
and Israel, including the annexes as formulated on
Nov. 11, 1978, with the approval of the United States
Government. Full responsibility for the fact that the
peace treaty has not been signed rests entirely with
the Egyptian government.
2. During this week we have received through the
Secretary of State of the United States new demands
from Egypt, namely:
A. Making the exchange of ambassadors condi-
tional upon the implementation of the autonomy, at
least in the Gaza district.
B. A basic change in Article IV of the peace treaty
with the intent to bring about a review of the security
arrangements in Sinai after five years.
C. An addition of an interpretive note for Article
VI, which negates its contents.
D. Inclusion of a date, called target date, for the
implementation of the autonomy in Judea, Samaria
and the Gaza district.
3. These demands are inconsistent with the Camp
David framework or are not included in it and change
substantially provisions of the aforementioned peace
treaty. Therefore, they are unacceptable to Israel and
rejected by it.
A. The government of Israel rejects the attitude
and interpretation of the U.S. government with re-
gard to the Egyptian proposal.
5. The letter concerning the autonomy arrange-
ment can be clarified and reformulated.
A measure of partisanship is in evidence in the Ameri-
can role in the peace negotiations. Praise for Sadat, rebukes
by innuendo for Begin do not create good will. The double
standard practiced by American leadership does not con-
tribute to good will. .
confidence between Jews and the royal constable.
But at York there was also, a conspiracy by nobles determined to liquidate
their debts to Jews by force. This explains their concern (recorded in the
chronicles) to destroy the contents of the arca, in which deeds of indebtedness
were kept. Richard Malebisse, member of a prominent Yorkshire baronial family
which gave its name to the village of Acaster Malbis, four miles south of York,
was up to his ears in debt to the Jews, and was the leader of the plot.
Contemporary witnesses, both Jewish and Christian, saw the massacre as a
unique and terrible tragedy. William of Newburgh wrote: "Many of our men were
horrified at the madness of the dead and pitied the survivors. But the leaders of
the conspiracy were moved by no pity. The execrable cruelty of those butchers is
Roger of Howden wrote that, as the mob was about to break in with scaling-
ladders, a Jewish expert in the law rose up and said: "0 men of Israel, listen to my
counsel. It is better that we should kill each other by our own hands than that we
should fall into the hands of the enemies of our law."
Not surprisingly the York horror reverberated around Europe. Two dirges on
the tragedy survive. Joseph of Chartres wrote: "Fie upon thee, 0 king of the
(English) Isles. On thy skirts is blood, the souls of innocent men."
No other incident in medieval Jewish history excited such a stream of comment
from both contemporary Christians and Jews. Today's ceremony cannot undo
the ancient calamity. It can only record it. But at least Christians and Jews,
government and other officials are unifying to honor the very brave men, women
and children who died in a black incident on the English record.
A score of books has been published about Masada and the courage of 960 Jews who
took their own lives rather than suffer torture or slavery. Many elegies have been written
about the York outrage. This is another chapter in Jewish history that merits complete
coverage. It should serve as the title for many a doctoral essay.
What a pity that insaned cultists, about whom millions of words are not being pub-
lished in the American press, should serve as an inspirer of interest in the mass suicide
for dignity and rejection of torture in 1190!
This is a story not to be forgotten. Let it be recorded as an important chapter in the story
of the Jewish martyrology.
No wonder, therefore, that a unanimous outcry was
inspired by the latest Carter attitude. Joining in criticism
of the latest American position are heads of major Jewish
movements: Theodore Mann, chairman, Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; How-
ard N. Squadron, president, American Jewish Congress;
Albert D. Chernin, executive vice president, National
Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council; Rabbi
Alexander M. Schindler, president, Union of American He-
brew Congregations; Rabbi Sol I. Teplitz, president,
Synagogue Council of America; Maxwell E. Greenberg,
national chairman, Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith;
Ivan J. Novick, president, Zionist Organization of America;
Dr. Joseph Sternstein, president, American Zionist Feder-
ation; and many others.
It is the voice of American Jewry that takes issue with
a failure to attain evenness in dealing with Israel and
Egypt. This is a situation demanding speedy correction,
and it is hoped that it will come soon.
