Six Decades after Opening Its Doors to Jews, Oxford Opened Them to Jewish Studies

September 14, 2021 | Martin Goodman
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In 1871, an act of parliament allowed people of all religions—including Jews and Catholics—into the hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge. Martin Goodman explains how this development eventually paved the way for the creation of the former university’s Jewish studies department:

Oxford was slow to encourage study of Jewish culture in its own terms. The outstanding Hebrew collections in the Bodleian Library had long attracted Jewish scholars, . . . but Hebrew and Jewish studies only began to be properly recognized by the university as a serious area of study with the appointments of Cecil Roth as reader in post-biblical Jewish studies (in 1938) and of Chaim Rabin as Cowley lecturer in post-biblical Hebrew (in 1943).

Roth (in the Faculty of Modern History) and Rabin (in Oriental Studies) were intellectually quite isolated in Oxford, despite their considerable impact on the wider world of Jewish studies, but in 1972 the university accepted the arguments of David Patterson, a specialist in modern Hebrew literature, [in favor of] establishing the Oxford Center of Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

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