Oral History Project

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In 2013 the Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee (OJHC) launched The Oral History Project, an exciting initiative to record the life stories of members of the Oxford Jewish Community (OJC), particularly its more senior members.  

By enabling people to tell their stories in their own words, oral history interviews have an unparalleled ability to convey the personality and experiences of each individual interviewee.  The Oral History Project is thus an invaluable way of preserving the unique heritage of the Oxford congregation, whilst also enriching the understanding of younger members of the OJC and the wider community about recent Jewish history in England and Oxford.  In this way, the Project both builds on and expands the existing history of the OJC provided in the many wonderful recollections compiled by Freda Silver Jackson in her book, Then and Now (published in 1992).  

Since its launch, the Oral History Project has interviewed over twenty five members of the community, some who have more to share have been interviewed more than once.  The Project is led by a member of the OJHC (MEW) with formal training in oral history interviewing techniques from the British Library and The Oral History Society.  We are always looking for new volunteer interviewers, and thanks to funding from the Henry Posner Fund, we are able to provide volunteers with both recording equipment and training in the necessary interviewing and digital editing skills.

The interviews themselves are guided, but at the same time interviewees are given ample leeway to relate the experiences that matter to them, so that a broader picture of the diversity of people’s lives can emerge, including where early members of the OJC originally came from and how they found themselves in Oxford.  Once completed, the recordings are made available to the public in part or whole, according to the wishes of each interviewee. 

Where permission has been granted, extracts from the interviews are available on this website and can be listened to by clicking on the play buttons below.   The complete recordings (between 35 and 90 minutes long) can also be downloaded via the on-screen link. The entire digital collection is stored at the OJC and in the County Archive of the Oxfordshire History Centre.  The Jewish Museum in London has also agreed to hold the collection. 

With the generous cooperation of both OJC members and non-members, the Oral History Project  is already greatly enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the fascinating and varied individuals who make up our community here in Oxford.     The project plans to continue to add interviews and expand its collection to include all who have a story to tell, and ultimately that includes everyone.  

Text above updated Nov 2016

Interviews to June 2020

Interviews by Michael Ward unless otherwise stated;     

We now have 28 Individual interviewees whose recordings and/or highlights can be found below

Just CLICK the name

  1. Martin Goodman                   1 recording                  Interviewed Sept 2020
  2. Isaac Garson                         2 recordings                Interviewed May 2020
  3. Jesmond Blumenfeld            2 recordings                Interviewed May 2019
  4. George Silver                       1 recording                   Interviewed May 1994 by Faust
  5. Jeff & Renee Aronson          1 recording                   Interviewed Dec 2018
  6. Wendy & Brian Fidler          1 recording                   Interviewed Feb 2018 by S Fineman
  7. Hilary Blendford                   1 recording                   Interviewed Feb 2018 by S Fineman
  8. Baroness Ruth Deech           1 recording                   Interviewed May 2018
  9. Susan & Lionel Wallenberg  1 recording                  Interviewed Feb 2018 by N Kochan
  10. Clive Lawton                         1 recording                  Interviewed Dec 2017
  11. Barbara Lewis                       1 recording                   Interviewed Mar 2017 by N Kochan
  12. Juli Markus Beattie               1 recording                   Interviewed Jan 2017
  13. Penny Faust                          1 recording                   Interviewed Jan 2017
  14. Andrew Silver                       1 recording                   Interviewed Dec 2016
  15. Joy Watson                            1 recording                   Interviewed Aug 2016
  16. Anna Rosenberg                    1 recording                  Interviewed July 2016
  17. Margot Linczyc                      1 recording                  Interviewed June 2016
  18. Helen May                             1 recording                  Interviewed June 2016 by D Czackes
  19. Saul Itzhaki                           1 recording                   Interviewed April 2016
  20. Simone Plaut née Posner      1 recording                   Interviewed 2016 by N Kochan
  21. Ian & Beryl Grant                  1 recording                   Interviewed April 2016
  22. José Patterson                       3 recordings                  Interviewed April 2016
  23. Norman Solomon                  2 recordings                  Interviewed Dec 2015
  24. Jeremy Montagu                    1 Recording                   Interviewed Oct 2015
  25. Harold Pollins                        1 Recording                  Interviewed Aug 2015 by C Levicki
  26. Bernard Greenberg                1 Recording                   Interviewed June 2015
  27. Miriam Kochan                       1 Recording                  Interviewed June 2014
  28. Ruth Bloom                            3 Recordings                Interviewed April 2014
  29. Bernard Levy                          1 Recordings                Interviewed July 2013

