The first Jewish community in London came to England in the 11th century. They were encouraged to settle here by William the Conqueror who wanted to use their financial abilities.
Although this period saw fairly peaceful relations between the Jewish immigrants and the authorities, life in England for the Jews was not without restrictions. For example Jews were banned from various professions and were regarded by many with suspicion.
Then, over the next 200 years, London's Jewish community suffered increasing persecution. Eventually religious tolerance increased to the extent that in the late 13th century, under the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) London's Jews were expelled from the country.
For the next 400 years Jews were banned from England, and it wasn't until the mid 16th century that London saw another Jewish community. But there were still restrictions on Jewish immigrants and so it was still another 15 years before Jews were allowed to practice their religion in England.
From this date England tended to be much more tolerant towards Jews than many other parts of Europe, and so London quickly had a thriving community of Jewish immigrants.
The largest wave of Jewish immigration to England occurred in the late 19th century after Eastern European Jews were forced to flee religious persecution. By this time London's Jewish community was very substantial, with a population of over 100,000, and was largely centred around the East End.
The East End remained the focus of London's Jewish community until after the Second World War when many of London's Jews moved to other districts. Today areas like Golders Green, Finchley are home to the largest Jewish communities in London, whilst many other areas of London are home to smaller numbers of Jews.
There is an excellent Jewish Museum located in Camden Town which traces the history of London's Jews in more detail.
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