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Jewish History

Chabad at Oxford

Professor Schiffman showcases a variety of items that showcase the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Bible.
An inside view of the Temple. Where on Temple Mount was it built? Was the Temple Mount always as large as it is today? How many gates were there?
A look at the history of this prayer as told through manuscripts held in the Bodleian Libary, Oxford, and in the Cario Geniza collection held at Cambridge.
The importance and uniqueness of Jewish education. How the Mishnah, arranged by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, shaped generations of Jewish children.
Assessing the context of the biblical corpus through the lens of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A close look at the composition of a typical study hall during the early Mishnaic period. Looking for clues in the Kaufmann Manuscript of the fifth chapter of Ethics of Our Fathers.
A look at the development of this iconic prayer based on manuscripts housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, one of the largest collections of Hebraic manuscripts in the world.
Benjamin Wright takes an in depth look at manuscripts of Ben Sira's Sirach from the Cairo Genizah and part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the caves at Qumran.
The interplay of positivity and negativity in the context of Jewish history and Sefirat Haomer.
How a Tsarist ban on Hasidic books encouraged a boom in the dissemination of handwritten texts. Insights from a Hasidic manuscript collection in the Moses Gaster Collection of the John Rylands Library.
An interesting look at early manuscripts of the Megillah of Esther and its commentaries housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
The life and times of Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore
A fascinating look at the philanthropic work of the Montefiore couple. How their engagement with a wide range of Jewish communities strengthened their religious commitment.
Contextualizing and appraising a new documentary book on the Rebbe's early years
The perceived conflict between legitimate Torah knowledge and secular knowledge and culture has often figured as a point of controversy around the publication of biographies of rabbinic figures. Following the work of historian Prof. Immanuel Etkes, Dr. Naftali Loewenthal argues that this black and white perception was not shared by rabbis in the pre-enlightenment era. Within this context he appraises recent biographical works on the Rebbe, culminating with "Early Years: The formative years of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, as told by documents and archival data, 1902-1929" by Boruch Oberlander and Elkanah Shmotkin.
The Six Day War: fifty years
A third generation Jerusalemite tells of life in Jerusalem and his personal experience liberating the Jewish quarter during the opening days of the war.
Pillage or Rescue?
How thievery unwittingly led to a renewed interest in French Jewish History.
5 Videos
A Symposium at Chabad of Oxford
500 years after the Venice Ghetto was first established, scholars explore the intellectual, legal, and cultural history and legacy of the Jews of Venice and Italy.
A history of the Yiddish literary scene of post war Soviet Russia
Tracing the postwar history of Yiddish publishing in the Soviet Union, describing the infamous purge of Yiddish writers in the early 50's and the subsequent revival in the late 50's. Looking particularly at the history of the Journal 'סאוועטיש היימלאנד' (Soviet Homeland) launched in 1961, and ran until 1991, reappearing in 1993 under the title 'די אידישע גאס' (The Jewish Street.)
Unraveling the 300 year old mystery of the 'Bodleian bowl'
Tracing the history and possible usage of the 'Bodleian bowl', discovered in a moat in Norfolk, east England in 1696. Examining the meaning of its Hebrew inscription and its connection to the famed Tosafist Rabbi Yechiel of Paris and his son Yosef.
The untold story of the secret Chabad underground in the former Soviet Union
Precious little is known of the tremendous devotion and self-sacrifice of Chabad activists in upholding Judaism against the oppressive Communists’ ruthless stamping out of religion. Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie shares fascinating insights and anecdotes to illustrate the clandestine and heroic activities of the Chabad underground that ultimately laid the foundation for the phenomenal rebirth of Jewish life in Russia today.
Analyzing the portrayal of Shylock within its historical and cultural context
At a time when Jews were forbidden from living in England, Shakespeare's portrayal of a Jew is shaped by complex influences, and reaches beyond stereotypical prejudices in subtle and surprising ways.
How royal protection shaped the legal status of the Jews and led to their expulsion
From the very beginning, the presence of the Jews in England would have been dependent on the express protection of the king. This shaped their legal status in ways both good and bad, and ultimately paved the way for their expulsion.
How the complex legal status of the Jews of England shaped the Magna Carta
The Magna Carta was the result of a standoff between King John of England and his barons in 12th century England. The special status of the Jewish community as property of the king was a factor in the tensions that led to the standoff, and is reflected in the charter itself.
Manuscript variations of works by Abraham Bar Ḥayya and Isaac Israeli
The many small distinctions between different manuscripts of two medieval Jewish works on the calendar and mathematics testify to the scribe's role in shaping the transmission of these texts.
