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A Jew and the "Forbidded Thing"

by Harold Pollins

Originally published in Oxford Menorah Magazine, issue 223, December 2017, page 11.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 1 February 1851 reported a court case. It was at the County Court at Witney and the report was headed ‘Jew v. Gentile; or Joe Walker’s Pig’. For once it was written in a light-hearted manner. Much amusement, it reported, ‘by a cause which demonstrated the trouble and speedy punishment a son of Abraham incurs by touching the “forbidden thing”,’ and tended strongly to restore credibility in the old but doubted tale of a thunder-clap produced on the contact of a Hebrew tooth with but one “little bit of bacon”.’

The case was of Isaac Wroghton v. Joseph Walker whereby the plaintiff, Wroghton, sought to recover a debt of 40 shillings, the alleged cost of a watch and guard sold by the plaintiff to the defendant. This demand was met by a plea of set off respecting some trading between the two men concerning a pig which Walker averred the plaintiff had bought and re-sold to him and so become his debtor.

The counsel for the defendant, ‘in a long and humorous examination’ of plaintiff and defendant and also Mr Isaiah Wolf, ‘a brother Israelite from Oxford’, found that Wroghton had made a deal with Walker whereby he became the owner of the pig. The consideration was the watch and guard chain, the latter being delivered to Walker, but with credit arranged for, among other things, for shelter and food by Walker for Isaac’s unwanted acquisition.

The pig needed to be fed, watered and sheltered and for three weary days Isaac traversed Witney for a purchaser although not openly, rather with his pack and wares. Eventually he re-sold the pig to Joseph Walker for £4.10s (the pig having lost weight) and there were sundry charges for keep and killing whereby Isaac became a debtor for 17s 6d. Also Isaac had to pay costs, said to be £3 or £4. He was last heard going homeward to Oxford exclaiming ‘unclean, unclean’.

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1. One might infer from this that Isaac Wroghton was a member of the Oxford Jewish community, especially as Isaiah Wolf of Oxford gave evidence (not specified). But he does not appear in the 1851 Census nor in any other Census. I have taken into account possible mis-spelling of the name.

2. Isaiah Wolf was recorded in the 1851 Census as iiving in New Road where his trade was ‘General Dealer’ Three years before the Jewish Chronicle published this item:

‘MARRIED. At Oxford, on Wednesday, 30th ult., by the Rev.  N.  Jacobs, Mr.  A.  J.  Woolf, son of the Rev.  Isaiah Woolf, of Oxford, to Fanny, daughter of Mr.  Friedman, of Romford. After the ceremony the Rev.  Mr.  Jacobs delivered an impressive address suited to the occasion.’

There is no evidence that he was a minister of some kind, but in those days it was rather a loose description for someone who carried out some religious duties.

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