History - Wolvercote Jewish Cemetery
With kind permission of Marcus Roberts Jtrails.org.ukThe Modern Cemetery - The Wolvercote Cemetery (1894)
© Marcus Roberts, www.jtrails.org.uk
The Wolvercote Cemetery (1894), off the head of the Banbury Road, at the edge of town, has a modest and well kept Jewish section, founded by Joel Zacharias, which is bounded by hedges.
It has been enlarged twice in its history, once in the war, planning for casualties in case of air attack and again in 2000. The burial ground does not segregate the sexes though there are margins outside the boundary hedges which appear to contain some interments of non-Jewish partners, though this was not possible to confirm by context.
There is no ohel, but the unconsecrated general prayer hall is now used – once it was realised it was not consecrated for Christian worship. The cemetery includes the graves of many notable Oxford academics (and town’s people), including Sir Isaiah Berlin. There is also one war grave to a Jewish navigator in the RAF, killed on duty, and there is also an inscription for Lieutenant Victor Jessel, killed in action in France in 1917. In addition, there are some to Holocaust survivors, who went on to make a new lives for themselves in Oxford.
The Jewish cemetery is an attractive and decent place, close to the entrance to the cemetery and is either side of the path near to the entrance lodge. One of its most distinguishing features is the exceptional numbers of memorials recalling the places of births for many or its residents from all over pre-war Jewish Europe.
This testifies to the fact that the refugee element of the community was exceptionally important to the post-war make-up of Oxford Jewry. The cemetery contains little funereal imagery, apart from some Kohanic hands (eg. for Lionel Kochan), such as may be found in other Jewish cemeteries. But the inscriptions are often individual and personalised, which is not the case in some other cemeteries where stricter formulae are enforced.
The community organise and conduct the funeral services and interments. Overall, the cemetery is evocative of the distinctive Jewish life of Oxford and is well worth a detailed visit.