“I think a community is central to the understanding of home.”
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is “torn from home“, so Maddie has turned to her own local community in York to explore its relationship with Judaism. The video also features voiceovers from regional ambassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust about their own relationships with their hometowns. The most prevailing theme? Safety.
For Maddie, her hometown of Glasgow is a place she has a deep connection to. “I know every detail of its culture, every local private joke,” she says. “It’s the place I know I will always be comfortable and safe.”
York has a very small Jewish community which stems back to events in 1190 CE at Clifford’s Tower. “Relationships between the English and Jewish communities were tense,” Maddie explains. “The Jews of York were given safety in Clifford’s Tower but… a mob formed outside the tower instigated by anti-Jewish protestors.” In what leaders inside the tower thought was the only foreseeable way out, all 150 inhabitants took their own lives. Since then, Maddie says, it has become a part of Jewish folklore not to venture inside the city walls. It is only recently that the small community has emerged.
Maddie met with members of the York Liberal Jewish Community to understand more about what it means to be Jewish in York. Student rabbi Gabriel Webber believes that both Jews and non-Jews feel a connection to the past events at Clifford’s Tower. “It’s really exciting to see Jewish life being rekindled here,” he elaborates. “[The organisation] was started by a mix of people… lots of people who had lived in York the whole time and had some Jewish background or interest and had never connected with it before now.’
Hava Flemming, the YLJC secretary, has lived all across the world and comments that she sometimes feels like an outsider in England; however, York brings an entirely different feeling of comfort. “What I love about York is that everyone is made to feel very welcome,” she says. “This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of something new.”
“The focus in all Jewish communities is to read from the Torah scroll,” she adds. “We have an amazing scroll from one of the Czech communities that perished in the Holocaust. So we feel that’s a very [important] connection to the Holocaust. Even though it’s damaged, we love the fact that it’s damaged.” Home, it seems top Maddie, is a transitory experience for many Jews: “A Jew can feel at home with the shared history and shared language really wherever we go.”