Communal Good Wishes
to a Great Hazzan
Cantor Jacob Barkin's leadership in Hazzanut is one of
the markedly notable achievements in American congre-
gational as well as in communal ranks.
A recognized authority on the music of the synagogue,
a musicologist whose knowledge places him in top ranks of
Jewish scholarship, he has earned the admiration of his
colleagues, the appreciation of the tens of thousands who
had the privilege of his guidance in synagogue worship and
the equally large number who enjoyed his concerts.
He is a great hazzan and his departure from this com-
munity leaves a void difficult to fill. He carries with him to
his new home in Florida, as he retires from his post as
Shaarey Zedek cantor, deep affection from an appreciative
Hanuka in Israel Has a Special Flavor
raeli parliament, the Knes-
set, adjourns at candle-
World Zionist Organization
lighting time to the Knesset
JERUSALEM — Living restaurant so that all the
in Jerusalem means know- parliamentarians and their
ing that Hanuka is here. It aides might do the candle-
means driving down the
lighting together, and then
road at night and having join in a communal singing
the children compete to see_ of the traditional Hanuka
two can count more
song "Ma'oz Tzur."
Hanuka in Israel
knowing in advance that on
means that all public
the short trip from one sub- buildings and many of
urb to the next, a distance of the stores erect their own
less than two miles, the candelabra for Hanuka,
children's tally will go into and conscientiously keep
the tally each night. It
Living in Jerusalem and means that on top of the
in Israel means watching ultra-modern Knesset
the candle-lighting on tele- building a huge Hanuka
vision each night of Hanuka menora (or "Hanukiah"
from a different place in the as it is called in Israel) is
country. On the first night, kept lit nightly during the
for example, we got a live
festival, to commemorate
telecast from Ben-Gurion
an event that happened
Airport where a young boy
over 2,000 years ago.
who had just arrived from
Candles are lit nightly on
Russia lit the candles. His top of Massada, that last re-
father had taught him He- treat against the Roman
brew. We also were treated forces. On Massada, how-
to candle-lighting by the ever, the candelabrum is
Hadassah Medical Center unique. To commemorate
and even by an American the forces of the Jewish
(or rather former American) people who have fought for
basketball player of the freedom throughout the
European cup holders, Mac- years, metal soldiers' hel-
cabi Tel Aviv.
mets are used, each contain-
Living in Jerusalem ing its own separate flame.
means hearing that the Is-
Hanuka is the festival of
the miracle of the oil.
Whereas the Maccabees
found only enough oil for
one day for the holy menora
in the Temple, we are told
that a miracle occured and
the oil lasted for eight days.
As a result of the miracle of
the oil, Israel becomes a die-
ter's nightmare during the
Whereas the Jews who
hail from Europe have gen-
erally celebrated with
potato "latkes" or pancakes,
the Jews from Oriental
lands have normally been
accustomed to eating
doughnuts, and especially
jelly doughnuts to celeb-
rate. Whereas 11 months of
the year one cannot-find a
doughnut for love, money,
or dunking, during the
month of Hanuka there isn't
a store that doesn't sell
Of course, Hanuka is
also the time for all the
little gamblers to come to
the fore, with their
"svivonim" or Hanuka
tops. Unfortunately for
our children, who
brought all their
"svivonim" with them
from the United States,
these were all doomed to
instant obsolescence in
"svivonim" sold in the
Diaspora all contain the
Hebrew letters Noon,
Gimmel, Hay, Shin, re-
presenting the Hebrew
sentence "Nes Gadol
Haya Sham" (a great
miracle happened there
— in Israel), all the local
ones have the letter Pe as
the final letter, to repre-
sent "Nes Gadol Haya
Po" (a great miracle hap-
In Israel school vacations
follow the Hebrew calendar.
That means that students
throughout Israel are off for
a full week at Hanuka, not
at Christmas, unless the
holidays coincide as they do
Only in Israel is this the
time of the year that every
radio announcer, every TV
commentator and every
newscast begins with the
wish to us, and to all of Is-
rael: "Hag Sameakh," that
we may all have a joyful
Living in Israel, where
the story of Hanuka was
enacted 2,000 years ago,
gives special meaning and
emphasis to the celebration