The History of the Jewish Star in the Realm of the Union Jack - a Review of the Jewish Museum London

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One of the first objects you see in the newly expanded Jewish Museum London, which opens on Wednesday, is also one of the museum’s oldest: the remains of a 13th-century Jewish ritual bath (a mikvah) uncovered during a 2001 construction project in the City of London. As seen here, it is a bit too robustly reconstructed, its age and fragmentary character mollified with the use of modern materials and mirrors mounted like rays above its well.

But it offers testimony to a long history in which England and the Jews were locked in a complicated embrace, mixing tension and sympathy, conflict and allegiance. This relic from a Jewish home in one of London’s medieval neighborhoods offers evidence of some stability and prosperity. Yet it also provides a reminder of the community’s ruin: at the end of the 12th century, the Jews of York were horrifically massacred; at the end of the 13th, Jews were expelled from the country.

How could such an object not be in ruins?

Similar tensions can be sensed throughout this carefully thought-out museum, which has just undergone a £10 million (about $15 million) expansion. Designed by Long & Kentish Architects, the museum has tripled its space, establishing itself as an important addition to a new generation of Jewish institutions in cities including San Francisco and Warsaw.

Two converted buildings and a former piano factory in the Camden Town neighborhood have been joined to create four permanent galleries offering a modest but stunning array of Jewish ritual objects, a broad history of the Jews in England, a look at early-20th-century Jewish immigration, and a glimpse of the Holocaust through the life of a single survivor....

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