© Marcus Roberts (1995 and 2005)


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Roth and his wife often invited Jewish students to Sabbath tea parties where, in the early days of (misunderstood) freezer technology, left-over sandwiches were apt to be recycled from tea party to tea party, including one apparently with a bite taken out of it, that cropped up on a regular basis!
During the early 1930s Isaiah Berlin estimated that there were probably not more than 70 to 80 Jews in Oxford University, that he knew of, and still a good number were keen not to be identified as Jewish. By this time the university supported both the Adler Society (encouraged by Loewe) and the Zionist Society.


In the town itself, the Jewish community was small and very much a minority. The late Donald Silk, a well known Alderman and City figure, (whose first marriage was to the Jewish tennis star, Angela Buxton - the first British tennis star to reach the Wimbledon finals in 17 years and also winner of the Wimbledon Doubles Championship with Althea Gibson in 1956), recalled that his Oxford school days were not without their travails.

He recounted how his time at the Oxford Council School was made a misery each Easter by a teacher who would retell the Easter story. At the end of the Passion, her pièce de resistance, was to turn to the class and declare, 'and how do we know this is true? Stand up the Jews!' Whereupon Donald and his fellow Jewish student, on rising from their seats, would wish for the floor to open up under their seats and swallow them up from the humiliation of being the proof of the myth of the Wandering Jew.

The efforts Donald's father, Bobby Silk - an East-Ender by origin - to establish the family fortunes give some insights into Jewish life in Oxford in the period as well as the changing patterns of Jewish occupations. A family anecdote from the late 1920s recalls how Bobby would tour the county in a van, peddling goods in different villages.

On one fateful day, he had a collision between Banbury and Oxford, which left the wreckage of his van, shop and business strewn across the road. Bobby, though, was not disheartened. Instead, he raised an impromptu storm sale on the crash site, attracting the local inhabitants who bought all the goods lock, stock and barrel. He was even able to sell the wreckage of the van. A local newspaper was reputed to have run a story about the incident with a photograph of the 'enterprising Jew'.

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