NORWICH, county town of Norfolk, E. England. The medieval Jewish community is first mentioned in 1144, when the discovery of the body of a boy, William of Norwich, in a wood near the town gave rise to the first recorded *blood libel in Europe. Although this apparently had no immediate effect on the community, there were attacks by citizens on the Jews in the 1230s, the one in 1234 following an accusation that the Jews had kidnapped and circumcised a Christian child. The descendants of *Jurnet of Norwich, who were financiers, patrons of learning, and scholars, dominated the community from 1160 to 1260: the lower part of their stone house still stands in King Street (as part of the "Music House"). The 13th-century community (numbering about 100 to 150) seems, from the considerable documentary evidence surviving, mainly to have consisted of financiers who lent to local traders and the rural gentry and villagers. The community suffered from the "coin-clipping" charges of 1279 and the execution for blasphemy of the local magnate, Abraham fil' Deulecresse; by the time of the general expulsion from England in 1290, it numbered only 50 souls. The poems of *Meir b. Elijah of Norwich (c. 1244) have survived, mainly in a Vatican manuscript.
Individual Jews settled in Norwich in the first half of the 18th century and there was an organized community by 1754 when a quarrel in the synagogue attracted much attention in the press. Continuous communal activity dates from the purchase of a burial ground in 1813 and the opening of a new synagogue in 1828. Local 19th-century families included those of Samuel (father of the first Lord *Mancroft), Haldinstein, and Soman (founder of the Norwich Argus newspaper). The community was especially known for shoe manufacture, antique dealing, and the press and printing. The synagogue, which was destroyed by bombing in World War II, was rebuilt in 1948; the community's numbers remained between 100 and 200 (1% of the total population) through most of the 20th century. The 2001 British census found a total of 239 declared Jews in Norwich. The town had an Orthodox and a Reform synagogue.
V.D. Lipman, Jews of Medieval Norwich (1967); C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 85–87; Roth, England, index; Roth, Mag Bibl, 92, 93, 170; H. Levine, Norwich Hebrew Congregation 1840–1960; Jackson's Oxford Journal (June 8, 1756). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Brown, "The Jews of Norfolk and Suffolk Before 1840," in: JHSET, 32 (1990–92), 219–36.
[Vivian David Lipman]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.