Oxford Jewish Community





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Latest revision or update: 16 September 2013

Oxford Synagogue

Article from the Jewish Chronicle
28 September 1849, pages 406-7

To turn from the magnificent colleges, halls, churches and chapels, with their ancient splendour and majestic grandeur - with their verdant gardens and walks, rivulets and orchards - down to the lonely, humble synagogue, excites reflections of the saddest nature, but affords also a shade of consolation.  The contrast between the rich and princely institutions of the church, on the one hand, and the poor synagogue, on the other, is certainly a melancholy one.  In London and some of the large provincial towns, where the Jews have respectable buildings in which to worship their God, the contrast is less flaring; but here, at Oxford, where we have stayed during this week, we could not help lamenting the smallness of the Jewish congregation in a place the name of which is synonymous with learning and knowledge.  There are no more than five or six families in this place altogether;  and these take no interest whatsoever in collegiate affairs - they are occupied with business.  Our learned friend, Rabbi Hirsch Edelman, is the only one who knows anything about learned Oxford, and he works from morning to night at the Bodleian Library.  When we visited that vast establishment , and there saw the two greatest collections of Jewish books and MSS. which our nation ever possessed (the Oppenheim and the Michael Libraries) we could not resist exclaiming, מה נורא המקום הזה "How awful is this place!" But what increased its awfulness was the reflection that there could not be found a Jewish individual or a Jewish institution to purchase these treasures, which are now buried at Oxford.

Proceeding on the Day of Atonement to the small synagogue in Paradise Square, which was but recently established by the Jews of Oxford, we consoled ourselves with the idea that these few poor Jews - poor in comparison to the immense wealth of the great founders of the Oxford institutions - after all, congregated to worship the God of Israel, with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might.  There was no choir, no grandeur of any kind, no show and no pomp, yet there was earnest devotion.  The poor Jewish travellers in the vicinity flocked to this humble house of worship, to implore pardon from a merciful God, who has set apart this day for prayer and humiliation.  Strange, that the bishop of the diocese (no friend to the Jews, as we all know), had also appointed Wednesday as a day of humiliation and prayer on account of the cholera.  We cannot conclude this notice of the Oxford congregation without recording the charitable efforts of this small and humble congregation, and their benevolence to the many strangers who visit this town.  Much praise is also due to them for their excellent management of the synagogue affairs, which require to be conducted with much economy, on account of the smallness of its income.

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