Openly Jewish undergraduates were allowed into Oxford only from 1856, and could hold college fellowships only from 1871, when the clerical association of fellowships was abandoned.    Given their relatively short presence in Oxford, and the underlying established Church attachment of the university in a general sort of way, it is remarkable that there have been some 20+ heads of Oxford colleges in the 150 years during which this has been possible.   (Various names are used for the head of a college: warden, principal, provost, master, dean, president, rector.)   This is in part due to the British reception of refugees from Europe in the run-up to the Second World War and in particular to Oxford’s generosity in welcoming refugee scholars.    They repaid the university’s hospitality with the greatest contribution to the university, both as heads and as professors of renown.   In retrospect, the part played by Jewish heads is far removed from the situation faced by Solomon Lazarus, who studied at Balliol in the 1880s, became editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, and was advised by Jowett, the celebrated Master of Balliol, that he should anglicise his name, which became Sidney Lee.
Aside from the heads listed below, there are a number of others who are of partly Jewish descents, who have converted, or who do not wish to be identified as Jewish.

Arthur Lehman Goodhart       goodhart

The first appears to have been Arthur Lehman Goodhart, Master of University College from 1951 to 1963 and also the first American to head an Oxford college.   Born in New York in 1891, his paternal grandfather had emigrated from Germany in 1837 and was a founding member of the first Reform Synagogue in the US.    His maternal grandfather had also immigrated from Germany, in 1848.    His name was Mayer Lehman and he established Lehman Bros. in 1858; an uncle was governor of New York state.   Arthur Goodhart graduated from Yale and then studied law at Cambridge.   He was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn.   After serving with American forces during the first world war, he returned to academic life at Cambridge and in 1931 became professor of jurisprudence at Oxford, with a fellowship at University College.    He established the Cambridge Law Journal and was subsequently for fifty years editor of the Law Quarterly Review, the most distinguished law journal in the common law world.   Fellow of the British Academy, he was appointed King’s Counsel in 1943, received an honorary knighthood in 1948 and was the recipient of 20 honorary degrees. It was said that Goodhart, who had two buildings named after him at University College, accepted the post of Master on condition that he did not have to attend chapel.   On retirement he took up a Visiting Professorship at Harvard.   He also served on the Law Reform Commission and the Royal Commission on the Police.    Amongst his writings are Essays in Jurisprudence and the Common Law, Precedent in English and Continental Law, English Law and Moral Law (the Hamlyn Lectures), Five Jewish Lawyers of the Common Law, and Poland and the Minority Races.   This last work resulted from his membership of an American Mission to Poland to examine the murder of Jews shortly after the first world war.    Although not religious, Goodhart supported Israel and from his legal perspective supported the legality of the Suez invasion and the ownership of the West Bank.   Lord Goodhart, one of his three distinguished sons, still lives in Oxford.

Sir Isaiah Berlin      berlin

The second and arguably the most distinguished, in a very distinguished collection, was Sir Isaiah Berlin, philosopher and historian of ideas.   (For biography and letters, see works by Michael Ignatieff and Henry Hardy.)   Born in Riga in 1909 his family moved to London in 1921 and he attended prep school and St Paul’s before going up to Corpus Christ College.    His brilliance was evident from a young age, and recognised in the university: he spent almost his entire adult life in Oxford.   He was the first Jew to be elected to a fellowship of All Souls’ College (1932) – although not the first Jewish college fellow – and was then made a fellow of New College in 1938 and elected to the Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory in 1957.   His energetic and excitable lecturing style, one which would be discouraged in this age of powerpoint and lecturing quality assessment, ensured that students queued for admission to his lectures, and he was universally acknowledged as a stimulating tutor and the dominant scholar of his generation.    He was knighted in 1957 and amongst other honours was appointed to the Order of Merit and awarded the Jerusalem Prize.   His fields of enquiry were liberalism, pluralism, nineteenth century Russian thought and the Romantic Movement.   In 1966 Sir Isaiah was elected as the first President of the new graduate college, Wolfson College.    He retained this post until 1975 and the college will always be associated with his name and influence.    He was involved in the choice of the striking and successful modern architecture of the college, and made it an innovative foundation in Oxford – a college for graduates, with married accommodation and less hierarchy.   Appropriately in the circumstances, he secured resources for it from the Wolfson Foundation, and its name was changed from Iffley College to the one it bears now.   Isaiah Berlin, a distant relative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson, was a committed Jew and a lifelong Zionist who helped in the establishment of the state of Israel.    In a statement a month before his death he called for Jerusalem to remain the capital of Israel.    He married Aline Halban and lived in Headington House; her son Peter is still connected with Oxford.   Berlin died in 1997 and was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery.