Updated Nov 2020   

 Martin Goodman

Recorded September 2020

Martin Goodman was born in London in 1953. Both parents were also born in London. He attended a prep school and then went on to Rugby School, where his mother’s father had been educated. His father was a city solicitor, whose parents came from Estonia and Poland. His mother was a doctor, whose family had come to England from Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century. The family were members of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in London. They were not strictly orthodox, but he had a Jewish upbringing. After school, he spent six months at the Hebrew University before going to Trinity College, Oxford to study Classics, graduating in 1975. He began doctoral studies here before moving to Birmingham. During his doctoral studies, Martin lived in Yarnton briefly as a Junior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies (now the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies). He fondly remembers his time in Oxford as an undergraduate and graduate student, and became friendly with the Kochan, Grant and Lewis families. While living in Yarnton, he attended Sabbath services by walking along the Oxford Canal towpath from Yarnton to synagogue. He and his wife Sarah met as undergraduates here, and married in 1976. She is a solicitor. In 1977 he moved to Birmingham to take up a teaching post in Ancient History in the University of Birmingham. He completed his doctorate in 1980. He returned to Oxford to a Senior Research Fellowship in 1986, attached to St Cross College, but continued to live in Birmingham with the family, commuting to Oxford, until 2011. In 1991 he was appointed Reader in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and became a Fellow of Wolfson College. He describes himself as a teacher of Jewish History from the end of the Biblical period until the time of the Talmud – a period of 900 years. His current plans are to continue research after retirement.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 43 mins click here

Isaac Garson

Recorded May 2020

Born in Gibraltar, his father was Gibraltarian and his mother Portuguese. He mentions that Jews have lived in Gibraltar since 13th C, but the Garsons only came over originally from Morocco in the 18th C. These Moroccan Garsons were probably descendants of refugees from the Spanish Inquisition as Marranos Garzons stiil exist in Spain today. Isaac is multilingual, and speaks fluent English, Spanish, French, and Llanito, a local patois. He is also reasonably adept at Italian and Hebrew. In 1977, he attained membership of the prestigious Institute of Linguists. Some Garsons, who are family, have lived in Manchester since the Industrial Revolution.   His parents met as children.  Isaac’s mother was born in Lisbon and was sent as a child of 6 to live in Gibraltar with an aunt after her own mother’s sudden death.   Isaac’s parents were married in 1946, and had five children: Isaac is the second oldest, and only one still lives in Gibraltar.   The home was an Orthodox Jewish one, and he learned his Yiddishkeit from his father, paternal grandfather and the local Hebrew School.   Isaac sat the 11 plus (à la UK) in Gibraltar and attended a Boys Grammar School run by Catholic Priests, and can still recite many Latin Catholic prayers!   After his A levels in 1966 (English, Spanish and French) and although wanting to be a teacher, he was obliged to do military service with the Gibraltar Regiment.   He received a generous grant from the Gibraltar Government to study for 3 years in the UK at Avery Hill College, Eltham, where he met his future wife, Didi on the first day.   After graduation he was obliged to return to Gibraltar for 3 years, but then returned to UK in 1974 for better job opportunities.   He worked in Banbury and married in 1976. His father died in November of that year when Isaac became a member of the OJC.      Isaac’s first child, Sarah, was born in 1980, and when he informed his mother of her birth, she and his siblings, cut him off completely.   Daniel arrived in 1986.   He stayed at the same school in Banbury for 15 years rising to Deputy Head and then transferred at the same grade to Matthew Arnold in Oxford because it had a Sixth Form. However, his head teacher there was chronically sick and he often was required to Deputise as head. He remained there 8 years, and was offered then a post to lead a 6/12 pilot scheme to “inject an international dimension” into 315 schools under Oxfordshire’s Advisory Inspection Service. The post was made permanent 3 months later. He worked there for 8 years and developed a comprehensive International Education Service spanning Nursery Schools to Sixth Forms and embracing the Developing World. He observed the Uganda education situation and developed a partnership teaching programme between schools in Oxfordshire and Uganda. He was able to set up over 60 such partnerships during his time in post.  

Realising the need for the most basic necessities in Ugandan schools – food, water, clothing and teaching materials – he took early retirement in 2008 to set up Lunch4Learning as a charity which ran until 2019. It became an NGO in 2014 with more local involvement and subsequently with the collaboration of Global Rotary.

He then became adept at glass work, built a studio at home in 2012, and now spends his time – when not working with the OJC – on creating glasswork of great beauty.

Highlights:

Part 1:

Part 2:

