Home > Worship > History of Jews in Norwich

The Norwich Jews have a long and interesting history. The first Norwich synagogue was founded in the 11th century. The medieval synagogue was in the City centre close to the Castle, as the community, who mostly lived in the same area, was under the protection of the King’s representative. Sadly the first known ‘Blood Libel’ originated in Norwich in 1144 following the death of a Christian boy, William, in Thorpe Woods just before Passover. Following the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 there was no known Jewish community until the middle of the 18th century. A beautiful synagogue was built in 1849 which was used for worship for 93 years until it was destroyed by enemy action in 1942.

The Old synagogue in Norwich

The Old synagogue in Norwich

The present site of the Synagogue in Earlham Road was leased from the City Council in 1948 when a temporary prefabricated building to be used for a Synagogue was erected. In the following year a hall with a flat for a Minister above it was added to the site. This was used for the next 20 years until 1969 when the present synagogue was consecrated. A new lease has now been agreed to extend the lease for a further 999 years.

Further information on the history of Norwich Jewry can be found in a comprehensive book, ‘The Jews of Medieval Norwich’ (1967) by Vivian Lipman, which documents its early history.

More specific details of the congregation over the past two centuries are given in a short booklet entitled ‘The Norwich Hebrew Congregation 1840 – 1960 A Short History’ by Henry Levine. Copies of this publication can be purchased by emailing the Secretary.

Maureen Leveton has also written a very informative article for the annual Norwich Israel & Social Society brochure called ‘The Jews In Norwich 11th to 21st Century’. You can read this article 11th-12thcenteryjews here.