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After 800 years, Church of England Apologizes for Anti-Jewish Laws

A church service in London on May 8, 2022 marked the 800 years of the Synod of Oxford. The synod was the passing of anti-Jewish laws that eventually led to the expulsions of Jews from the UK.

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and representatives of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attended the special service held at Christ Church in Oxford. The Church of England apologized for its “shameful actions” for the Synod of Oxford, reports The Times of Israel.

Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbors. —Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Passed in 1222, the synod banned social interactions between Jews and Christians, forced Jews to wear identifying badges, and imposed specific tithe on Jews. Jews were also outlawed to work in certain professions and build new synagogues. More anti-Jews laws followed, including prohibitions on land ownership and passing on inheritance to children. The laws became more draconian that 3,000 Jews were expelled from England in 1290. King Edward’s edict forbade them to return for more than 360 years.

Archbishop Welby tweeted: “Today’s service is an opportunity to remember, repent and rebuild. Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbors.”

The Diocese of Oxford issued a statement saying, “Our intention is for this commemoration to be a strong signal of such rich potential, reflected in the depth of interfaith encounter and service that increasingly exists in Oxford and across our society.”

The Church of England (C of E) was not created until the 1530s, but Jonathan Chaffey, archdeacon of Oxford, said it’s now time for Christians to repent their “shameful actions” and to “reframe positively” relations with the Jewish community.

The church has made efforts to renew ties and improve relationships with British Jews in the past years.

In 2019, the C of E issued a document in the hopes of promoting Christian-Jewish ties. The document, God’s Unfailing Word, urges Christians to atone for its participation in antisemitism acts in the past, reports The Guardian. It revealed that centuries of stereotyping and persecution of Jews became a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism.”

“Christians have been guilty of promoting and fostering negative stereotypes of Jewish people that have contributed to grave suffering and injustice. They therefore have a duty to be alert to the continuation of such stereotyping and to resist it,” according to the document.

It also acknowledged that two C of E cathedrals, Norwich and Lincoln, were associated with the spread of the “blood libel” in the late Middle Ages.

Tony Kushner, professor of Jewish/non-Jewish relations at Southampton University, said, the C of E’s apology for the synod is the “hardest step.” He added, “Accepting that blood libels, massacres and expulsions were wrong is straightforward…accepting that Jews have a validity of religion is more challenging.”

Kushner explained that the C of E didn’t exist during the synod, yet it still apologized for something that it was not responsible for. “But if it regards itself as the leading voice of Christianity in Britain today, then the apology has some merit in recognizing injustices that were done.”

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