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Modern Jewish History: The York Massacre, as Described by Ephraim of Bonn

(1189 - 1190)

Afterwards, in the year 4551 (l. - 4550 = 1190) the Wanders came upon the people of the Lord in the city of Evoric (York) in England, on the Great Sabbath [before Passover] and the season of the miracle was changed to disaster and punishment. All fled to the house of prayer. Here Rabbi Yom-Tob stood and slaughtered sixty souls, and others also slaughtered. Some there were who commanded that they should slaughter their onlv sons, whose foot could not tread upon the ground from their delicacy and tender breeding. Some, moreover, were burned for the Unity of their Creator. The number of those slain and burned was one hundred and fifty souls, men and women, all holy bodies. Their houses moreover they destroyed, and they despoiled their gold and silver and the splendid books which they had written in great number, precious as gold and as much fine gold, there being none like them for their beauty and splendour. These they brought to Cologne and to other places, where they sold them the Jews.

Roth adds: "This is virtually the only episode in medieval Anglo-Jewish history recorded in detail in the contemporary Hebrew sources, with the exception of the garbled account of the Expulsion (divided into two stages, with a thirty-year interval between them!)...While there are three elegies referring to the York massacre, there is no mention of subsequent events in any other of the very many similar compositions that are known. The later martyrologies speak in general terms of the 'martyrs of England', and somewhat more specifically although very succinctly of the London massacre of 1263. It is desirable to mention this in order to emphasize the very slight prominence of English affairs in the eyes of continental Jewry, at least after the massacres of 1189-90, which clearly had a permanent effect.

From: Ephraim of Bonn's Hebrew account of the York Massacre published in Neubauer and Stern's Hebreische Berichte ueber die Judenverfolgungen waehren der Kreuzzuege (Berlin, 1898), and incorporated in Joseph haCohen's sixteenth-centuruy chronicle Emek haBakha ("Valley of Tears"), translated in A History of the Jews in Fngland by Cecil Roth, Chap 2.

Sources: Medieval Sourcebook