By Benjamin Lee, The Co-Shabbat Officer on Leeds JSOC Committee 2013-4.
The Leeds Jewish student community is a vibrant and energetic network of groups and organisations that engage hundreds of student.
Representing all denominations of Anglo-Jewry, including observant Orthodox Jewish students, there are daily minyanim in the Hillel Student Centre on campus, and kosher food available to buy in the Student Union mini-market.
There is an excellent setup that Orthodox Jews studying at the universities in the city of Leeds, are able to take advantage of.
Nevertheless, at the advent of the academic year beginning in September 2013, for Jewish students beginning their studies at the University of Leeds there were no longer provisions made for Shabbat observing Jewish students in the flats set aside in University halls of residences for Jewish students.
It became clear to members of the JSOC (Jewish society) committee that this was an unacceptable situation that would prevent observant Jews choosing to study in Leeds in future years and jeopardise the strong representation of Orthodox students within the community.
Whilst efforts were made with the help and support of Lindsay Davidson at UJS in order to try to secure changes to the halls of residences where all the kosher flats were located during the last academic year, issues with regards to automatic lights and electric gates meant this proved too problematic.
It was decided by Lindsay, Max Sherrard (the current JSOC President) and myself, that it was only possible to speedily resolve this issue by organising for a kosher flat to be set aside by the University in another set of residences; Montague Burton residences.
Until a few years ago, they had played host to multiple kosher flats, in which those students who wished to observe Shabbat would be able to do so freely if they wished.
Thanks to the strong support of the University, Lindsay at UJS and the Leeds JSOC committee, we were successful in publicising this change to accommodation arrangements in Leeds in time for this new academic year.
It ensures that students arriving this September at the university who wish to be Shomrei Shabbat whilst living away from home, are able to do so in a flat in Montague Burton residences.
This important achievement for Jewish students on our campus highlights the not insignificant necessity to secure Jewish spaces on campus which cater to the needs of Jews going to university from all sectors of the community and serves as an important step for the future of the Leeds Jewish student community.
In late August, we posed the question ‘What’s best at University – living in Jewish halls or branching out?’
This puts forward the case, for those who want it, for the ‘Jewish halls’ side of the debate. If you have a strong view or interesting experience relating to the opposing view, then please get in touch!