Jewish Life in Oxford
With its amazing historic buildings, fantastic ambience and situation near to the beautiful Cotswold countryside, Oxford is a great place for everyone to visit. On top of all this, Jewish visitors can experience the unique flavour of Oxford's Jewish life. Oxford has a small but thriving Jewish community similar to that found in any city that has a large University and range of hi-tech industry.
Oxford also attracts leading Jewish scholars who come to visit the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Bodleian Library (which houses one of the world's leading collections of historic Jewish books and manuscripts). We also have people who come for short periods to engage with Oxford’s special status as home to a world class university, with a leading teaching hospital, so we are used to accommodating a transient population. We very much welcome all our visitors, for however short or long a period.
So it may be that on a visit to the synagogue on a Shabbat morning, the visitor may find himself standing between a local shopkeeper and a visiting scholar from Jerusalem, or a graduate student, and a local pharmacist. On some weekends you may have a choice between the Orthodox form of service (which happens every week) and one of the other traditions that we have. Please refer to our prayer pages for details. If you are visiting Oxford an excellent place to meet residents and other visitors is the kiddush after Saturday morning services, where all worshippers meet no matter what service they have attended.
During University term times, there is a kosher meals service at the Oxford Jewish Centre in Richmond Road, but meals should be booked in advance by calling the centre on 01865 514356 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The meals are served on Friday night and Shabbat lunch and each weekday evening (except Sundays), and on any festival that falls within the University term. Charges are reasonable. Look at the JSoc website for further details. There is also the Oxford Kosher Café at the David Slager Jewish Student Centre, 61 George St, Oxford, OX1 which is open at lunch time.
There are no kosher restaurants or shops in Oxford. Challot (non-kosher) can be found at Marks and Spencer food store in Summertown. The large supermarkets normally stock some of the Tival vegetarian range. The Sainsburys store on Cowley Rd in East Oxford has a small kosher section. Some Kosher food can also be purchased at the Chabad House 61 George Street OX1 2BQ. To make an order, email email@example.com or call (01865) 200 158. There is also a very wide range of vegetarian food available in Oxford and content labelling laws are very strict. Even some very Orthodox British Jews will eat such items. If you plan to spend a period in England it is worth downloading the Is It Kosher? app from isitkosher.uk.
Just Kosher, a delivery service based in London, delivers to the synagogue every three or four weeks in term time – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details of the next delivery. Otherwise members drive to one of the major Jewish areas of North West London (Golders Green, Hendon, Edgware) where there are numerous kosher shops and restaurants. This takes about an hour by car. Without a car, the journey involves a train or bus to London and then a tube (subway) ride. The Facebook group Kosher in Oxford allows local people to co-ordinate their shopping trips and buy for other people at the same time.
Some kind congregants may offer hospitality to visitors in their own homes on Shabbat and festivals. If you would like to arrange this, please contact us at email@example.com. It would be very helpful if you could give your home address or contact details, and an indication as to your degree of kashrut and Shabbat observance, for example, how far you would be prepared to walk.
Other Jewish Activities in Oxford
On the one hand Oxford has a mid-sized thriving Jewish community similar to that found in any city that has a large University and range of hi-tech industry, on the other hand Oxford attracts leading Jewish scholars who come to visit the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the Clarendon Institute, and the Bodleian Library (which houses one of the world's leading collections of historic Jewish books and manuscripts). The variety and frequency of Jewish and Israeli speakers and activities is exceptional and takes place in a large variety of frameworks, many of which are to be found below.
Oxford Jewish Society (JSoc)
Oxford JSoc is not just a religious society; its aims and likewise its events are varied in their nature. JSoc organises social, educational as well as religious events for students of all shades of observance - ranging from those who go to shul three times a day to three times a year. With prestigious speakers, cocktail parties, bagel brunches and of course Friday night meals, Jsoc provides a unique opportunity to mix with other Jewish students. We also provide meals every night of the week at the OJC (Oxford Jewish Community Centre) so eating kosher food in Oxford should never be an issue. See further details on the student page.
The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish studies
The Hebrew and Jewish Studies Unit, housed in the Oriental Institute, and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, are the university’s principal bodies devoted to these subjects. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field, teaching and research staff belong to various faculties, including Oriental Studies, Modern Languages and Literature, History, Theology, and Classics. For information about our staff, please see the Hebrew and Jewish Studies section of the staff list. The Unit and the Centre sponsor a broad range of seminars and lectures each year, as well as hosting an active program of visiting scholars from all over the world. Two leading international journals in the field are based in Oxford: the Journal of Jewish Studies and the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. The centre houses the Leopold Muller Memorial Library.
www.ochjs.ac.uk | www.ochjs.ac.uk/mullerlibrary
The Chabad House aims to function as a resource for Jewish learning, complementing
the existing Jewish Society activities. They also work together with the Oxford community on educational projects for children, teenagers and adults, as well as developing contacts with Jews in the surrounding areas where there is no established Jewish community. The major part of their time is dedicated to providing programs for Jewish students studying at Oxford and Brookes University, whatever their affiliation, so as to strengthen their attachment to their Jewish roots. They provide kosher food at events and now run a midweek cafe.