© Marcus Roberts (1995 and 2005)


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Things improved with the acquisition of a better facility at Worcester Place in 1884. The new synagogue was probably in an upper room on the west side of Worcester Place near to Richmond Road. The increasing numbers of Jewish undergraduates (and the wish to encourage their religious observance) seemed to provide some impetus for the provision of better facilities, as well as a desire to show the Jewish faith in more favourable surroundings.

The congregation finally attained its goal of a permanent synagogue building in 1892 - a mission hall that had been built on the site of the present synagogue on Richmond Road. It was a simple brick building in a mission hall style, complete with Gothic windows and doors and it appears to have been built for use as a lecture room.

Despite the fact that the university had opened its doors to Jews, during the early years of the 20th century, the community itself remained small and more-or-less static in numbers. In 1896, 35 Jews were reported to have been congregants in Oxford. And in 1901, Harold Pollin's research shows that there were some 40, or a little more, Jews in Oxford. There were however, sufficient Jews in Oxford to merit the services of Reverend M.H. Segal (born 1878 in Lithuania) who was minister to the small community in Oxford, before moving on to be the Professor of Bible Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The First World War saw a temporary expansion of the community, due to the upheavals of war, but at the end of the war most went back to London, and the synagogue was largely run for, and by, the undergraduates.

The focal point of Jewish Oxford, from 1920, and indeed its main continuity, was Herbert Loewe (1882-1940) who lived in Beaumont Street. A lecturer in Oriental Languages at Exeter College, appointed in 1913 and working in Oxford until 1931 until he went onto Cambridge. his grandfather, Louis Loewe (1809-1880), had been Sir Moses Montefiore's 'oriental secretary' and the first Principal of the Judith, Lady Montefiore College at Ramsgate.

Loewe was one of the very few visible Jews teaching in Oxford and, on return from war service in India in 1920, he made his home an open house for undergraduate Jewish students on the Sabbath and festivals. Noted both for his religious observance and tolerance, he conducted services that were accessible, as far as possible, to Orthodox and Progressive Jews. It may be that this practice influenced Oxford Synagogue's later celebrated accommodation of multiple traditions under one roof.

Another significant Jewish member of the University was Cecil Roth (1899-1970) at Merton College. He was appointed as reader in Jewish History in 1938 and he, in many ways, took up the mantle left by Herbert Loewe. While his official area of teaching was Biblical Studies, he was a celebrated and wide-ranging historian of Anglo-Jewish history and Jewish art. His studies in Oxford Jewish history are seminal

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