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OXFORD , English university town. The presence of Jews is first recorded in 1141, when they were despoiled by both claimants to the throne during the civil war. The Jewry was in the center of the town (the present St. Aldate's Street). Oxford Jews suffered greatly from the confiscatory tallage imposed in 1210. An ecclesiastical synod of the Province of Canterbury held there (1222) renewed the anti-Jewish regulations of the Fourth *Lateran Council and condemned to death a deacon who had converted to Judaism. In the 13th century Oxford possessed an *archa. The Jewish population was, however, at all times small, probably never exceeding 150. Besides acting as moneylenders, the Jews were notorious as university landlords, which was one reason for the student riot against them in 1244, after which relations with university members were regulated. The wealthiest Oxford Jew of the period was David of Oxford (d. 1244), remarkable details of whose private

life are extant. Oxford was the place of residence of R. Yom Tov and R. Moses Yom Tov of London whose son Jacob of Oxford (d. 1276/1277) was a leading member of the community. *Berechiah Natronai ha-Nakdan, author of the Fox Fables, is perhaps identical with Benedict le Puncteur of Oxford (c. 1200). In 1268 Oxford Jewry was heavily fined for an alleged outrage on a crucifix and in 1278–79 several Jews were arrested and some executed on charges of clipping the coinage.

From the 17th century onward Jewish-born teachers of Hebrew, mostly converts, found their way to Oxford. Permanent settlement began after the mid-18th century but a community was organized only in 1841. Jews were first admitted to the university in 1854. By the end of the century the undergraduate element was large enough to reinforce the shrinking town community – a student society was established in 1904. Samuel *Alexander became a Fellow of Lincoln College in 1882 and James Joseph *Sylvester professor of geometry in 1883. However, such appointments became frequent only in the second quarter of the 20th century. Several distinguished German Jewish refugees arrived after 1933 and during World War ii the community was enormously swollen by evacuees from London. In 1967 the Jewish population was approximately 400, in addition to approximately 200 undergraduates. However regular synagogue services were held only on the High Holidays and in termtime.

In the 16th century Hebrew studies began systematically to be pursued in the university. A regius professorship of Hebrew was established in 1546. Its incumbents included Edward *Pococke (from 1648 to 1691), E.B. Pusey (1828–1882), S.R. *Driver (1883–1914), and Herbert *Danby (1936–1953). The acquisition of the library of David *Oppenheim in 1817 made the Hebrew collection of the *Bodleian Library outstanding. H.M.J. *Loewe was lecturer in Oriental languages (1914–1931). A readership in Jewish studies was established in 1939, its first incumbent being C. *Roth.

Although Oxford was arguably slower than Cambridge in welcoming Jews, in the 20th century a major Jewish presence manifested itself at the university. Between 1910 and 1971 there were 13 Jewish presidents of the Oxford Union Society, the famous debating club, including Philip *Guedalla, Leslie *Hore-Belisha, Jeremy *Isaacs, and Leonard *Stein. Since 1951, there have been at least ten Jewish heads of Oxford colleges, among them Sir Isaiah *Berlin, Sir Zelman *Cowen, A.L. *Goodhart, Lord *Goodman, and H.L.A. *Hart. During World War ii, a motion at the Oxford Union Society calling upon Britain to admit more Jewish refugees was reputedly the only one in its history to be passed unanimously. In recent years, Oxford has emerged as a major academic center of Jewish Studies, most notably with the establishment in 1972 of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, founded chiefly by David *Patterson, which is housed in premises on St. Giles in central Oxford and in Yarnton Manor outside of town. It was given considerable funding by the *Wolfson family. The Centre has also facilitated the emergence of Oxford as a notable venue for Yiddish Studies, something almost inconceivable a century or even 50 years earlier.

In the mid-1990s the Jewish population of the town numbered approximately 700. The 2001 British census showed a declared Jewish population of about 500, with approximately another 500 students. Oxford has an Orthodox synagogue and Masorti and Progressive congregations as well as a University Jewish Society.


C. Roth, Jews of Medieval Oxford (1951); idem, in: Oxford Magazine (March 7, 1963); idem, in: Oxoniensia, 15 (1950), 63–80; idem, in: M. Praz (ed.), English Miscellany, 9 (1958), 163–71; Neubauer, in: Collectanea of the Oxford Historical Society, 2 (1890), 277–316; Cohen, in: jhset, 13 (1936), 293–322. add. bibliography: D.W. Lewis, The Jews of Oxford (1992); M. Jolles, A Directory of Distinguished British Jews, 18301930 (2002), 145–53; W.D. Rubinstein, Great Britain, index; C. Cluse (ed.), The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages (2004).

[Cecil Roth /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 29 2018

Oxford a city in central England on the River Thames; site of Oxford University, the oldest English university, comprising a federation of thirty-nine colleges, the first of which, University College, was formally founded in 1249. The university was established at Oxford soon after 1167, perhaps as a result of a migration of students from Paris. The first women's college, Lady Margaret Hall, was founded in 1878.
Oxford comma a comma immediately preceding the conjunction in a list of items; the name comes from the preferred use of such a comma to avoid ambiguity, in the house style of Oxford University Press.
Oxford English a name for spoken English marked by affected utterance, popularly supposed to be characteristic of members of Oxford University.
Oxford English Dictionary the largest dictionary of the English language, prepared in Oxford and originally issued in instalments (originally as the New English Dictionary) between 1884 and 1928. A second edition was published in 1989, and a third edition is being prepared.
Oxford Group a Christian movement popularized in Oxford in the late 1920s, advocating discussion of personal problems by groups. It was later known as Moral Rearmament.
Oxford Movement a Christian movement started in Oxford in 1833, seeking to restore traditional Catholic teachings and ceremonial within the Church of England. Its leaders were John Keble, Edward Pusey, and (until he became a Roman Catholic) John Henry Newman. It formed the basis of the present Anglo-Catholic (or High Church) tradition.


views updated May 14 2018

ox·ford / ˈäksfərd/ • n. 1. (also oxford shoe) a type of lace-up shoe with a low heel. 2. (also oxford cloth) a heavy cotton cloth chiefly used to make shirts.


views updated May 23 2018

Oxford City and county district in s central England, on the River Thames; the county town of Oxfordshire. Established as a trading centre and fort, it was raided by the Danes in the 10th and 11th centuries. During the English Civil War the city was a Royalist stronghold. Industries: motor vehicles, steel products, electrical goods, printing and publishing. Pop. (1994) 132,758.