To hear part one “Early Life and work ” click here  51 Mins

To hear part two “His life in the OJC ”   click here 45 Mins

Jesmond Blumenfeld

Recorded February & September 2019

Born Pietermaritzburg 1943. (Father Herman Lewis) born Tookums Latvia 1880’s. Then fled to UK 1905. Thence  to SA in 1914 where he set up a general dealership in Pietermaritzburg.   Lewis considered himself ineligible for marriage as long as his mother was still alive. So he didn’t marry until 1938 when he met and married Ray Levin from Cape Town.       Jesmond did well at school, and in 1961 he enrolled in the University of Natal (Maritzburg campus) to study economics and maths. However, the family business was in trouble in the early 1960’s, so he switched to part–time study in Durban, thereby enabling him to provide enhanced financial support to his Mom and Dad.   At 25, he became ‘political’ and joined the Liberal Party, attracting the discomforting attention of S.A. Police: He was often followed and his telephone  bugged.   Meanwhile, in Durban, Jesmond had befriended Lynnette Bonfa (Lynne), a bright but vulnerable gentile social worker, who suffered recurrent bouts of depression. Despite this unpromising background they married in Durban in  March 1970, and welcomed their first child – David – in September of the same year.        Financial imperatives dictated a change of job, so 1973 brought relocation to a two-year fellowship for Jesmond at Rhodes University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research in Grahamstown, where the family’s second child, Shani, was born in June 1972.   In 1973, Rhodes was followed by an economics lectureship at UNISA, the Pretoria-based bilingual distance-learning institution.  At UNISA he was tasked with writing lectures – in this instance student study guides on economic planning – but he took a principled stance when he discovered that his drafts were being subjected to a level of political scrutiny that he felt was inappropriate and unacceptable. He opted instead for a move to Wits University in Johannesburg, despite incurring some impracticalities for daily commuting between the two cities.

In 1974, he received an unexpected inheritance from a recently deceased maiden aunt, which he decided to use to relocate again with Lynne and the children, this time to the UK. He applied successfully for graduate entry to several UK universities, and accepted Oxford’s offer which – crucially – included two years family accommodation at St Catherine’s College.     The family arrived in the UK at the end of September 1975, preparing to embark on their forthcoming two-year adventure. Unfortunately, neither Lynne nor either of our children was finding the adjustment to Oxford life easy.     Moreover, the roll and whereabouts of doctors, drugs and hospitals had come to play an increasingly important role in the life of the family.    Early one Saturday morning in August 1976 Jesmond was confronted by the news that overnight Lynne had made a direct attempt to take her own life and that Jesmond’s father aged 90 had died in his residential home in Durban

He had no funds for return for his father’s funeral, but on the day at the scheduled time of the funeral, he wandered round Oxford in a daze until he found himself in the synagogue, where he experienced a sensation of ‘being at home’ and became involved with the OJC and occupied almost every role from Council and beyond.   His work with the OJC encompassed almost every post on Council and beyond: was an initial member of the Religious Affairs Committee together with Wilfred Faust, Lionel Wollenburg and Johnathan Webber. Took on role of head of Chevra Kaddisha after Wilf’s untimely death, and held this role until 2019, when he demitted under the shadow of Parkinson’s disease and MSA.

He first met Lizzie in South Africa as a teenager in Durban, but met her again at the home of the Da Costas near Swindon. They soon became an item and married in 1980.     Their daughter Rebecca (Bex) was born in 1982.    Appointed lecturer at Brunel University in October 1978, then research fellow, and retiring in 1998 as department convenor head.

Sadly, Lynne, traumatised as she was by the Warneford incident, expressed a desire to return to her family home in Durban. However, her hopes of redemption were soon dashed and she took her own life on 28 October 1977

Jesmond took up the role as Convenor of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) for the community after Wilf Faust’s sudden death and ran it with a sensitive hand.   He demitting this role in 2018 and the Community held a Kiddush in his and Lizzie’s Honour to thank him for his contribution to the community in 2019, at which an address from Isaac Garson was given.   This address can be read by clicking here

Highlights:

The interview divides into two periods,  the first his early life and education and first marriage in SA, and the second his life in the UK and Oxford.

To hear part one click here  58 Mins

To hear part two click here  38 mins

George Silver

Recorded May 1994 by Penny Faust

George Silver was interviewed by Penny Faust on Radio Oxford in May 1994, approx 25 years ago,  a few days before he had his fatal heart attack.    The Silver family found this copy on a cassette tape of the recording in their archives and have graciously allowed us to include it on our Oral History pages, even though strictly it is not an oral history.   Nevertheless it does give a good insight into the life and times of George and his family in Oxford.
The quality of the recording has suffered a little, and I am most grateful to the efforts by a sound technician friend who has worked to make it more easily audible. 

It lasts one hour.   To hear the entire recording  click here

Jeff and Renee Aronson

Recorded December 2018

Jeff Aronson:   Born August 1947.  His paternal Grandparents had migrated fro Russia (now Lithuania) to Dundee where his grandfather opened a drapers shop, and then acquired British Citizenship in 1895, before the family moved to Glasgow where his father trained as a furrier at 14 years.   His mother was born in Liverpool.  His parents were introduced by a Shadchen And married in 1940 just before his father was conscripted into the Army where he served as a driver for the war Office.   After the war the three brothers worked together in the fur business in Glasgow and it became one of the most important in the UK.        Jeff enjoyed school in Glasgow, (and also attended Drama School) and studied Medicine at Glasgow University, qualified in 1970, and won the Materia Medica Prize, so decided to pursue a career in Clinical Pharmacology.    He describes how he met Renee  and then how they married just weeks before he took up a junior academic  post in Oxford in 1977.   He quickly completed his D.Phil, studying cardiac glycosides in just 4 years, then became  Reader with a joint appointment to both University and Clinical Departments.  He retired in 2014 but then took up a new post in the Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford.   He also still writes for Medical Journals and has a regular blog on the BMJ website, as well as helping with his 2 ½ grandchildren.   He was a past chairman of the OJC Education Committee.

