By David Sultman, Liverpool J-Soc Co-chair
Over the last decade or so, a trend has emerged across the UK, for Jewish students to concentrate themselves, at what we now know as ‘Jewniversities,’ notably Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham.
I recently read an article published by the Tab, detailing this ever-growing culture. The article puts the emergence of the ‘Jewniversity,’ down to Jewish students seeking to avoid anti-Semitism and suggests they offer a “peace of mind,” that you can’t get at a university with a developing J-Soc.
On the face of it, this assumption seems perfectly fair; 30 Jews stood against anti-Semitism is certainly better than 10.
However, when these universities have J-Soc memberships of over 1000 students, I can’t help but feel the trend has grown out of control.
No Jewish student should feel their choice of university is restricted by the size of the J-Soc.
I’ve just started my second year studying medicine at the University of Liverpool and with a J-Soc size of around 40-50 members, we’re not large by any standards, but this has only enriched my university experience.
I have a very strong Jewish life here. I’ve been honored to serve as the co-chair of the J-Soc over the past year and although we’re not the largest J-Soc around, we can certainly claim to be just as active as any other J-Soc in the UK.
AEPI, Genesis, Chabad and chaplaincy, all have representation in Liverpool, so along with our own regular Friday night onegs, there’s no shortage of Jewish activities to get involved in.
I have also been lucky enough to develop a strong social circle with other non-Jewish students on my course and this is something, which Jewish students who go to a Jewniversity, don’t often have the opportunity to benefit from.
I am very proud of my heritage and enjoy explaining to my friends, why I don’t eat meat out and why I don’t go out on Friday nights; some have even amazingly adopted some Yiddish phrases as their own!
Inadvertently, I became an ambassador for Judaism on campus and likewise, do many other Jewish students at developing J-Socs.
I have also been able to learn about other students’ cultures, and in a world where tensions are bubbling to the boil in the middle-east, it’s ever more so important that we can learn to be respectful to everyone, regardless of their faith.
I have been lucky enough to have not experienced any direct anti-Semitism during my first year in Liverpool.
It is undeniably, though, a problem growing every year.
However, with the huge support we get from organisations like UJS and the CST, no Jewish student should ever feel isolated at a university with a developing J-Soc.
There are some amazing universities outside of the standard ‘Jewniversities’.
Don’t let any fear of losing your Jewish identity hold you back from going to one of them.
Embrace your Judaism and you can enjoy a complete Jewish life on any campus!