By Ben Salamon, UJS Developing J-Socs Officer
Approaching the end of my time as UJS Developing J-Socs Officer, there was only one place left on my checklist of places I needed to visit: the Emerald Isle itself, Ireland!
UJS is officially the Union of Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland, yet for years UJS has not been actively involved with Jewish Students on the other side of the Irish Sea. One of my priorities coming into my second year was to get this changed and ensure that our Irish Jewish students felt just as much part of our Union as student studying anywhere else.
So I packed up my shamrock, my Irish flag and my best fancy-dress leprechaun hat and headed to the airport. First stop: Belfast, Northern Ireland. For the last year I’ve been working closely with Open University Belfast student Russell Hyer, helping him set up a brand new cross-institutional J-Soc for all Jewish students studying in the Northern Irish capital. Between us we’ve been using all available means to find those students, including asking Queens University Belfast to send out a message on their social media outlets looking for students to get involved – to which we had a very positive response!
So it was very exciting to get to sit down and meet face-to-face with Russell for the first time. In between a historical tour of rainy Belfast (did you know that Israel’s 6th president Chaim Herzog was born in Belfast?!), Russell and I warmed up over a nice coffee and chatted about everything UJS can do to take the J-Soc forward, and plans for the next year. Our Belfast J-Soc is in its very earliest days, taking those small first steps, but with around 6 active members, trips to the local synagogue, and a Friday night dinner hopefully taking place next year, we can expect good things to come!
Next stop meant getting some Euros out and heading south to Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, where I was joined by Masa UK Fieldworker Matt Keston for a full Friday Night Dinner with Trinity College Dublin J-Soc!
Dublin has a small J-Soc, recently doing lovely events for both Channukah and Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as a weekly Kiddush to bring in Shabbat every Friday in the university chaplaincy. Working closely with active J-Soc committee member Oli Itkin, we arranged a joint Shabbat event with UJS, Masa and Dublin J-Soc – the first full Friday night dinner experience the J-Soc has had in a long time!
After schlepping to the only supermarket in Dublin which sells kosher food, we put on an absolutely lovely event with 15 people from a variety of institutions within Dublin. An explanatory Kiddush, followed by a chicken curry and great company meant that we stayed up together until the early hours of the morning chatting the night away. The charm of a small J-Soc is that we can have a small, friendly and intimate dinner, in which by the end everyone is friends – there’s not enough people for a clique!
There’s a wonderful community spirit being built over in Dublin J-Soc, and I hope next year this J-Soc goes from strength to strength. I look forward to hearing about an Irish delegation coming over to UJS Conference in December, or an Irish team for JUEFA Cup or Jewniversity Challenge!
As Matt and I explored the sights and tastes of Dublin (with just a few pints of Guinness…), we promised that UJS would be back over to Ireland again very soon!