Renee Aronson née Wellins:  Grandparents born in Latvia,  but came to Scotland because of pogroms independently, they met and married in Falkirk, Scotland.   Parents married in Glasgow 1943, father was in Coldstream Guards at the time.    Renee did well at school in Glasgow and went to Teachers’ Training College, where she fell in love with infant teaching.   Went to Israel to Ulpan, and then tried to teach but UK qualifications were not accepted.  Came home and met Jeff and never returned to Israel.  Married in Glasgow immediately before coming to Oxford where Jeff had a research post, 1973.  Two Children, Simon and Natalie.   In Oxford she has been deeply involved with the Hebrew Classes which she taught for over 25 years, helped manage the Kiddushim with Helena Harper, and is still active in Oxfordshire. 

Highlights:

Renee: 

Jeff:
 To hear the entire recording lasting 80 mins click here

Wendy and Brian Fidler

Recorded by Simon Fineman February 2018

Brian Fidler and Wendy Gouldman were both born and raised in Manchester, just prior to the war.  Wendy was the daughter of a well-known Jewish family.  Her father was a leading light in the Manchester Great Synagogue and subsequently, as the family moved, in other synagogues.  Brian was the son of a successful commercial family.  They met and married young, and have been together ever since.  Brian’s career in industry brought them to Oxford as newlyweds in the early 1960’s, where their children were born, but they were soon to move around, living in various cities around the UK, including Hull and Edinburgh.  Brian and Wendy have 3 children, all of whom think of themselves as being from Oxford, so it was no surprise that the family returned full time to Oxford in the 1990’s. By then Brian was a very accomplished businessman and Wendy a scholar of interfaith relations.   Wendy first qualified as a radiographer, then became a teacher and finally was involved in cancer prevention. Following retirement she commenced studies in interfaith at Southampton University.    During the past twenty years of more Wendy has played an ever more pivotal role in the religious leadership of the OJC.   As a result she was awarded an MBE for interfaith work in the community.                                          

Wendy self-published a book about her life in 2020. To download the book as a pdf click here

Hilary Blendford

Recorded by Simon Fineman February 2017

Hilary was born in the East End of London; Don in Vienna some 10 years before the outbreak of WW2.  He came to the UK with his parents at the age of 6.  They both came from observant but not ‘frum’ families. Hilary describes her childhood as happy, but remembers the anxiety of living in London during the Blitz.  She was about to be evacuated when her mother removed her from the line to keep the family together, and Hilary describes some of her Blitz experiences.    She and Don met when on holiday in Cliftonville in 1949, and became an ‘item’ which they remained.    Don’s father was an accountant in Vienna, and his mother owned and ran a Coffee shop there, and are described as comfortable.   Don lived in Stamford Hill, north London and studied Food Technology at the John Cass College, part of London University, getting his BSc there.   Hilary lived in Edmonton, London and after school trained and worked as a secretary, skills which were especially useful after her marriage and when Don became a Consultant to the Food Industry and she worked as his secretarial support.     They socialized in largely Jewish circles in London.  They married in 1953 after Don had spent two years at his National Service teaching newer recruits basic education.   After their marriage they lived first at Leytonstone E11, before moving to Petts Wood, Bromley, Kent where Don became involved on the Management Committee of the Schull.      They had two children, a son in 1961, and a daughter 1963.    They moved to Oxford in 1967 when Don was employed by General Food in Banbury, and Joined the Oxford Jewish Congregation which they had found to be very welcoming, and  Don immediately became involved on the Board, later becoming Chair of the Management  Committee for 11 years, and the Building Committee involved with building the current Schull.   Additionally Don was deeply involved with the Building of the Ice Rink.  Don Died in 2004 

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 45 mins click here

Baroness Deech

Recorded 6th May 2018

Father born Poland, arrived in UK 1939 with little more than a case and a typewriter, Mother born Glasgow but went back to Poland with Ruth’s grandmother in 1920s and then went to work Palestine in mid 1930s.   Ruth Fraenkel was born in London and lived in Clapham, but disliked it. Started in her local schools but won scholarship to Christ’s Hospital School for Girls.    Did not get good A Levels but took entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge 9 times before successful and was admitted to St Anne’s.  Studied Law and got a First Class Degree, then went to USA for further studies, returning to Oxford where she in 1967 she married John Deech whom she had met as a student in her first week.    John’s academic work then took them to Canada, where Ruth got a post teaching Law at Windsor University until 1970 when they returned to Oxford on her appointment to a Fellowship of St Anne’s.  Their daughter, Sarah, was born in 1974.     Ruth describes her progression through the College system until she became Principal at St Anne’s at the young age of 48 and served there for 13 years.     From 1994 – 2001 she was Chair of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority.  Appointed Governor of the BBC 2001 for four years being involved Gilligan affair and the resignation of the then Director, Greg Dyke.   Following this she applied for and was appointed a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, speaking up for the Jewish Community and Israel, Women’s Rights and Higher Education.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 55 mins click here