Professor Herbert Hart hart

H.L.A.Hart was one of the most widely read and influential legal philosophers of his age, author of two books The Concept of Law and Law Liberty and Morality that had a profound impact on policy and on his students.    His life is described in the biography by Nicola Lacey and in Ask Me No More, the memoirs of his wife, Jenifer, a fellow of St Anne’s.   He was a friend of Isaiah Berlin and of Lord Goodman and a fellow of Arthur Goodhart’s college.   Hart was born in Harrogate in 1907 to a family of furriers/dressmakers of Polish and German immigrant descent.    He was educated at the Jewish house of Cheltenham College, Bradford Grammar and New College, and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple.   He served during the war with MI5 and returned to Oxford as philosophy fellow of New College.    In 1952 he succeeded Goodhart as Professor of Jurisprudence at the university.   He lectured at the Hebrew University and maintained his sense of Jewish identity throughout his life, and bequeathed his library to the Hebrew University.    He refused a knighthood in 1966 but was appointed QC honoris causa.   Hart undertook a report into student affairs for the university in the aftermath of student unrest in the late 1960s.   In 1973 he was appointed Principal of Brasenose, a post he held until 1978.    (It was suspected that the statutes of Hertford College, where his candidacy was once considered, blocked the appointment of a Jew as head of college.)   He continued to be extremely active in legal philosophy after retirement, and lived for the rest of his life in Manor Place.   He died in 1992 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery.    He is remembered as a proponent of liberal values.

Prof. Alan K. Bowman    Bowman_Brasenose

Alan Keir Bowman FBA is a past Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford.   Born in 1944 Bowman was educated at Manchester Grammar School, The Queen's College, Oxford and the University of Toronto.   After holding academic positions at Rutgers University and Manchester University he was elected as University Lecturer in Ancient History at Oxford University and Official Student of Christ Church, Oxford. He was Senior Censor at Christ Church from 1988 to 1990.     In 1995 Bowman became founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents at Oxford. In 2002 he became Camden Professor of Ancient History and Fellow of Brasenose College, and was appointed Principal in 2011.


Deputy Judge John Bowers QC    Bowers
Deputy High Court Judge John Bowers, who specialises in human rights and employment law, has been elected as principal of Brasenose. He took up his appointment in Oxford on 1st October 2015.    Hailing from Grimsby, and still a supporter of the local football team there, he was educated at Matthew Humberstone Comprehensive School, Cleethorpes,  Lincoln College, Oxford and the Inns of Court School of Law before being called to the bar in 1979.  He took Silk in 1998
John Bowers QC is a leading human rights and employment lawyer with particular focus on matters of equal pay, discrimination, minimum wage and unfair dismissal. He sits as a Deputy High Court Judge. He is an approved counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and has written numerous books on human rights and employment law, including standard texts on whistleblowing and industrial action.
Mr Bowers is a trustee of the Kessler Foundation, the Jewish Chronicle's majority shareholder and a patron of Neveh Shalom

Lord Goodman (Arnold Goodman)      goodman

Known to his friends as “the Blessed Arnold”, lawyer and advisor to prime ministers, Lord Goodman was Master of University College from 1976-86 and contributed significantly to the endowment of the college.    Goodman described the post of Master as one of “influence but no power”, and was one of the very few Heads to treat it as a part time position, coming up from London as needed.   He was born in London in 1913 to a family that came from Lithuania and were in the textiles business.    Educated at University College London and Downing College, Cambridge, he became a solicitor with the firm Goodman, Derrick & Co.   His legal work brought him into contact with politicians from all sides, and he advised both Prime Ministers Wilson and Heath.  He chaired many committees, including the Arts Council and the Observer Trust; was a Director of the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells and a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.   He became a peer in 1965 and was made Companion of Honour in 1972.    He played a part in the foundation of the Open University. Goodman was President of the Institute of Jewish Affairs, Chairman of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues and of the Jewish Chronicle Trust.   He played a part in the Camp David negotiations and met with Anwar Sadat.   On retirement he lived in Shotover and died in 1995.

Sir Zelman Cowen AK, GCMG, GCVO, QC       cowan

Cowen was Provost of Oriel College from 1982-90.   He was born in Melbourne to a Russian immigrant family from Belarus on his mother’s side.   He came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, took the BCL at New College and was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn.    From 1947-50 he was a fellow of Oriel College and then returned to a very successful academic legal career in Australia as Dean of the Law Faculty at Melbourne and subsequently Vice Chancellor at two universities.   He was recognised as one of the leading constitutional lawyers of the English speaking world and author of many distinguished legal books.    In 1977 he was offered the post of Governor General of Australia by the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and served as the 19th Governor General, and the second Jewish Governor General, for four and a half years.    He was knighted in 1976 and appointed a privy counsellor in 1981.    On retirement from Oriel, he returned to Australia where he was deeply involved with Jewish life.   He published a biography of Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Jewish Governor General.    Married to Anna for 60 years, one of their sons is an Australian rabbi.   Sir Zelman had a gallery named after him at the Australian Jewish Museum.    He had been a governor of the Hebrew University, of Tel Aviv University and of the Weizmann Institute.   He continued in legal scholarship until his death in 2011, which was marked by a state funeral in Melbourne.

Lord Moser (Claus Moser KCB. CBE, FBA)      moser

Lord Moser was Warden of Wadham College 1984-1993.   A college theatre is named after him, as is a room at the British Museum, where he chaired the Development Trust.   Claus Moser, musician and statistician, was born in Berlin in 1922, son of Dr Ernest Moser, head of Germany’s biggest bank.   He came with his family to England in 1936,  attended Frensham Heights School and the LSE.   He was interned, together with his father (and the father of Ruth Deech, former Principal of St Anne’s) in Huyton camp as an enemy alien.   He became Professor of Statistics at the LSE, Director of the Central Statistical Office and Chairman of the Royal Opera House.    Of concert pianist standard himself, he chaired many musical, cultural and educational committees; was knighted in 1973 and was among the first batch of “People’s Peers”, entering the House of Lords as a crossbencher in 2001.    He remains proud to be Jewish, served as Chancellor of the Open University of Israel from 1994-2004 and remains active in Israeli interests.   A champion of state education, he chaired a report into adult literacy.

Sir Raymond (Bill) Hoffenberg        hoffenberg

Bill Hoffenberg was a medical scientist, born in South Africa in 1923, he was President of Wolfson College 1985-93.   He studied Medicine at Cape Town University and worked with Albert Schweitzer after war service.    The S. African Prime Minister John Vorster banned him from all social and political activities in 1967 because of his liberal opposition to apartheid policies and he went into exile in London in 1968, not to return for 24 years.    Thereafter his medical career flourished and he was inter alia President of the Royal College of Physicians, Chairman of the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.    After retirement he continued medical work in Australia, and supported medical education once again in S. Africa.   He was knighted in 1984 and was a trustee of the Wolfson Foundation.   He died in 2007.

Sir John Burgh KCMG, CB, FRCM     John_Burgh

Sir John Burgh was President of Trinity College from 1987 to 1996.    Born in Vienna in 1925 he emigrated as a child and attended Friends’ School Sibford and the LSE, of which he was subsequently Chairman of the Governors.   A civil servant, he progressed to the posts of Under Secretary at the Department for Employment, Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet Office and Director General of the British Council.    His interests lay in music and the arts; he also chaired a committee on multiculturalism in Britain after retirement.     Sir John passed away on April 12th 2013.

