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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Jewish resettlement commemorated
Tony Blair at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London
Tony Blair was among dignitaries to attend the ceremony
The 350th anniversary of the resettlement of Jews in England is being marked by a ceremony in London.

Leaders from the Jewish community and other faiths, and the prime minister, gathered at Bevis Marks Synagogue.

They commemorated the time, in 1656, when Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to return to England after they were banished by Edward I in 1290.

Board of Deputies of British Jews president Henry Grunwald said it was a time to appreciate Jewish achievements.

You show how identity through faith can be combined with a deep loyalty to our nation
Tony Blair

Mr Grunwald said: "This is an opportunity for us to look back on what we have achieved while we have been here, and also to show just what it is possible to do as an immigrant community, which is to integrate fully into the life of this country without losing our distinctive identity."

Tony Blair said it was "impossible" to imagine a modern Britain without the Jewish community and praised their "courage and resolution" in a speech delivered at the end of the hour-long thanksgiving service.

Wearing a traditional Jewish skullcap, Mr Blair, said: "As the oldest minority faith community in this country, you show how identity through faith can be combined with a deep loyalty to our nation.

"So much suffering yet so much capacity to renew in the face of it. So much persecution yet so much determination to conquer it. I know this country will always be a true friend of Israel."

Compassionate Cromwell

The Jewish resettlement was allowed after a Dutch Jew, Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel and a small group of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish families in London, asked Cromwell for permission to live and practise their religion in England.

Jews have been living in England since Roman and Anglo-Saxon times, but they did not become an organised community until William the Conqueror arrived in 1066.

He encouraged Jewish merchants and artisans to move from northern France to England.

However, over the next few centuries Jews faced increasing persecution until their expulsion in 1290.

This year's events included concerts, exhibition and talks throughout the country.


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Inside the synagogue where the service took place



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