Susan and Lionel Wollenberg

Recorded February 2018 by Nick Kochan

Susan and Lionel Wollenberg describe their origins in Manchester and Leeds.   Lionel studied Maths in Oxford as an undergraduate at St John’s College from 1960, followed by doctoral studies during which he was appointed as College Lecturer at Merton College (later becoming Lecturer at London University).  Susan came as an undergraduate in 1966 and met Lionel on her first day in Oxford within minutes of her arrival!   (During her D Phil studies she was appointed as University Lecturer at the Faculty of Music and Fellow and Tutor at Lady Margaret Hall, later becoming Professor of Music.) They married in 1969. 

They describe their lives in Oxford and their several and varied roles in the community, from Choolent Society (Lionel) to Oxford Shir (Susan), and from Chevra Kaddisha to Marriage Secretary!     Their involvement during the community’s last fifty years gives insights into the many developments and personalities of the Congregation.

Abbreviated highlights of this interview will appear here shortly

To hear the entire recording lasting 62 mins click here.

Clive Lawton

Recorded 19th Decemeber 2017

Born 1951 in Stoke Newington, London, to a Jewishly observant family. Mother from Gibraltar, Father English, in the British Army, met in Gibraltar during WW2.   2 elder brothers, the oldest died in infancy.   Educated at Latymer Upper Direct Grant School, London.  Involved with Jewish Youth Study Groups organisation and became National Chairman.   Studied English with Education at York and graduated with a 2.1.     Taught at JFS School for five years before getting a post as Director of Education and Community Relations, at the Board of Deputies, at which point he helped to found Limmud.   He tells of Limmud’s origins and development, how he developed the Board’s teaching pack for Holocaust Studies and describes meeting Sara, before leaving to become Headmaster at King David High School, Liverpool.   He pursued a number of ideas in teaching before leaving to become the Liverpool City’s Director of Education.
After Liverpool, Clive returned to London, and spent time involved in a number of different projects, including a time as a member of the academic team at SOAS,  and his time on the Trustee Board of JW3 in London. He talks about his long involvement with the Oxford Congregation with fondness.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 106 mins click here

Barbara Lewis

Recorded by Nick Kochan March 2017

Barbara and David Lewis were stalwarts of the Oxford Jewish Community. David, a distinguished classicist at Christ Church, died in 1994, but Barbara stayed in Oxford for a number of years, before moving to Leeds to be closer to her daughter Helen (one of four).   Barbara, who remains in well despite advancing years.   Barbara tells of her father, Professor Samson Wright, a highly distinguished physiologist, who worked his way from East End penury to international distinction.   Barbara moved to Oxford when her husband David moved there to take up a college position.  David became highly active in many OJC synagogue activities while Barbara was involved in organisations like WIZO and Bnai Brith.   Barbara talks about David’s role in the team that organised the planning, fund-raising and then building of today’s shul in the early seventies. David was Secretary and President of the  synagogue for many years.   David’s quiet and measured style contrasts with Barbara’s active and expressive outlook on life, well demonstrated in this interview.   Here we learn about many of the wonderful characters of Community over more than 60 years.  

The interview has been subjected to some minor editorial editing.

To hear the entire recording lasting 40 mins click here

Dr Juli Markus Beattie OBE  

Recorded January 2017

Born Budapest, Hungary 1947.  Parents married on the day the Germans invaded Hungary, 1944, and they went into hiding, survived the War though many in family were lost.   Hungary during the Russian invasion in 1956, and were deported away from Budapest to countryside to live as peasants with parents and sister.  Returned to the capital following intervention from influential friends.  Grandfather managed Grand Hotel Royal, Budapest.   Describes their lives in 1940s and 50s.   Escaped aged 9 with parents, sister and grandmother at time of Student Rebellion, crossing border at night illegally and their onward journey to London, where they settled in Maida Vale, London.   Juli describes her education and life as a young refugee, but after primary and secondary education started Teacher training, and  working in play therapy in Great Ormand Street Hospital.   Met husband, and after marriage lived on small holding leading the “Good Life” for three years.  Has three children.  Came to Oxford in 1990s and started charity “Art Room” for disadvantaged children with great success.  Received OBE 2016 for Art Room work.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 83 mins click here

