The Last Minister in Oxford

The Oxford Jewish Congregation has no Minister, it is a 'do it yourself' congregation.  However it was not always so, and this article by Harold Pollins with some minor changes and additions by the Webmaster tells the story of what is believed to be our last Minister.

In the Library of Southampton University are the papers of Harold Levy. He was the Inspector of Hebrew Classes for the Central Council of Jewish Religious Education and he examined classes in London and the provinces. He reported on his visits which cover the period 1951-1976 and  I obtained  copies of his reports for Oxford. There was quite a bundle but I was taken by the first one, a report of his visit on 15 July 1951. He said there were 54 families, about 150 people (not including those who took no interest in the community). There were about 18 children of whom, he wrote, ’only 8 attend the  Hebrew class conducted by the Minister, the Rev. I. Chazen’.


Openly Jewish undergraduates were allowed into Oxford only from 1856, and could hold college fellowships only from 1871, when the clerical association of fellowships was abandoned.    Given their relatively short presence in Oxford, and the underlying established Church attachment of the university in a general sort of way, it is remarkable that there have been some 18 heads of Oxford colleges in the 140 years during which this has been possible.   (Various names are used for the head of a college: warden, principal, provost, master, dean, president, rector.)   This is in part due to the British reception of refugees from Europe in the run-up to the Second World War and in particular to Oxford’s generosity in welcoming refugee scholars.    They repaid the university’s hospitality with the greatest contribution to the university, both as heads and as professors of renown.   In retrospect, the part played by Jewish heads is far removed from the situation faced by Solomon Lazarus, who studied at Balliol in the 1880s, became editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, and was advised by Jowett, the celebrated Master of Balliol, that he should anglicise his name, which became Sidney Lee.
Isaac Abendana

Abendana,  Isaac, born in the mid seventeenth century, died 17th July 1699.

Hebraist and book collector

Born in Spain, brother of the celebrated Jacob Abendana, the distinguished Spanish physician and Haham, was taken at an early age to Hamburg, Germany where he completed rabbinical studies and then Leyden, Holland where he studied medicine.     Isaac and his brother Jacob Abendana clubbed together to produce Hebrew books for the Christian market, and they thereby became acquainted with some of the most eminent Christian Hebraists of the day.    Having been approached by Adam Boreel-who with John Durie and Samuel Hartlib in England hoped to persuade a learned Jew to translate the Mishnah, the Hebraic core of the Talmud, into Latin, Isaac Abendana arrived in Oxford on 3 June 1662 and presented himself to Edward Pococke and other prominent Hebraists there.
Oxford Jewish Personalities of the Modern Period

Please see Notable Jews.

Isaiah Berlin Fest
Isaiah Berlin Centenary

June 9th 2009 was the centenary of Isaiah Berlin's birth. A good website with information about this event is The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library.

A Report on this event was also carried in the Michaelmas Issue 2009 of the Oxford Today Magazine