Over 200 students, parents and community figures gathered at JW3 on Sunday 30th March for the 6th Annual UJS Student Awards.
The event celebrated the inspiring and impressive work that Jewish students have delivered across the UK and Ireland in the past twelve months.
This year saw a record 100 nominations for eleven categories that recognise the determination and talent of Jewish students who have offered their peers exciting and educational Jewish experiences; joined efforts on campus to combat hate speech and racism; developed meaningful relationships with Israel; fostered positive relationships with students from other faiths and backgrounds; and dedicated their time to local and national causes.
The annual ceremony culminated with the most prestigious award for an individual student, the Alan Senitt Award for Outstanding Contribution to Campus Life. Alan was UJS Chair for two years and an inspiring young member of the Jewish community. He was involved in many projects, showing immense dedication and passion for what he did, quickly becoming a role model to all those working with him. Sadly Alan lost his life in 2006. UJS honours his memory every year by dedicating this award to him, an award who’s winner must demonstrate the same enthusiasm and commitment to the community as Alan did.
This year’s winner Joe Cohen brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the room. He spoke of how honoured he was to receive an award dedicated to such an inspiring man and he told those present how inspired he was by the leadership and hard work of his peers – fellow Jewish students from around the UK and Ireland.
Incoming UJS President Ella Rose said that she was ‘blown away by the achievements of this year’s J-Socs and Jewish students,’ reflecting on how ‘extraordinary it is that they are prepared to put in so much time and effort whilst also working hard at their studies.’ Ella is excited and proud to be part of a community ‘filled to the brim with future leaders,’ concluding that the students are not merely ‘future’ leaders, but are in fact very ‘current’ leaders, who are ‘creating change now’ and ‘majorly influencing the experiences of their community already.’
The winners of the 6th Annual UJS Student Awards are:
- Alan Senitt Outstanding Contribution to Campus Life Award
As president of Nottingham J-Soc, Joe was an influential leader who took the society to new levels by significantly increasing events, initiatives and improving engagement with third-party organizations. Joe’s tenure saw the establishment of the first kosher sandwich bar on a UK campus. Since stepping down as President, Joe represented the views of Jewish students as a delegate at NUS conference and launched an initiative to bring together the local Jewish community and Jewish students to enhance Jewish life in Nottingham. Over the past two years, Joe has continued to spearhead this project, investing an incredible amount of time and energy in promoting and securing support for delivering further opportunities for Jewish students in Nottingham, even though he himself will have graduated well before these plans are actualised .
- Best Education Project Award in Memory of Fred Worms OBE
Since November 2013, Edinburgh J-Soc has been running Torah study sessions on the weekly portion. Completely peer-led, each week a different student leads the discussion on the topics and themes of that week’s portion, analysing the source material and allowing a space for a range of interpretations. This activity is the first for some time to be conceived and delivered by a J-Soc.
- Communication of the Year Award
Mark Larah (Manchester J-Soc)
Mark has shown an inspiring dedication to both Manchester J-Soc and UJS communications throughout his time at university. As President, Mark managed many successful marketing campaigns for J-Soc events. These efforts inspired him to write a ‘J-Soc Guide to Marketing Events’ pamphlet, which is full of tips and good ideas that benefit J-Socs across the UK and Ireland. Mark has developed a UJS smartphone app which is currently in the final design stages and he regularly writes articles for the UJS website and the Jewish News Students Section.
- CST Campaign of the Year Award
Miriam Rose (Middlesex J-Soc)
Since Miriam joined Middlesex, she has strived to make sure that all Jewish students have a warm and friendly atmosphere on campus. She has set up a “No Platform Policy” to make university experiences better, preventing hate speech (or hate speakers from being allowed) on campus following her experience a few years ago when there were hate demonstrations occurring weekly at the university.
- Dedication to Liberation Networks Award
Melissa Leigh (Manchester J-Soc)
Melissa has shown dedication to promoting both the UJS Women’s Network and the need for Jewish feminism across the denominations. She led on the UJS Women’s Network’s hugely successful launch event, spoke on the significance of the blessing “thank you for not making me a woman” at a recent J-Soc event and is the first UK campus ambassador for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.
- Chaplaincy Developing J-Soc of the Year Award
Middlesex J-Soc has grown immensely both in the size of its membership and the variety of its activity. The society now holds weekly lunch events, bringing in different speakers each week or organising activities such as quizzes themselves. Middlesex J-Soc hold regular Friday night dinners, including one to raise money for Save a Child’s Heart. The J-Soc got involved with the J.E.W. campaign and has been regular attendees at both UJS events and inter J-Soc London events.
- Oliver Sweeny Event of the Year
Saul Gaunt (Brighton and Sussex J-Soc)
The South-Coast Inter J-Soc Shabbaton brought students from 6 different universities. They heard from engaging speakers, including El Al flight attendants who gave an insight into Israeli culture; Maurice Podro, a surviving member of the 43 Group, who shared a fascinating insight into fighting anti-Semitism; and Chaplain Joe Kaye, who led a discussion on relationships. The enjoyable and engaging event has inspired other J-Socs to hold similar events.
- Interfaith Project of the Year
Ben Kasstan (Durham J-Soc)
After attending the annual Muslim Jewish Conference, Ben set up the Muslim-Jewish Forum in Durham. The forum focuses on unity and cohesion, whilst simultaneously celebrating differences. Along with the Islamic Society, Ben organised many events including a discussion of Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism, the former in relation to the hijab (headscarf) and the latter concerned the Y-word football debate. Ben initiated an interfaith Shabbat meal, hosting Jews, Muslims and Christians.
- Alan Webber Award for Israel Engagement, in partnership with UJIA
Sam Magnus and Jordan Grabski (Leeds J-Soc)
For Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence day, Sam and Jordan hung Israeli flags in their Students’ Union; put up stalls featuring different faiths and their connections to Israel; and had stalls on different aspects of Israel including tourist attractions, technology and universities. Throughout the day they gave out free falafel and humus and held Israeli dancing in the union.
- Social Action Project of the Year Award
Noah Nathan (Imperial J-Soc)
Noah organised a food drive where students could donate leftover food that they had at the end of term. Noah coordinated multiple drop-off points across London and ensured that leftover food was given to GIFT. This inspired similar end of year food drives on other campuses, engaging both Jewish and non-Jewish students and donating food to homeless shelters.
- J-Soc of the Year
The UCL committee have made incredible advances in involving Jewish students from across London in a wide variety of events from festival celebrations to their participation in Mitzvah Day. Their socials and weekly Schmoozes have attracted students in their hundreds, whilst their moving event for Holocaust Memorial Day highlighted their commitment to the more serious areas of Jewish life. The J-Soc has also provided space for individual students to stand up for their point of view in a mature and measured manner when controversial speakers have come onto campus. As well as this, the committee are always on hand to provide information about kosher food and services around campus.