“The real lesson from the conduct of the persecutors is that a society has a positive task to safeguard and maintain decency and humanity, and to recognize the evils that destroy them”
– Dr James Parkes, Founder of the Parkes Institute
James Parkes (1896-1981) was an Anglican minister, religious philosopher and a tireless campaigner against anti-Semitism. Parkes enlisted as an infantryman in the British armed forces in 1916 and served for three years, becoming a second lieutenant in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1917 and captain and adjutant of the Nineteenth Queen’s in 1918.
However it is for his contributions to Jewish-Christian relations, and his attempts to combat anti-Semitism, that Parkes is most remembered. Parkes was ordained as a deacon of the Church of England in 1923, and as a priest in 1926. His first experiences of anti-Semitism came in Europe during the 1920s and the early 1930s, when he served with the International Student Service and the Student Christian Movement. Witnessing attacks and anti-Semitism directed against Jewish students, Parkes dedicated the remainder of his life to combatting anti-Semitism and improving Jewish-Christian relations. As a result he helped to rescue Jewish refugees during the 1930s, and during the Second World War he campaigned on behalf of the Jews of Europe in addition to helping to found the Council of Christians and Jews in an effort to promote religious tolerance and mutual respect.
As part of this lifelong mission, he built up the Parkes Library and its associated archive which transferred to the University of Southampton in 1964. It is now one of the largest Jewish documentation centres in Europe and the only one in the world devoted to Jewish/non-Jewish relations. The teachings of James Parkes, and his library, fundamentally underpin the work of the Parkes Institute, the world’s oldest and most wide-ranging centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations across the ages.