A London doctor was so concerned about her student daughter having nowhere regular to eat on Friday nights that she raised money to make it happen.
That was two years ago when Dina Hochhauser was a fresher and wanted to live in hall. Today her mother, Dr Jo Hochhauser, presides over an impressive organisation known as FND, or Friday Night Dinners — and the student-led events, which run at Western Marble Arch and Central Synagogues, attract anything between 60 and 100 people every week.
Dr Hochhauser said: “When I was a student we had Hillel House, but I realised that today there was nowhere for students to go and have a relaxed place where they could socialise — essential at the end of what can be tough weeks during term.
“We think there are about 2,000 Jewish students in London, and although many do live at home, there are also large numbers of international students, particularly from the US and France, and they need somewhere to go.”
In September, last year Dr Hochhauser approached UJS and University Jewish Chaplaincy, both of which agreed to support her initiative. But the main funding comes from Dr Hochhauser’s persuasive wooing of private donors, and in the past year alone she has raised £35,000 to cover the costs of her ambitious project.
Students who sign up via the FND website or on Facebook are charged £5 for a three-course buffet with wine. They are welcomed and encouraged to make FND an enjoyable social event. In the past few weeks, FND has begun staging Shabbat lunches.
She said: “This is the only weekly cross-communal event and it has become a huge success. We have students from all levels of religious observance and none — we even have a group who walk every week from north-west London.”