An Opportunity to Put Jewish Culture and History on the Map
The Jewish Community, that’s Community with a big “C”, working in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, and the city, has been given the opportunity, dare I say obligation, to put our history on the map through the offer of Jurnet’s House, the 12th century dwelling of Norwich Jewish merchant Isaac Jurnet. Also known as ‘The Music House’, the Grade 1 listed building has fallen into disrepair but has the potential to be much more than just a relic. It can, with vision, commitment and yes, huge financial investment, become a centre for culture, history, study, and research. A touchstone for not just Norwich Jews, but hopefully for world Jewry.
On Sunday, 30th July, discussion of the project drew a standing room only crowd to the NHC. There were members from both Norwich based Jewish communities and the wider Jewish community, as well as academic leaders from UEA, the Jewish Heritage Group and the Jurnet’s House Group.
The project is in the very early stages. More is unknown than is known. However, Phase 1 envisions restoration (use and access) of the under croft following an archaeological survey. Phase II would see the renovation of other parts of the building to house a cultural centre as well as a digital heritage lab.
When asked what I thought about it all, I was obviously enthusiastic. I thought, not only could Jurnet’s House serve to preserve and memorialise our often, troubled history, but even more importantly, it can become a venue to celebrate the achievements and contributions that Jews have made to humanity despite the persecution and discrimination that we, as a people, have suffered. What better way to combat antisemitism and what better way to honour those victims of pogroms, expulsions, and the Holocaust, then to educate the general public about the contributions of Jewish scientists, composers, educators, philosophers, musicians, civil rights activists, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.
It’s not going to be easy. But with determination, commitment, expertise, and yup, a whole lot of goodwill and megabucks, Jurnet’s House can become an even better version of what it was…a Jewish home and place of learning in historic Norwich. The opportunity and responsibility are with us, because this city’s history is our history too.
(September 2023 Update).