Making Up for Past, Churches Give Money to British Zionists

Churches in the city of Derby have presented the Zionist Federation with $4,300 after renouncing a 700-year-old charter that barred “any Jew or Jewess from ever living” in the city.

Rev. Geoff Pickup of the New Life Christian Center in Derby, in central England, wrote to the Zionist Federation, the central Zionist organization in Great Britain, offices explaining the decision.

“Seven hundred years ago the burgesses of Derby paid the king 10 marks, equivalent to almost” $4,300 today, “for a charter to exclude any Jew or Jewess from ever living or being remembered in Derby,” Pickup wrote.

“We feel we have now cut off the injustice of 700 years with much prayer and repentance,” the letter said. “We now feel as a token of our respect and to bring a closure motion on the past that we would like to give the equivalent amount of money to a Jewish cause. I hope you will accept this gift with our love, apologies, honours and prayers.”

“We are stunned and delighted at this fantastic gesture, and the donation will be put to good use, going to one of our charities in Israel,” said Alan Aziz, executive director of the Zionist Federation. “It underlines all the efforts we have made over the past few years to better the relationship between Jews and non-Jews.”

Last March, a service officially renouncing the charter was held in Derby Cathedral.

An appeal was made during the service, attended by more than 150 church members from the Derby area, to raise the money.

“It took 700 years to undo the charter, and then it took another seven months to raise the” money, said Geoffrey Smith, of the Christian Friends of Israel.

Smith said the story of the Derby charter appears in Cecil Roth’s “A History of the Jews in England” and in a 19th- century history of the city.

He said he had checked records at the Public Record Office in London, as well as local records in Derby, and found a reference to the charter in the Royal Exchequer remembrance records.

Smith then retrieved the record of the king’s revenues in 1260. The record was a 12-foot-long scroll up of calf-skin sheets, bound end to end, in which two lines referred specifically to the payment of 10 marks for the charter banning Jews from the city.

Smith phoned the Bank of England to ask how much 10 marks in 1260 would have been worth today. Their calculation produced 2,980 pounds — hence the check for 3,000 pounds, equal to $4,300, for the Zionist Federation.

“What began as a curse against the Jews 700 years ago, has come out as a blessing,” since the money will now be going to a worthy charity, Smith said.

Residents of Derby had “faced up to their past in order to make a difference today,” he said, adding that over the past seven years churches in other cities in England have held services of repentance for past offenses against Jews.

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