By, Katie Price, second year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Reading.
Recently, whilst reading an article in The Tab on the rise of certain demographic groups selecting specific universities based on the size of the religious community, I was shocked to learn that 68% of Jewish students regarded a large Jewish community as ‘important’ when deciding where to study.
This was later explained to avoid persecution under the premise of ‘safety in numbers’ linked in part to the growing anti-Israel movement on British university campuses, explaining the decline in the number of Jewish students attending the University of Exeter after 86% of the student body voted to boycott Israeli goods.
As a second year politics student at the University of Reading, one of only around 15 Jewish students on campus, and a member of an ever decreasing Jewish community in Devon, I personally am familiarised to being the only Jewish member of most societies, in most classes and such like.
However despite there being a numerically small number of Jews on campus, the Jsoc, which I’m lucky enough to be vice-president of, is a close knit, outward looking unit which has enhanced my university experience. (Shameless plug right there.)
We’re lucky enough to be able to hold regular Shabbat dinners, celebrate festivals together and occasionally attend events put on by the Israeli embassy in London.
Not only is it enjoyable to have such a close Jsoc, to attend a university with a small Jewish community allows me the freedom to build a large circle of non-Jewish friends from both my halls and my course, something I don’t feel I would’ve been as able to do had I attended a university with a large number of Jewish students, or ‘Jewniversity’.
Teaching my 7 non-Jewish housemates about the serious necessity for excessive alcohol consumption on Purim and bringing them to the occasional Shabbat dinner has, I hope quashed preconceptions about Jews and taught them we know how to have fun!
Living in a community with a small but active Jewish voice also allows me to be enriched by other cultures and faiths in a way again, I feel I would’ve been less likely to explore had I attended a ‘Jewniversity’.
So my advice to any young Jews deciding which university to attend would be don’t fear a small Jewish presence on campus. Jewish life is what you make it so embrace what exists and you’re guaranteed a fun, diverse, comprehensive university experience!