Penny Faust

Recorded January 2017

Born Cheltenham, 1946 of parents born in UK as was father’s father, other grandparents Polish.     Father ran business in Cheltenham, where Penny was brought up as part of Cheltenham’s small Jewish community, and had a  Jewish family life.  Psychology graduate from London University, and began PhD, but did not complete.   During undergraduate course met Wilfred Faust, who was working in Oxford, at Schull dance in Cheltenham, and became engaged after only few weeks and married a year later, 1966.  Moved to Oxford and joined OJCongregation.   Four children.  In 1978 was invited to join Radio Oxford Religious Affairs Team making features.   After a few years asked to make some programmes for Radio 4 and World Service, as a freelance broadcaster.   Regular appearances on “Thought for the Day”.    Describes her career.   Both she and Wilf were President of OJC, and speaks of their involvement with the OJC Council and Management Co. Became Membership Sec. and was involved in revising membership rules and evolution of Associate membership and talks of the discussions around the unique nature of the OJC.    She speaks of Wilf’s death in 2002.   

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 67 mins click here

Andrew Silver          

Recorded December 2016

Born Oxford, 1950.  Silver’s London-born father, George, was born in a pub his father being in the licensed trade, was one of the founding members of the Army Catering Corps, achieving high rank.  After demob George went into the restaurant business and after moving to Oxford helped with the fundraising and building of the new synagogue in 1974.   Andrew’s mother, Frieda was born in llanelli of parents from Riga and had three sisters.  Andrew’s parents met at a wedding in London after the war, and later moved to Oxford to run a restaurant, Long Johns, which was popular with students;   Silver’s father later ran the first Wimpy restaurant in the United Kingdom, which became the base of the Oxford Jewish Youth club.    Andrew talks about his younger brother, Jonathan and sister, Caroline.   He had intended to be a lawyer, but instead entered the family business, which he states was the best thing to have happened to him.  At a cousin’s wedding, he met his future wife, Judy, whose family was also involved in the restaurant business. He and Judy went on to have three children.   He served as President of the Schul, as did his father and mother before him, and he masterminded the rebuilding programme of early 2000s.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 58 mins click here

Joy Watson

Recorded August 2016

Born London, 1934. Her mother’s family emigrated to the United Kingdom in the 18th Century and her father was the youngest of seven siblings; both her parent’s families came from the Russian Empire.    Joy was evacuated to Oxford during the Second World War and lived on farm near Wheatley; she was decidedly unhappy.   Her father was dispatched to Oxford for war work, thus he moved the entire family to Oxford.  They remained in Oxford post-war.  Watson met her husband-to-be, Frank, at the Oxford Jewish Congregation’s youth clubs as a young teenager; they married in 1954 and had two sons. The Watsons ran three successful retail clothing shops in Oxford.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 54 mins click here

Anna Rosenberg

Interview by Danni Czaczkes, recorded July 2016

 Born in London. Father and mother hailed from respective Polish and Latvian-Estonian families. Raised irreligiously. Met her husband-to-be, Harry, in London, who later joined the Royal Air Force. Subsequently married him and worked as a teacher. Came to Oxford in 1952. Joined the OJC, but she and her husband only attended on special occasions. Participated more in Judaism via her children’s Jewish educations whilst Harry helped with the maintenance of the shul.  Received strong support from the OJC after Harry died suddenly whilst on holiday in South America.   Continues to participate in the Jewish community to a greater degree since Harry’s passing.

Highlights

To hear the entire recording lasting 23 mins click here

Mrs Margot L  

Margot Linczyc initially requested her name be kept secret  Recorded June 2016

Born in Munich, Germany, 1927. Her parents hailed from Krakow in Poland. Her father was a practicing Jew, albeit her mother, who worked for the Red Cross, was less enthusiastic. She recalls the rise of Nazism in Germany and wearing the yellow star. In the face of rising anti-Semitic persecution, she went with her mother under a gentile persona  to live with close family friends.   Escaped with mother to Switzerland in 1943 to avoid being detained; they were promptly placed in an internment camp alongside Italian migrants.  She emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1946 and married in 1946.  She lived in Ealing, London and opened a delicatessen shop. She came to Oxford in 2000.     Mrs Linczyc passed away peacefully at the age of 94 on 7th February 2021.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 30 mins click here

Helen May

Interview by Danni Czaczkes   Recorded June 2016

Born in London, 1930. Helen May’s London-born parents married in 1928 and she was raised as the middle child of three. Her family moved to Birmingham in 1940 due to her father’s new job at a munitions factory; she was nicknamed ‘Cockney’ by her peers. Helen went on to have a career as a primary school teacher after training at Roehampton. Helen met her husband-to-be, Ron, through her work and they married in 1952. Due to Ron’s new Oxford University Press post, they moved to Oxford in 1954, where their two children were eventually born. After teaching at a Catholic school for years, she retired from teaching in 1990. Though Helen was in the “middle” of the religious spectrum, Ron was very active in the Jewish community; he passed away in 1998. She is a grandmother of five.                         

