Oxford rugby players in anti-Semitism row

Owen Kennedy 21 November 2008

Controversy has erupted at Oxford after the University’s under-21s Rugby team allegedly organised a “bring a fit Jew”-themed social.

The social, held last Wednesday at a curry house, had apparently attracted controversy before the event, and had been criticised by OUSU, the University Student Union, after a number of complaints.

It seems that members of the team attending the social were initially told to bring attractive Jewish girls with them, but following the complaints, the theme was changed to the slightly more anodyne “bring a fit girl”.

Despite this, however, some people are still alleged to have turned up in “Jewish” fancy dress, wearing fake sidelocks and, in one case, carrying a bag of money.

“The actions of a few students have caused real offence,” a spokesperson for the UK-wide Union of Jewish Students was reported in the Guardian as saying.

We are appalled that in 2008 old myths and anti-Semitic stereotypes are still appearing among supposedly educated students.”

In the same article, Phil Boon, the team captain, defended the theme, saying that he “didn’t see what the problem was”, adding “I can understand why it might have offended some people, but it would have been an awesome social.” He further pointed out that a number of Jewish girls had accepted their invitations.

A Jewish Cambridge student, who wished not to be named, told The Cambridge Student (TCS) that he did not think the allegations were particularly serious even if they were true.

“It’s not offensive as much as ridiculous,” he said.

“Judaism has a complex history and culture, and like it or not many people take it very seriously. Using that as an excuse for dressing up and pulling girls is objectionable, but accusations of anti-Semitism are wildly over the top.

“It really doesn’t merit a university investigation. It’s just a few jocks messing around – doesn’t the University have anything better to do?”

Asked for a comment, a spokesperson for the University of Oxford said:

“The University strongly condemns racial stereotyping and any form of racism and reaffirms its commitment to promoting good race relations.

“The University is currently investigating allegations about unacceptable behaviour by a small minority of students, but can not comment further as it has yet to establish the facts.”

Owen Kennedy