Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Anti-Semitism at Oxford during WWII


One of the oldest hatreds in the world is Anti-Semitism. This has taken on many forms, from ancient times until today, giving rise to countless books, including the three volume 'History fo Anti-Senmitism' by Leon Poliakov, and countless articles on its causes and ways to counter it. The most recent form in Anti-Semitism, according to the late Lord Sacks, is a campaign against Israel's right to exist and defend itself: many times anti-Zionism masking a deeper antisemitism. In this essay, we would like to look at the more classic form of Anti-Semitism that existed in England during the Second World War at Oxford with the rise of refugees escaping the Nazis in Europe and the bombing in London. 


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On the site of the Osney Mill Marina, on Mill Street, Oxford, on the remains of Osney Abbey, there is a plaque, erected in 1931 by Professor of semitic languages, Herbert Loewe, commemorating one of the first known burnings at the stake for heresy in England. This was performed against Haggai of Oxford, formerly known as Robert of Reading, a deacon, who converted to Judaism, and married a Jewish woman. When ordered to recant, he refused, and an edict was passed at the Council of Oxford, convened by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1150-1228), that he should be degraded and immediately delivered to the fire.[1] This took place on Sunday, 17 April 1222 AD, corresponding to the Hebrew date: 4 Iyyar 4982.


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