         Highlights will appear here in due course

To hear the entire recording lasting 42 mins click here

Saul Itzhaki

Recorded April 2016

 Born in Iraq, 1921. Saul Itzhaki grew up in a large Baghdadi Jewish community and in a large family, where he was one of eight children. His father worked as a primary and secondary educator.  He received a 1st in chemistry at Baghdad and then pursued PhD studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1945; his studies were interrupted by Israeli military service.

Saul enrolled at Cambridge in 1955 for further studies and obtained his second PhD in 1960. He met his wife-to-be in Cambridge in 1958; they have two children. Saul emigrated to Manchester in 1966 as a Biochemistry lecturer. He and his wife retired to Oxford in 2013 to be closer to their daughter.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 62 mins click here 

Simone Plaut née Posner 

Recorded April 2016

Born in Oxford, 1958. Posner was raised in north Oxford alongside twin sibling by her parents, Henry and Zena Posner, both London-born Jews who married in 1951. Posner speaks at length about her parents and family life in Oxford, including their heavy involvement in the Oxford Jewish Congregation, growing up in Oxford during the 1960’s and 70’s, and living in London with husband; now divorced.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 75 mins click here

Ian and Beryl Grant

Interview by Nick Kochan

Ian and Beryl raised in “traditional” Jewish households. Ian posted to the “army element” as a civilian scientist in mathematical sciences in 1954. Beryl obtained law degree from the London School of Commerce. Married in 1958 and moved to Reading, where their children were eventually born. Ian became research fellow at Pembroke College, University of Oxford in 1964. Both became involved in the OJC and in the development of a new Oxford Synagogue building where all sectors of the Jewish Congregation  would be represented.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 71 mins click here

José Patterson

Recorded March – April 2016

Part I, 1929-1949: Born in Blackpool, 1929. Grandparents hailed from Poland (then territory of the Russian Empire) and Hungary. Her grandfather fought in the First World War and wore a kilt, as befitting a member of a Scottish regiment. Her maternal grandparents and family ran a kosher hotel and fairground in Blackpool.   José’s upbringing was one of regular Jewish observance. She was evacuated with older sister to a gentile foster home in Sussex in 1939. She married David and raised four children in Oxford, where she witnessed the gradual growth and development of Oxford Jewish Congregation. She is a trained teacher, specifically a specialist teacher to the traveller community.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 75 mins click here

Part II, 1949-1964: Left school early, promptly regretted it, and thus attended secretarial school. Joined Habonim in the mid-1940’s and trained there as a leader.  She met her husband-to-be, David, who was a senior member in Habonim. They married and started their life together in 1950. They emigrated to Israel 1951, first working in a Kibbutz, then to Haifa, and Jerusalem until returning to Britain in 1954. Became pregnant in Manchester as David was appointed to lectureship at Oxford in 1957.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 62 mins click here

Part 3 1964 – Present
Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 56 mins click here

Norman Solomon

Interviewed by C Levicki   Recorded Dec 2015

Part I: Born in Cardiff, 1933. Solomon was raised by “conventionally Jewish” parents, religiously influenced and edified by German Orthodox refugees, and learnt Hebrew grammar from rabbi Weisenberg. Attended Gateshead Yeshiva in 1953 before his third year at the University of Cambridge, where he read Moral Sciences and Music for Tripos Part I and Part II respectively. After Cambridge, he took teacher training at the University of Bristol (a red brick university), became engaged, and opted to be a rabbi instead

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 70 mins click here

Part II: Attended the first Anglican-Jewish Consultation at Andover in 1980. Joined Selly Oaks Colleges as the director of the Religious History of Birmingham Centre. Later helped to establish the Centre of the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations in 1983.  Published Judaism and World Religion in 1991.  Helped develop environmental papers at Prince Philip’s behest as a part of an interfaith organisation.  Appointed Lecturer in Theology at the University of Oxford in 1995.  Norman’s wife passed away in 1998.  He remarried in 2000. Solomon currently runs his own website.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 55 mins click here

Jeremy Montagu

Recorded October 2015

Born in London, 1927. His father, Ewen Montagu, was judge,  writer, naval intelligence officer, and, for many years, President of the United Synagogue, albeit he had a preference for private prayer. His great-grandfather, Samuel Montagu, was a banker, Member of Parliament, and created 1st Baron Swaythling. His mother, Iris, was daughter of Solomon J. Solomon, an eminent painter. Jeremy was evacuated to the United States during the Second World War. Montagu had a Reform-style bar mitzvah in Brookline, a Boston suburb. He returned to Britain in 1943 and subsequently attended Gordonstoun School in Scotland.   Jeremy entered the British Armed Forces as a gunner and was dispatched to Egypt in 1946, where he remained for two years. After studying horn and conducting at Guildhall School of Music, Jeremy became a professional percussionist and conductor. He married Gwen in 1955. From 1981 to 1995, he was curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments at Oxford University. He has a special interest in medieval music and the history of instruments and seven published works. Gwen died in 2003.     He is the father of three, grandfather of ten, great-grandfather of three “and a bit”, and currently enjoys a home musical collection of 2,500-3,000 instruments.      

