The First Oxford Jewish Graduate?


In 1963 The Oxford Magazine published an article by Dr Cecil Roth commemorating the graduation of Sackville Davis, the first Jew to graduate from Oxford University in 1862.  He was a student of Worcester College.   This proved to be not such an edifying event as had at first been hoped, with little glory attributed to either College, University or the graduate.   Nevertheless the account is worthy of study as it describes the attitude prevelent in the mid nineteenth century to all non-mainstream applicants.

This article can be downloaded and we thank the Editors of the Oxford Magazine for their permission to include this article here.  
To read this article click HERE

Isaac Abendana 16XX-1699
The First Notable Jew of the 'Modern' Period

See the entry under  Isaac Abendana

Adolf Neubauer 1831 - 1901

Adolf Neubauer, scholar, author, librarian and bibliographer, was one of the first Jews to gain an academic appointment at Oxford University. He is primarily remembered for his achievements as a sub-librarian at the Bodleian Library which he enriched with many priceless acquisitions, including manuscripts from the Cairo Geniza.

He was a scholar of some repute and author of a substantial body of learned publications, including a major work on the geography of the Talmud and a summary of Jewish exegesis of Isaiah 53. According to Professor Stephan Reif*, Neubauer wrote at least twenty books and published over 300 articles on subjects ranging from ancient Palestinian inscriptions, Apocrypha, Samaritarianism, Hebrew grammar and poetics, and medieval Jewish history and travel. He also reviewed over 120 volumes.
Herman Joseph Cohen 1860 - 1932

One of the first cohort of Jews at Oxford in the late nineteenth century - and the first Jew to win the Hebrew prize


Paul Jacobsthal 1880-1957

Archaeologist Paul Jacobsthal fled Nazi Germany in 1935 and came to Oxford with his wife during the Second World War. A leading world expert in Celtic Art, Jacobsthal’s views were increasingly regarded as subversive in Nazi Germany. 


Cecil Roth 1899-1970
Cecil Roth has been described as one of the greatest Jewish historians of the 20th Century. As well as being an esteemed historian and educator he was also an expert on Jewish art and Hebrew book publishing. In 1938 he was appointed as Reader in Post-Biblical Jewish Studies at Merton College Oxford, a position that he held until 1964.

Cecil Roth
Sir Ludwig Guttman 1899 - 1980

Ludwig Guttman - Father of the Paralympics



1899 - 1980


It was with great pride that we have learnt that Sir Ludwig Gutmann was a member of the Oxford Jewish Congregation for several years when he arrived with his family here from Breslau in May 1939, and played an active part in the OJC activities.    Anyone watching the current Paralympics 2012 in London at the present time is awed by the ardour and bravery of the athletes, and much has been written and broadcast about them and their inspiration as a result of Dr Guttman's concept of a sporting event for these enthusiastic but disabled athletes. 

Franz Baermann Steiner 1909-1952

  Franz Baermann Steiner (1909-1952) was born in Prague and died in Oxford.  

  He was a social anthropologist, polymath, essayist, aphorist, and poet. He was familiar, apart from German, Yiddish, Czech, Greek and Latin, with both classical and modern Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Armenian, Persian, Malay, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, six other Slavic languages, Scandinavian languages and Dutch.

  His paternal family hailed from Tachov in Western Bohemia and his father was a small retail businessman dealing in cloth and leather goods. His mother's family was from Prague. Neither side practiced Judaism, and his father was an atheist, but Franz received elements of a religious education at school, and from occasional attendance at synagogues.     In 1920 he entered the German State Gymnasium in Štepánská Street, Prague.   He joined the Roter Studentenbund (Red Student Union) in 1926 and was attracted to Marxism early, a fascination that lasted until 1930, and also to political Zionism.  In late 1928 he enrolled at the German University of Prague for coursework on Semitic languages, with a minor in ethnology, while pursuing as an external student courses in Siberian ethnology and Turkish studies at the Czech language Charles University of Prague. He studied Arabic abroad for a year, in 1930–31, at the Hebrew University in Palestine.
Isaiah Berlin 1909 - 1997
Sir Isaiah Berlin was a Russian-British philosopher and historian of ideas, regarded as one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century, and as the dominant liberal scholar of his generation.


Ron May 1917 - 1998

Born Aaron Mayevsky, London 13.2.1917; died Oxford 25.2.1998.      

Ron May was a quiet modest person who was never in the limelight.   Yet he was much loved for his kindness, wit and dedication to the Oxford Jewish Congregation.   He effortlessly straddled two cultural traditions.   According to Jewish folklore, the world is saved in every generation by the existence of 36 righteous and self-effacing individuals, known only by the collective title of lamed-vavnicks. For inclusion in any such elite and venerable society Ron would surely have been a strong candidate.


Lionel Kochan, 1922-2005
Doyen of Jewish historians

Lionel Edmund Kochan was born in Cricklewood, London, and educated at Haberdasher Aske School. His further education, which started when he was awarded a major open scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, (BA in modern languages, 1942), was interrupted by army service in the Intelligence Corps in war-torn Europe. He continued his education after demob, gaining another BA, this time in Soviet Studies, at the School of Slavonic Studies and a PhD at the London School of Economics.


David Patterson 1922 - 2005
David Patterson, who died on 10th December 2005, played a key role in the remarkable emergence of Jewish Studies as an autonomous and vibrant academic discipline in Britain in the late 20th century. His ‘services to Jewish Studies’ were publicly recognized by the award of a CBE in 2003.

Prof Geza Vermes 1924 - 2013
The following Obituary appeared in the Jewish Chronicle of May 17th 2013

GezaVermespic            GeserVermesObit

Prof. Vermes was appointed Reader in Jewish Studies in Oxford in 1965.  He was a Fellow of Iffley College (later to become Wolfson).  He was a Governor of the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies.

A second, longer Obituary appeared in the JC on the 26th July 2013, and can be seen by clicking here

A longer Obituary appeared in the Oxford Times of 16th May 2013.  His entry on Wikepedia can be seen by clicking here
Prof Harold Shukman 1931 - 2012

The following obituary appeared in the Jewish Chronicle of 14th December 2012. 

Prof Shukman's grave is in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford