OPINION: All minorities deserve their own History Month

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: All minorities deserve their own History Month

If there is to be a Jewish history month, then there should be dedicated month for all religious minorities, writes Jewish News' historian Derek Taylor

A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London in 2015
(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.
A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London in 2015 (C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.

A number of worthy people are suggesting that we have a Jewish History Month. This would certainly be a novelty.

Quite obviously it would have to be matched by months devoted to other minorities; we should have a Muslim History month, a Hindu History month, a Jain history month, a Sikh history month, a Shinto history month and a Buddhist history month. That’s only seven months, which leaves five up for grabs by other minorities.

It was in January 1728, nearly 300 years ago, that we lost the guide who set down the correct attitude of the Jewish minority in Britain to British culture. Haham David Nieto, the Sephardi religious supremo, was called in by his lay leaders, the Mahamad, to settle a serious problem.

Queen Anne had died in 1714 and the logical successor was James Francis, Edward Stuart, a son of the deposed James II. The Tory government, however, favoured King George of Hanover, who had the slight disadvantage that he was the 45th in succession which, logically, should have made him a non-runner. His advantage, however, was that he was the first Protestant contender and the government didn’t want a Catholic. Who were the Mahamad to support? The rightful successor or the choice of the government.

David Nieto was in no doubt. He quoted a letter sent by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews in Babylon. In it he told them that they should obey the laws laid down by the Babylonians  – Dina de malkhuta dina – the law of the country in which the Jews were living, should be the law of the Jews as well. Even, on occasions, if it contradicted Jewish law as well. The Mahamad listened and by 18 votes to 5 agreed to support the government’s choice. Now this wasn’t a risk-free decision. It was known that Stuart, known as The Old Pretender, intended to invade Britain to claim the throne and it was by no means certain that he’d lose.

In fact he did, and the loyalty of the Jews, whose financiers went on to support the pound during the short-lived civil war, was established for all time.

Now why do we have to prove it all over again? The number of antisemitic incidents since 7 October has affected less than one per cent of the community and we have been defended by the King, parliament, the press, and a string of anti-antisemitic bodies. Nothing has changed in my country and most people realise that we can have no effect on what is going on in Israel and Gaza, tragic though that is. The situation may be different in France or Germany, but the majority of we Brits voted to leave the European Union and we’re not about to be influenced by them.

I’m all in favour of a Jewish museum and the exhibition at the Imperial War Museum shows the respect the authorities have for the victims of the Holocaust. That will be the case for hundreds of years, just as the Spaniards are still apologising for the Inquisition.

Every minority in this country, however, has its own notable history and fair-dos, if we are going to have a history month, then they should have one too.

Derek Taylor is an historian 

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: