Leicester has worked hard to remember King Richard lll, honour him with a dignified burial
and enable people to give him some respect by learning about his life and remembering his
legacy both the positive and the negative.
Looking at history is an important part of Jewish life, understanding and interpreting how
the past has shaped Jewish identity. Jews honour and respect people after they have died
by remembering them, saying the special Kaddish prayer at the graveside and on the
anniversary of the death of a close family member. The memories are both personal for
family and friends and collective especially for those who have no close family to honour
them. We remember those who died naturally and those who did not.
The word zachor – remember, appears in one of the 10 commandments; ‘zachor et
hashabbat’ – remember the Sabbath. Jews understand this as not just to remember in a
passive way, but to be engaged and recall verbally, so visiting the exhibition and talking
about the life of King Richard resonates with the importance of collective active memory.
Family and lineage are important. A Jewish person’s full Hebrew name identifies them as
the son/daughter of their named parent. With the custom of naming newborns in memory
of dead relatives respect and honour for individuals is maintained.
Richard’s remains have been treated respectfully. In Jewish custom and practice
exhumation is generally forbidden but certain exemptions appear in rabbinic texts including
“When a body is buried in an available site, but without authorisation from its owner, the
body may be moved” and “humiliation of the dead, does not [result] when a body is
exhumed and reburied in the same cemetery or even in the same city.”
Jews had been expelled from England long before King Richard lll’s reign and did not return
until long after so there is no direct shared experience. However respect for the dead and
keeping memories alive are strong core values of Judaism and have some relevance to the
finding of Richard’s original burial place in a Leicester car park and their subsequent
reinternment in more auspicious surroundings.
Miriam Levene: Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation
Gary Kramer: Leicester Hebrew Congregation
Download

Leicester has worked hard to remember King Richard lll, honour him