Archbishop of Canterbury the Rev Justin Welby, during a special service to mark the 800th anniversary of the synod of Oxford, said the gathering was an opportunity to “repent, remember, and rebuild”.
“Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and anti-semitism and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbours,” the archbishop said.
In 1222, the Church of England synod of Oxford passed laws that forbid social interactions between Jews and Christians, forcing Jewish people to wear identifying badges, banning them from certain professions as well as banning them from building new synagogues.
Historians say the move was the start of an anti-Jewish movement in England that ended up in all Jews in England — approximately 3,000 — being expelled from the country and banned from returning for about 360 years. During this 13th century period of English anti-semitic feeling, a sizeable number of Jewish families converted to the then form of Christianity in the country, which was essentially Catholic.
Although the Church of England was not created until the 1530s after the Protestant Reformation, the Anglican archdeacon of Oxford, the Rev Jonathan Chaffey, said it was now right for Christians to repent of their “shameful actions” and to “re-frame positively” relations with the Jewish community.
The service at Christ Church Oxford was attended by UK Jewish Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.
* Jews in the United Kingdom now number around 275,000, with more than 260,000 of these located n England (mainly in London, Manchester and Leeds). The UK contains the second largest Jewish population in Europe (behind France) and the fifth largest Jewish community worldwide.
The Jewish community has had a presence in Northern Ireland since the mid-18th century. At its peak, in the early part of the 20th century, there were about 1,500 members, but the population has been in sharp decline to present numbers of several hundred.
The last remaining Northern Ireland synagogue, is in north Belfast.