Photograph of Herbert taken by the BBC in 1932 for his participation in a series entitled 'Our debt to the past'.

Courtesy of Camilla Loewe.




1882    Born in London

Studied at De Warren House School, Gravesend, and at St Paul’s School, London

1901    Matriculated at Cambridge, Queens’ College

1904    Graduated first class in Oriental Languages

1905    Graduated first class in Theology

1905    Chief English teacher, Schools of the Alliance Israeliteat Cairo and Abyassiyyeh

1906    Moved to Cambridge

Lecturer, Board of Historical Studies

Lecturer in elementary Hebrew, Crawford College, Maidenhead

Lecturer in elementary Hebrew at the Toynbee Hall classes of the Jewish Religious Education Board and the Perse School, Cambridge.

1909    Curator of Oriental Literature at the University Library, Cambridge

1910   Director of studies and Lecturer in Arabic and Hebrew for the Oriental, Theological and Historical students at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge

1914    Moved to Oxford

            Lecturer in Oriental Languages at Exeter College

1915    Married to Ethel Victoria Hyamson (1887-1946)

1917    Military service in Calcutta, India

Engaged in the management of a factory producing military uniforms in Calcutta.

1919    Raphael Loewe was born

1919    Returned to Oxford

1922    Michael Arthur Nathan Loewe was born

M.A. Lecturer in Oriental languages, Exeter College

University Reader in Rabbinics

1931    Moved to Cambridge

            Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University

1933    Elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Queen’s College, Cambridge

Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University and Hebrew at the University of London

1939    President of the English Society for Old Testament Study

            Worked out a plan for transfer of the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Berlin) to Cambridge

1940    Died on 11 October






Herbert Loewe:1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16


Herbert Loewe - Biography and Timeline


Herbert James Martin Loewe (1882-1940) was the only son of James Henry Loewe (1853-1943) and Emma Immerwahr, and the grandson of Louis Loewe (1809-1888). Although he lived a much shorter life than other members of the family, he also became a great and recognized scholar, “the ideal type of Talmid hakham.” [1] As Cecil Roth put it in his article about him for the Encyclopaedia Judaica, “for a generation he was regarded in English academic circles as the prime representative of Jewish scholarship.” [2]

Herbert’s first teacher was his father, James Henry Loewe, who apart from being a banker in London, was also devoted to rabbinical studies. [3] After finishing primary school in Gravesend (De Warren House School), and then his studies at St. Paul’s School, London, Herbert went to Cambridge, where he read oriental studies and theology. In 1901, he matriculated at Queens’ College, and graduated first class in Oriental Languages in 1904 and Theology in 1905.

In an interview given to the Jewish Chronicle in 1914, Herbert recalls the most important characters, who led his steps in the field of oriental studies:

My first knowledge of Hebrew I owe to my father’s care and instructions from my earliest childhood. For my introduction to the science of Hebrew Philology, I have to thank my uncle, Dr Hirschfeld, under whom I also began Arabic and Syriac. What I owe to the teaching of Dr Israel Abrahams in Cambridge, it is hard for me to find words to express. [4]

After graduation in 1905, Herbert went to Egypt to improve his Arabic and to teach English in the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Cairo and Abyassiyyeh. According to the reports in the Jewish Chronicle, he was overloaded with work: besides the high number of hours he was supposed to teach, he had to travel between the two schools “in the heat of the day.” The hardships of the job forced him to resign after about a year. In 1906, he returned to Cambridge and continued his academic career at the University. Besides being a lecturer in Hebrew at the University, he taught Hebrew in Jewish schools, and to teachers at Training colleges. [5] Between 1909 and 1911, Herbert was the curator of Oriental Literature in the University Library. He followed Ernest James Worman (1871-1909) in this position, and he was the first who attempted to create a catalogue of the entire manuscript collection. [6]

Herbert was involved in the Jewish religious and social life of the University. Together with Israel Abrahams, he managed to accommodate the needs of Jewish students and the University’s examination system. In order to make it possible for Jewish students to take exams scheduled on Saturdays or Jewish festivals, they introduced the so-called amanuensis system, that is, the students could dictate their answers instead of writing them down and they were guarded by a don so as to not to communicate with other students. [7]

Thanks to the efforts of Basil Henriques, Herbert’s brother-in-law, Jewish life in Oxford had undergone remarkable developments before 1914. However, the town still lacked someone responsible for organising Jewish life. “The real remedy was the appointment of a Lecturer or Reader in Rabbinics, who would have academic status; it was in any case desirable that the teaching of Rabbinics should be in Jewish hands.” [8] In 1914 Herbert Loewe was appointed Lecturer in Oriental Languages at Exeter College, Oxford, and he was expected to fulfil not only academic duties but also to serve as a sort of chaplain for the Jewish students of the University.

