York Council 19092023

York welcomes first Rabbi in 800 years

In an historic meeting, City of York Council has welcomed Rabbi Dr Elisheva Salamo as she begins her new role as the spiritual leader of York’s Jewish community.

Rabbi Elisheva was appointed earlier this month by York Liberal Jewish Community, which was founded in 2014, with the aim of providing a friendly and inclusive home to any residents, students, and visitors to the City and its wider hinterland who identify as Jewish.

The appointment marks an especially significant moment in the City’s history, since Rabbi Elisheva will be York’s first resident Rabbi since the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290. Now with the YLJC community going from strength to strength, the time was right to appoint its own resident Rabbi to meet the spiritual and educational needs of its growing diverse community.

The arrival of the new Rabbi coincides with research by the University of York which sheds light on York’s thriving Jewish community in the thirtheeth century, including the homes of several leading Jewish citizens and the location of the City’s first synagogue.

The new research, issued this week, shows that the Jewish population of York had rebuilt a community in York in the years following the March 1190 massacre at Clifford’s Tower, when the city’s Jews sought refuge in Clifford’s Tower from a violent antisemitic mob and the pogrom there left over 150 Jews dead.

The Council’s Executive Member for equalities, Cllr Katie Lomas, joined the Lord Mayor to welcome Rabbi Elisheva and York’s Liberal Jewish Community’s Chair Lilian Coulson to York’s Mansion House on Tuesday 5 September.

Rabbi Dr Salamo, who is originally from California, has previously worked in the United States, Switzerland and South Africa, and is an advocate of interfaith dialogue and social action.

In her new role, she will lead York’s Jewish community in worship, with her first formal engagements commencing in September, leading YLJC’s full programme of High Holiday services and events throughout the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) period.

Councillor Chris Cullwick, Lord Mayor of York, welcomed Rabbi Elisheva’s appointment, saying:

“I was delighted to invite Rabbi Elisheva to the Mansion House to welcome her to our wonderful City and to express my delight at this significant milestone for the Jewish community in York. I hope she quickly feels at home here and I very much look forward to working with her.”

Rabbi Dr Elisheva responded:

“I am honoured and privileged to become York’s first Progressive Rabbi, working with the existing community to develop our programme of learning and worship for all age groups, to encourage and inspire those who wish to live a modern Jewish life in harmony with our neighbours and Interfaith friends. We share values with so many and, as our community grows, we look forward to welcoming new members from within York and from wider Yorkshire, as we continue to enjoy working with you and standing together in this City of Sanctuary.”

Councillor Katie Lomas, Executive Member for Finance, Performance, Major Projects, Human Rights, Equality and Inclusion, said:

“On behalf of the council, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to Rabbi Elisheva as she settles into her new role. It was fantastic to meet her and mark this significant moment in York’s history alongside members of our Jewish community. I’m looking forward to working with her and the Jewish community as we make York a welcoming and tolerant city for those of all faiths and none.

Lilian Coulson, Chair of York Liberal Jewish Community, added:

“After almost a decade of working together, YLJC is proud and honoured to have become York’s recognised lead faith group within the City, an active member of York Interfaith Group, and the go-to partner with City of York Council, York Minster, English Heritage and many other organisations for Jewish / faith events and information and advice.  We look forward to expanding that role with our new Rabbi, welcoming and working with you all and, hopefully, subject to funding, making her role full time and then having our own building, which will allow us to contribute so much more to this City’s work and its history.”