Sadly Jeremy passed away peacefully in September 2020 at the age of 92.      The eulogy read by Rachel Montagu at the graveside can be downloaded here  and a link to the Obituary in the Guardian newspaper (10th Dec 2020) written by his daughter Sarah can be read here

To hear the entire recording lasting 60 mins click here

Harold Pollins 1924 – 2018

Interviewed by C Levicki  August 2015

Born in Leytonstone in East London, 1924.  Parents emigrated as children from Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire) and grew up in the East End of London; they married there in 1913 and ran a novelty shop. Harold Pollins attended the London School of Economics before being evacuated to Cambridge and joining the British army. Came to Oxford in 1964, where he wrote and published the ‘Economic History of the Jews in England’  in 1982. He has since conducted research into other areas of Anglo-Jewish history, such the experiences of First World War soldiers.

Sadly Harold passed away 4th April 2018.  At his funeral, his son, Joe gave a Eulogy which can be downloaded HERE  Also the Jewish Historical Society of England have published an impressive Obituary which can be read HERE

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 66 mins click here

Bernard Greenberg

Recorded June 2015

Born in Grimsby, 1929. Bernard Greenberg’s parents emigrated to the United Kingdom in the early 20th century, having come originally from Poland and Odessa in Ukraine, then territories of the Russian Empire. Bernard received a traditionally Jewish upbringing in Grimsby as his father worked to supply British sailors with clothing. Entered the British Armed Forces and served in Palestine and Greece. Greenberg and his wife have two children and moved to Oxford to be near their daughter after his retirement.   Bernard’s wife Elaine died in May 2020.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 60 mins click here

Miriam Kochan

Recorded June 2014

Born in London, 1930. Her father, Martin Büchler, hailed from Vienna, and her paternal grandfather, Adolf, was headhunted to head the Jews College in 1906. Her mother, born in Belarus, died when Miriam Kochan was just 15 years old. She studied economics at University College London, with the goal of becoming a journalist.  Miriam married Lionel, a journalist, in 1951. Both lived in Edinburgh for a time, where Lionel worked in a junior academic post. They then lived in Norwich, and then Oxford after Lionel was appointed to a post at Warwick University. Kochan was heavily involved in the OJC by way of the Cheder and the Student Meals Service.   Professionally, Miriam was a French translator and proof reader.

Highlights:

To hear the entire recording lasting 90 mins click here

Ruth Bloom

Recorded April 2014
(Recordings not available to download, at the request of the Interviewee)

Image taken in Prague 1936

Highlights

Part I: Born in Berlin, 1915. Her father, a lawyer, served in the Prussian Cavalry at time of birth during the First World War. Mother hailed from Lithuania, then Hanover. Minimal Jewish family life. After parents divorced at age 3, her father remarried; her step mother treated her kindly. Educated in Berlin,  Ruth was sent to Switzerland for a year in 1931 due to “health” reasons. Bloom could not attend university in Nazi Germany due to anti-Semitic state policies.  She emigrated to Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1934 at father’s behest.  Natural mother remarried an Englishman and sent for her to act as an au pair for a friend in Edgware in 1937 for one year. On advice not to return to Prague due to Nazi designs on the city,  she gained a new post in United Kingdom; Ruth never saw her father again. All step children emigrated under father’s advice also.   

Part II: Ruth Bloom appeared before enemy aliens commission in London as she still carried a German passport, now with Star of David and additional name, Sarah.  She met husband-to-be George, a chemistry undergraduate, in Oxford at University Jewish Students meeting; Ruth claims it was love at first sight. Married in 1941 in Oxford; her natural mother attended and arranged for her dress and wedding reception.  She remained unaware of her father’s death until noting his absence from Jewish Agency’s lists of camp survivors

Part III: Worked in post-war Britain as a German and French languages teacher at Stevenage College.   Involved with Association of Jewish Refugees. Moved to Abingdon to live with her natural mother, who had returned from Germany; Ruth Bloom’s mother visited Germany to see her brother, who had remained hidden throughout the Second  World War acting as a janitor under the protection of a high ranking German officer. Ruth describes her family’s experiences during the Second World War, her own life in post-war Britain, and her children’s lives in much detail.

Sadly Ruth passed away peacefully in July 2018 at the age of 103.

Bernard Levy

Recorded July 2013

Born in Hull, 1926. Parents born in United Kingdom of Lithuanian extraction; Jewish upbringing in “Conforming Jewish” household. Father worked in retail clothing. Second World War military service; dispatched to the Western Front and attended the Brussels Synagogue just after liberation where he met Jews who had been in hiding for months. Was in Corps that arrived in Bergen-Belsen shortly after its liberation and stayed to assist doing clerical duties—had never spoken of this experience prior to the Oral History interview.

To hear the entire recording lasting 65 mins click here

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Our aim is to raise the profile of the history of Jews in Oxford from earliest records through to the modern day.

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