By: Joseph Jacobs
University town of England, and one of the earliest English towns inhabited by Jews. Fuller ("History of Cambridge," p. 8) fixes the date of the first Jewish settlement as 1073. The old synagogue was near the prison, but was given to the Franciscans (Brewer, "Monumenta Franciscana," pp. 17, 18). There is a tradition that the Round Church near St. John's College was a synagogue; and the parishes of All Saints and St. Sepulcher are still known as "in the Jewry." One of the earliest episodes mentioned with regard to the Cambridge Jewry is a fine inflicted upon Comitissa, a Jewess of Cambridge, for allowing her son to marry a Lincoln Jewess without the king's permission. It is probable that this Comitissa was the mother of
In 1224 Henry III. granted the house of Benjamin the Jew to the town as a jail. This was on the site of the present Guildhall. The Jews of Cambridge do not seem to have suffered during the riots of 1189-90; but they were victims during the revolt of the barons in 1266.
Since the return of the Jews to England, the chief connection of Jews with Cambridge has been a few teachers at the university, like Israel Lyons (1739-75), S. Schiller-Szinnessy, and Solomon Schechter. The last-named raised the University Library collection of Hebrew manuscripts to the first rank by presenting to it the collection of fragments from the Genizah of Cairo, which he had collected during a scientific mission to that city. Professor J. J. Sylvester took high honors in mathematics in 1839, but was debarred from taking his degree by the university statutes. In 1869 Numa Hartoggained the position of senior wrangler, the highest mathematical triumph a student can obtain, and by this means helped to pass the University Tests Act which allowed Jews to take their degrees. Many Jewish students have obtained considerable distinction in the colleges and universities. Israel Abrahams is now (1902) reader in Rabbinic in the university. There is a small congregation in the town, which has a meeting-hall.
- Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, pp. 4, 222, 374-375;
- Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, under the years 1215, 1224, 1266;
- Baker, History of St. John's College, pp. 26-27.