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The musical feast was complemented by two thought provoking literary works, firstly a poem Without Your Jews, by the writer and broadcaster Yvonne Greene, an artfully conceived homage to Cromwell and the early 'Commonweal' that welcomed the first Jewish community which has grown and thrived ever since. Then, a mini-play entitled A Strange Nation written for the occasion by playwright Lynette Craig, and directed by her daughter Sophie Craig, brought alive the 17th century events that led to the readmission of the Jews to Britain.

Osnat Schmool as Deborah, a Jewess in 17th century London
Osnat Schmool as Deborah, a Jewess in 17th century London

Four actors in 17th century costume recreated a sense of time and place in which the original decision to readmit Jews to Britain was made: Menasseh ben Israel, the leader of the Dutch community who negotiated with Cromwell, strongly portrayed by Jonathan Salt; Cromwell, played with forthright bravado by Peter Marinker, who fought for the Jewish cause against Parliamentary opposition; Don Antonio Fernandez de Carvajal, boldly characterised Robert Garson, a merchant and successful Spanish Jewish businessman in London, and Deborah, projected with intensity by Osnat Schmool, an imaginary character whose recollections of the events of her time brought alive the topicality of the decision making. Musical background in the form of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ('Jerusalem the Golden'), by Neomi Shemer, arranged by Adam Musikant, Sephardi Centre Music Director, added a layer of meaning, a link between the survival of the Jewish community in 1656 and in the State of Israel three and a half centuries later.

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Copyright © 4 January 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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