© Marcus Roberts (1995 and 2005)


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The immediate post-war period was a difficult time for the Jewish community, as most of its inhabitants returned to their pre-war homes, though the actual rate at which these sojouners left needs further research as the numbers in Oxford remained quite substantial from 1947 - 1950. The rabbi, Dr Weinberg, left in 1948 and there are reports that there were often no Saturday services outside of term-time, though Harold Pollin's personal recollections and research shows that there were quite still in fact sufficient Jews in Oxford to form a minyan! There was also an unsettling Town-Gown conflict in the congregation in the 1950s, but the B'nai B'rith organisation worked with some success to close the gap.

One beacon of levity in the post-war period was the founding of the Oxford University 'Choolent Society' in 1955 and which ran for 30 years. An ironic Jewish take on famous Oxford dining societies such as the Bullingdon Club, it was well known for it good company, humour and talks. Above all it was reputed for serving the sacred choolent in a special chamber pot, as well as its special bow ties and kippot.

However, the 1960s saw a turn-around for the community. Young professionals with children started to establish themselves in Oxford and a great many Jews came as students or to take academic posts. Sir Isaiah Berlin maintained that these changes seems to have been the product of wider social changes and were certainly never the subject of any formal discussion in the university. Note that in 1953, Sir Keith Joseph was only the fifth Jew to be elected a fellow.
The revival was indicated by the rebuilding of the synagogue in 1974 and latterly in 1992.

The post war success of Jews in the university is indicated by the fact that by 1991, no less than seven heads of Oxford colleges were Jews, and between seven and nine percent of students were Jewish. This has ensured the fortunes of the Oxford Jewish community.

Jewish Heads of College, have included distinguished figures such as, Sir Claus Moser of Wadham and Sir Zelman Cowen of Oriel, the former Governor General of Australia and pro-vice--chancellor of the university. Dr Baruch Blumberg of Balliol College, Oxford and Flatbush Yeshiva, New York, was notable for both his academic achievements and Jewish orthodox credentials. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1976, for developing the Hepatitis B vaccine, which has saved the lives of millions.

Another famous, or rather infamous, Oxford figure was Robert Maxwell, the proprietor of the Mirror Newsgroup and Macmillan Publishing. Maxwell located his famous Pergamon Press in Oxford and he also lived in Headington Hall, which he described as his 'council house' as he was able to lease it from the council at a nominal rate. Pergamon Press was based in the stables and the staff called it 'Pergatory Press', though many regarded a stint there as good for their careers and Maxwell did pay well.

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