Reality, imagination, and fabrication in the tales archaeologists tell
In the world of ancient archaeology, there are many competeing interests and not everything is always as it seems.
Archaeological studies of ancient scripts from the Western Levant
A few fragments, scattered across centuries of history and different geographic locations, are all that is left of the ancient scripts from which today's Hebrew Alphabet (ketav ashuri) emerged.
Hate propaganda and its impact on the collective unconscious
Beginning with the Norwich libel of 1144, the blood libel was repeated again and again, becoming a classic model of strategic propaganda. How did this model emerge and what are the components that contribute to its success?
Perspectives on the High-Holiday Prayer
One of the most poignant moments of the High-Holiday prayers is the recital of the liturgical poem, Unessanneh Tokef. What is its significance? Who composed it, and under what circumstances?
Unlocking the insights of a medieval manuscript in an Oxford library
One of the worlds oldest prayer books, housed in an Oxford library, provides new insight into the history of Jewish prayer.
A Thousand Years of Jewish Settlement in China
Over many centuries changing political and economic realities brought several distinct waves of Jewish emigrants to China, their impact was international and their history reverberates until today.
The complex legal history of Judaism's holiest site
Though the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is technically under Israeli sovereignty. But due to the complex history of the site's status under international and Israeli law, and also due to Jewish legal (i.e. halachic) considerations, access to Jews remains severely restricted.
The unique situation of Jews in Britain has had upsides and downsides
For the last few hundred years Jews have not faced overt persecution or anti-Semitism. Though welcomed into society, the casual stigmatization they faced often forced them to abandon their unique identity as Jews. While individual Jews prospered in England, Judaism and the Jewish community has fared less well.
Russian Jewry in the Geo-Theological Imagination of Chabad
The founder of Chabad was imprisoned by the Tsar in 1798 and 1801, but yet took a patriotic stance in the war of 1812. In Soviet Russia, intense persecution forced Chabad underground and its center eventually moved to the United States. Nevertheless, Chabad retained a strong active and ideological connection, which has again come to the fore with the fall of the Iron-Curtain.
How tolerant were Jews in the first century?
In the late Second Temple era, the Pharisees upheld the oral law and practiced the customs handed down by tradition, but the Sadducees held that Jews should only adhere to a strict literalist interpolation of the Law of Moses. Professor Martin Goodman explores the degree to which these two factions did or did not tolerate one another. ("The Isaac Meyers Memorial Lecture")
Ancient Synagogues of Northern Israel
A history of synagogues in the Second Temple period in Northern Israel as presented by an archeologist who has excavated many of the sites of these synagogues.
A Look at the Past, Present and Future of German Jewry
Former President of the Central Council for Jews in Germany and Holocaust Survivor, Dr. Charlotte Knobloch, describes the current state of the German Jewish community, its past and where it is heading.
A Jewish Historical Perspective
In the debate about science and religion, there are radical camps on both sides. However, various Jewish approaches, suggest Professor Cantor, have historically transcended both extremes.
Popular translations of the Torah
Professor of Yiddish studies Shlomo Berger presents three famous historical examples of how the Torah was translated into Yiddish in Eastern Europe throughout the centuries.
Anti-Semitic Readings of Jewish Texts
How Nazi propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s distorted passages from the Talmud to vilify Jews and Judaism.
History of the Jewish communities of the Netherlands
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Netherlands, describes the rich history of the Jewish people in his native country from medieval times until the present day.
Jewish Identity Among British Jews
A qualitative study on Jewish identity in contemporary Britain concludes that Jews of all backgrounds relate to the idea of being persecuted. Can this self-concept be positively channeled?
Director of the Chabad Society at Oxford University, Rabbi Eli Brackman, discusses the Oxford library's treasured manuscript of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and what makes it unique.
Archeology and Halacha
Archeologist, Yonatan Adler, tackles a medieval rabbinic debate about the proper arrangement of the parchments within tefillin by comparing these opinions to actual 2,000-year-old phylacteries found in Qumran.
Its History and Importance
An expert gives specific examples of amazing discoveries from the Cairo Genizah, a collection of almost 280,000 Jewish manuscript fragments found in the storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo in 1896.
Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries
The rapid disappearance of ancient Jewish communities throughout the Middle East that has occurred in modern times.
What was Rashi trying to accomplish with his commentary on the Torah?
Noted scholars and experts in their fields share their knowledge at the Oxford University Chabad Society.
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