© Marcus Roberts (1995 and 2005)


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Today, Jewish study is thriving both within and around the university in the Oriental Faculty and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Yarnton Manor, founded by David Patterson in 1972. The National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail is also based on the campus of the OCJHS.

Jewish life has become much more self-confident and outward going in the recent past, as is evidenced in the establishment of a Chabad House in Oxford in 1987 under Rabbi Gershon Overlander, and in its subsequent form as the Oxford University L'Chaim Society in 1989, which courted local, national, and even international publicity for itself, until its demise in 1994.

The society, under the directorship of Rabbi Shmuel Boteach, 'the motormouth rabbi', had nearly 2,000 members at its height and held prestigious events (often in partnership with the Oxford Union Society) with international figures such as Michael Gorbachev, Bob Hawke, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Simon Wiesenthal, and Elie Wiesel. Rabbi Boteach was noted for his supreme ability at PR and self-promotion, as well as his ability to project Judaism into the popular press and media. The society lasted for more than 10 years, but caused severe controversy among many in the community and university, with both vehement opponents and supporters.

Today, the Oxford University Chabad Society under Rabbi Eli Brackman has developed Chabad House into an excellent student resource, with adjacent
housing for Jewish students, as well as a large new student centre in George Street. They're also building a new mikveh at the Cowley Road site, the first mikveh in Oxford in modern times.

The local Jewish community, largely based at the Oxford Jewish Congregation in the Oxford suburb of Jericho, remains relatively small, but is lively and stable, with around 200 families. Many members of the OJC are also members of the university, and the passage of Jewish students through the community is a constant stimulus.

The OJC is home to an active University Jewish Society (JSoc) which runs regular events and has its own student chaplain. The synagogue is affiliated to the United Synagogue, but has had no rabbi since the 1948, and makes a significant virtue of the fact, supporting a unique menage of Liberal, Reform, Masorti and Orthodox congregations under one roof, with services, and funerals, conducted by synagogue members.

It is optimistic about its future, as is evidenced by a recently completed building programme which established a major new education block as well as providing as striking new roof line, reminiscent of breaking waves.

Selected Sources and Further Reading for the Jews of Oxford

Cecil Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford, (OHS, 1951)
David M. Lewis, The Jews of Oxford, (Oxford, 1992)
Cecil Roth, The Intellectual Activities of medieval English Jewry, (OUP, 1948)
Patricia Skinner, The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary, and Archaeological Perspectives, (2003)
Malachi Beit-Arie, The Pannizzi Lectures 1992 -- Hebrew Manuscripts of the East and West, Towards a Comparative Codicology, (British Library, 1993), p.p. 16-18.
Peter E Porman, 'Corpus' Hebrew Manuscripts -- A Mirror Reflecting the Early History of Jews in England'
Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd edition Blackwell, 1983, p.p. 343-347.
J. E. Salter's, Survey of Oxford, (OHS, 1960)
H. Hurst, Oxford Topography (Oxford, 1899)

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