Costly memorial stone love gift for Lincoln Jews marks significant turnaround

Viewing the Lincoln Jewish Memorial Stone on its arrival in December 2023 are representatives of the city’s Jewish communities, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and Phil Kerry of Goldholme Stone

By Charles Gardner, UK Correspondent

At a time when Jews are once again wondering whether they are no longer welcome in Britain, Christians in the city of Lincoln have rallied round to honour them in a special way.

An ornate memorial stone, carved in India and transported to the UK at great expense by a local quarry company, is to be unveiled in September as a token of love and support for the city’s Jews.

Quite a turnaround, given the shocking history of antisemitism in the historic city. And against the current tide of hatred running rampant on our streets.

Back in 1255, Lincoln was responsible for fostering a notorious blood libel myth – suggesting a Christian boy had been slaughtered for use in religious feasts – that sent ripples of Jew hatred throughout Europe.

King Henry III, in cahoots with the Church and without a trial, ordered the execution of a Jew named Copin for the alleged crime. He was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged through the streets of the city before being hanged on the gallows. And many more Jews were later murdered on the orders of the State.

The cathedral, meanwhile, erected a monument to the supposed boy martyr, named Hugh. It was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops during the English Civil War, but its base remains in place.

Now, as an expression of our deep sorrow that the Jewish people should have been so shamefully treated, the Lincoln Jewish Memorial Stone is set to take its place in the city. But for obvious reasons, the exact location is being kept under wraps for the time being.

The idea was originally proposed at a prayer meeting four years ago which included city council planning official Tim Collis, who had contacts with quarries.

After both the cathedral and the castle declined to help, local quarry owner Phil Kerry offered his full backing, even to covering the considerable cost.

The design was inspired by a first century artefact, now known as the Magdala Stone, recently dug up in the Galilee complete with iconic Second Temple symbolism including the depiction of a menorah.

But because it was too complex for Phil’s own employees, the intricate details were carved by colleagues in Jaipur, India, and duly transferred to the UK last December.

The Christians decided to use stone, not only as a riposte to the blood libel shrine, but also to honour Jesus – “the stone the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 2:7) – who, on Palm Sunday, said that the stones would cry out if He silenced those welcoming Him to Jerusalem.

Also East Midlands regional representative of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Tim said: “It is our prayer that the memorial will be a cornerstone of remembrance in the city and UK, and will cry out its message of reconciliation and hope for generations to come.”

It was only 35 years after the Lincoln pogrom, in 1290, that Jews were altogether expelled from England, waiting nearly four centuries before being welcomed back by Oliver Cromwell. Yet they had earlier enjoyed a covenant of protection from the Crown through William the Conqueror from 1066.

However, pogroms broke out in many places in 1190, and the Lincoln murders of 1255 spread antisemitism throughout Europe. As it happened, Edward I’s “final solution” to the Jewish “problem” in 1290 helped pave the way for the Nazi era more than six centuries later.

“No monument or memorial has ever been erected in memory of the Jews murdered in those terrible days,” said Tim.

Now Phil Kerry, whose Goldholme Stone company had earlier provided material for the Jewish community in London, has also blessed the Jews of Lincoln with this precious gift, understood to have cost tens of thousands of pounds.

Phil explained: “It was a few years ago that I provided a large quantity of stone for building a synagogue and Jewish school in Clapton, south London. And it is out of these business dealings and contact with the Jewish community that I have developed a great respect for the Jews.”

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