Mr. Anthony Smith CBE            smith

Smith was President of Magdalen College from 1988-2005.    A producer, broadcaster and writer, he was educated at Harrow County School for Boys and Brasenose College.   Smith was Director of the British Film Institute from 1979-88, a director of Channel Four, appointed CBE in 1987.    After retirement he worked for the advancement of East European scholars and is Chairman of the Oxford-Russia Fund.

Professor Baruch Blumberg            blumberg

Nobel Prize winner (Medicine 1976) and Master of Balliol 1989-94, Professor Blumberg was born in 1925 in New York to a family that had immigrated to the US from Europe at the end of the nineteenth century.   He was educated at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Far Rockaway High School and after service in the navy studied medicine at Columbia.    He undertook graduate work at Oxford and was a friend of Sir Hans Krebs there, father of Lord Krebs, Principal of Jesus College.  He has undertaken research on cancer for most of his professional life at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia and is responsible for the HBV (hepatitis) vaccine.  He has travelled the world assisting cancer research everywhere.    Blumberg was the first science Master of Balliol, encouraged their science students, promoted alumni relations and fundraising.   After retirement from Oxford Blumberg has worked with NASA and on astrobiology and was elected President of the American Philosophical Society.  His daughter Jane is married to Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC and they live in Oxford.   Blumberg identified with the Oxford Jewish community and also received an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University, where he did collaborative work.  Professor Blumberg died suddenly of an heart attack whilst attending a conference in the USA on 5th April 2011 (see article)

Baroness Deech DBE       deech

Ruth Deech (nee Fraenkel) was born in London in 1943, the daughter of Josef Fraenkel, a refugee from Vienna who was a founder member of the World Jewish Congress and a biographer of Herzl, and of Polish descent on both sides.   Educated at Christ’s Hospital and St Anne’s, she was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple of which she is now an honorary bencher.    She taught law at Oxford before being elected Principal of her college.    She was chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1994-2002 (for which service she was appointed DBE in 2002); a Rhodes trustee, a BBC Governor, the first Adjudicator for Higher Education 2004-8 and chairman of the Bar Standards Board from 2009.    She was a member of the Jewish Leadership Council, a governor of Carmel College, a trustee of the JNF and of the Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Tel Aviv University.    She was Principal of St Anne’s from 1991-2004 and a pro Vice-Chancellor of the University.   A residential and conference building of the college is named after her, and she is an honorary fellow of the college.   In 2005 she was created a life peer and sits as a Crossbencher in the House of Lords.   She received an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University in 2012.


Derek Wood CBE QC           wood

Derek Wood, barrister, was born in 1937 and educated at Tiffin Boys’ School and University College Oxford.    He was called to the Bar by Middle Temple, of which he was Treasurer in 2006.   A Recorder and deputy chairman of the Society of Labour Lawyers, he was Principal of St Hugh’s College from 1991-2002 and revised the Statutes of Oxford University.    Returning to the Bar on retirement from the college, he has led reviews of the education and training of barristers.

The Hon. Michael Beloff QC            beloff

Beloff was President of Trinity College from 1996-2006.   He was born in 1942 and is often referred to as “the Bar’s Renaissance Man”.   Son of Lord (Max) Beloff (Gladstone Professor of Government at Oxford), he was educated at Eton and Magdalen College and was President of the Oxford Union.   His aunt was the distinguished journalist Nora Beloff and his grandparents emigrated from Belarus to Britain in 1909, changing their name from Rabinovich.   Beloff was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn, of which he was Treasurer in 2008.   He has been an arbitrator at the Olympic Games and is President of the British Association of Sport and Law.   A distinguished lawyer, he returned to practice at Blackstone Chambers after leaving Trinity, and retained his practice in human rights and administrative law even while head of house.    He is also a very active lecturer and legal author.    He is regarded as one of the top barristers in the country and is an appeal judge in the Channel Isles. Beloff provided the legal opinion establishing that the boycott of Israeli universities proposed by the Universities and Colleges Union was illegal.