Herbert moved to Oxford in the autumn of 1914, however due to the outbreak of the First World War he was not able to immerse himself in the academic life of the town for long. He volunteered to fight for his country, and was sent to India. Since his physical condition did not allow him to serve on the frontline, he worked in the management of a factory producing military uniforms in Calcutta. [9] Before his departure, Herbert had married Ethel Victoria Hyamson (1887-1946). The wedding took place on 10 August, in North London. Ethel was the younger sister of the historian, Albert Montefiore Hyamson (1875-1954). Their first son, Raphael James Loewe was born in Calcutta in 1919.

Herbert returned to Oxford in 1920, where he resumed both his academic and social duties, and he soon became “the focal point of Jewish Oxford.” [10] In 1920 Herbert M. Share, J. Light and R. I. Mincovitch organized the first Jewish Summer School at Oxford. Herbert gave the introductory lecture on “Hebrew Grammar and Translation.” He invited students to his home in 29 Beaumont Street for Shabbat and for Jewish festivals. He conducted services that were inclusive of various Jewish denominations. His tolerant attitude towards the different Jewish traditions may have influenced the Oxford Synagogue and contributed to its “accommodation of these traditions under one roof.” [11]

Herbert taught at Cambridge University on a part-time basis since the 1920s. In 1931 he received the Readership in Rabbinics and moved back to the town of his studies. Before leaving Oxford, he organized the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Adolf Neubauer, Reader in Rabbinic Hebrew and cataloguer of Hebrew manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. As part of the event, three tablets were set up commemorating medieval Oxford Jewry: one on the Town Hall, one at the site of the medieval cemetery (today’s Botanical Garden), and one at the spot of the martyrdom of Haggai the proselyte. [12]

Herbert maintained good relations with Christian theologians and scholars and emphasized the importance of knowing and respecting each other’s religion. In 1939 he became President of the English Society for Old Testament Study. He was seriously concerned with the events taking place in Germany in the 1930s. When Rabbi Leo Baeck of the Berlin rabbinical seminary, the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, visited England, they met and as a result of their meeting Herbert worked out a plan for the transfer of the Hochschule from Berlin to Cambridge. The transferred seminary with its teaching staff and its library would have constituted the foundation of an English Jewish academy. However, due to the outbreak of the Second World War “the selfless untiring efforts and the tremendous work which Dr. Loewe devoted to the carrying out of his plan, unfortunately came to nought.” [13] Herbert Loewe died at the age of 58 on 11 October, 1940.


[1] Paul Goodman, Yehudith I, 3 (1940), 12.

[2] Cecil Roth, “Loewe, Herbert James Martin,” inEncyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 11 (Jerusalem: Keter, 1971), 447.

[3] ”Professor Raphael Loewe,” The Telegraph (26 June 2011), (accessed on 25 May, 2012)

[4] Jewish Chronicle(9 Oct 1914): 12. His uncle, Hartwig Hirschfeld (1854-1934) was a scholar of Judeo-Arabic literature.

[5] Jewish Chronicle (26 June 1909): 32.

[6] Stefan C. Reif, Hebrew Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1997), 33.

[7] Interview with Herbert Loewe, Jewish Chronicle (9 Oct 1914): 12.

[8] David M. Lewis, The Jews of Oxford (Oxford: Oxford Jewish Congregation, 1992), 50.

[9] Julia Neuberger, “Raphael Loewe’s Obituary. Skilled Translator with a Passion for Medieval Jewish Poetry,” Guardian (4 August 2011), (accessed on 25 May 2012)

[10] Marcus Roberts, “Herbert Loewe,” National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, (accessed on 15 March 2012)

[11] Ibidem.

[12] David M. Lewis, The Jews of Oxford (Oxford: Oxford Jewish Congregation, 1992), 61.

[13] Richard Fuchs, “‘The Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums’ in the Period of Nazi Rule. Personal Recollections,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 28(1967): 28. About the transfer, see ibidem, 3-31 (espec. 26-28), and Christhard Hoffmann and Daniel R. Schwartz, “Early but Opposed—Supported but Late: Two Berlin Seminaries which Attempted to Move Abroad,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 36 (1991): 267-304 (espec. 283-296).