Tercentenary Celebration of Jewish Return to Britain Begins in London

Lord Samuel opened an Anglo-Jewish art and historical exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum today to inaugurate the year-long celebration of the tercentenary of the return of Jewry to Britain. Paintings, engravings, documents, religious objects, art objects, books and photographs were displayed to illustrate the history of British Jewry from its return to England, from which it had been expelled in 1290, until the present. Included in the exhibition was a Rembrandt engraving of Menasseh ben Israel, the Amsterdam rabbi who led the returning movement.

Highlights of the exhibit include the letter from Lord Balfour to Lord Rothschild conveying the British Government’s support for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine–better known to history as the Balfour Declaration; a message from King George V to the people of Palestine on the occasion of the inauguration of the British Mandate in Palestine, printed in gold in the English, Hebrew and Arabic languages, and a 200-year-old painting by a London Jewish painter, Peter Paul Lens, which was loaned by Queen Elizabeth, a patron of the tercentenary. A small section of the exhibition deals with Jewish life in England before the expulsion.

Opening the exhibition, Lord Samuel said that although the Jews were less than one percent of the total population of Britain they had perhaps contributed more than that share to the political cultural and economic life of this country. He noted that the children of Jewish refugee immigrants who came to Britain at the turn of the century had rendered great service to Britain as scientists–there were five times as many Jews among Fellows of the Royal Society as the proportion of Jews to the general population, he stressed. He also underlined the contributions of Jews in the fields of law, administration, music, drama, commerce and industry.

Lord Samuel recalled that from the day of their return Jews had enjoyed liberty in Britain, but that it had taken them 200 years to achieve equality. Now, after 300 years, he added, Jews had a fuller degree than ever before of fraternity, which he called the greatest of the three ideals.

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