Sir Walter Bodmer      bodmer

Sir Walter was Principal of Hertford College from 1996-2005.   He was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1936, coming to this country as a small child.   He is a distinguished geneticist, advocate for the public understanding of science and FRS. After retirement from Hertford he was appointed to head a major Wellcome Trust project studying the genetic makeup of the entire population of the British Isles.   He was educated at Manchester Grammar and Cambridge and has also held the post of Chancellor of Salford University.   Amongst many posts he has been chairman of the Natural History Museum and Director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.   He holds more than 20 honorary degrees and fellowships.   He was knighted in 1986.    Bodmer is a trustee of Haifa University.

Sir Stephen Tumim          tumin

Principal of St Edmund Hall from 1996-8, Tumin's name will always be synonymous with prison reform.    The Tumim family came from Russia in the mid nineteenth century and his great grandfather was a Rabbi in Manchester, while his grandfather was a furniture dealer.   Stephen Tumim was born in 1930 in Oxford to Renee and Joseph Tumim CBE (who was educated at St Paul’s and Oriel College),clerk of assize on the Oxford Circuit and Deputy Chairman of the Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions.    He was educated at St Edward’s School and Worcester College, where he read law.    He was called to the Bar by Middle Temple and became a Circuit Judge.    Appointed HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in 1987 for 8 years, he courageously brought to light the poor conditions of British prisons and was responsible for the commencement of reform.   Together with Lord Woolf he wrote the 1994 Report on the Strangeways Prison Riot.    His work caused him to be on the IRA hitlist and he and his wife Winifred (also a notable reformer) spent years under protective armed guard.    His tenure at St Edmund Hall was not happy and was cut short after two years, leading to protests by the undergraduates who wanted him to stay.    He was chairman of the Friends of the Tate Gallery and of the National Deaf Children’s Society (two of his daughters were born deaf.) He died in 2003.

Dr Diana Walford CBE FRCP (nee Norton)            walford

Dr Walford was born in 1944 of Lithuanian descent, and has been Principal of Mansfield College since 2002; she will be succeeded in 2011 by Baroness Kennedy. A haematologist, she was educated in Liverpool and was deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Public Health Laboratory Service.   She was appointed CBE in 2002 and is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation. She was a governor of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.    She stepped down from her post in August 2011.

Sir Ivor Crewe crew

The third Jewish Master of University College, Sir Ivor Crewe took up his post in 2008.   His father was born in Bohemia (Konigenhof an der Elbe) and came to Manchester in 1939.   His mother was born in Hamburg, raised in Berlin and came to England in 1938.   He was born in 1945, educated at Manchester Grammar and Exeter College.   He was Professor of Politics and then Vice-Chancellor of Essex University, where a lecture hall is named after him.   Knighted in 2005, he was President of Universities UK, High Steward of Colchester and a member of the Research Committee of the Board of Deputies.

Mark Damazer damazer

Mark Damazer took up the post of Master of St Peter’s in October 2010. He was born in 1955 to a Polish émigré father and Swiss mother, educated at Haberdasher Aske’s, Cambridge and Harvard.   His career as a journalist at ITV and the BBC culminated in his appointment as controller of Radio 4 and Radio 7 for six years from September 2004 .   Before that he spent more than 20 years in the News Division - as a Producer on the 6 O'Clock TV News and Newsnight and subsequently Editor of the 9 O'Clock TV News , Editor of TV News Programmes, Head of Current Affairs, Head of Westminster and Deputy Director, BBC News.    He studied History at Gonville and Caius College , Cambridge ( 1974-77) before spending two years in the USA – at Harvard and then on Capitol Hill where I worked for Senator Paul Tsongas ( Massachusetts ).

He served as four years international vice chairman of the International Press Institute (, was also a Trustee of Mental Health Media and an external member of the board for the Centre for Contemporary British History ( ).    


RD 2010, updated MEW 04/15