On the 18th of November 2022, Clifford’s Tower opened its doors for its first Jewish ceremony in over 800 years. The site, where a pogrom in 1190 left over 150 Jews dead, served as the venue for a historic first night of Chanukah celebrations, organised by York Liberal Jewish Community in conjunction with North Yorkshire Police. Despite the freezing December weather, the event was attended by over 70 guests from across the North of England, including City of York Council’s Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Chris Cullwick, The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell and English Heritage Host Andrea Selley, Territory Director – North, who all spoke movingly at the event.

For many, the event is a watershed moment in York’s history, and a symbol of the City’s commitment to being a City of Sanctuary and Human Rights. Lilian Coulson, Chair of YLJC, spoke of her hope that the light of the Chanukah candles would “help heal old wounds.”

Lilian explained: “The massacre of the Jews in 1190 at Clifford’s Tower is a dark time in the history of the Jews in York. But Chanukah is the Jewish festival of light, celebrating our freedom after the overthrowing of the Syrian oppressors and the re- cleansing of our Temple in 165 BCE. We stand here at Clifford’s Tower – yet again in a world where another country, Ukraine, led by another Jewish leader, is fighting to throw off oppressors and for its freedom – to remember the atrocities that once took place at this very spot, to shine the Chanukah lights on the darkness around us, and to pray for a better world.”

The event is YLJC’s third Chanukiah lighting with the City of York Council’s Civic Party. All of the speakers spoke as of one voice of York’s values and how we alltogether. They have each welcomed York Jewish Liberal Community with open arms since its inception in 2014, so that it is now a recognised lead faith group within the City, an active member of York Interfaith Group, and a go-to partner with York Minster and City of York Council for Jewish / faith events.

YLJC were delighted to welcome fellow Jews from across the region to this unique Chanukah celebration, including Sara Radivin from the Board of Deputies and Susie Gordon of Leeds Jewish Representative Council, together with Simon Bean, Head of English Heritage properties for Yorkshire and North Midlands.

This is not our only Hanukkah event.  On the last day of Hanukkah at 4pm on 26 December 2022 we will be meeting  outside The Castle Museum on ‘The Eye of York’. For more details please email us.