Middlesex J-Soc: Putting NW London back on the Jewish map

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Middlesex J-Soc: Putting NW London back on the Jewish map

Students show off their UJS Student Awards certificate as they pose for a picture with Rabbi ‘Rav Gav’ Broder
Students show off their UJS Student Awards certificate as they pose for a picture with Rabbi ‘Rav Gav’ Broder
Students show off their UJS Student Awards certificate as they pose for a picture with Rabbi ‘Rav Gav’ Broder
Students show off their UJS Student Awards certificate as they pose for a picture with Rabbi ‘Rav Gav’ Broder

Middlesex University’s Jewish Society won the Developing J-Soc of the year award at this year’s UJS awards.

UJS Communications Manager Jo Hanna Watts tells us why the society is putting North-West London back on the Jewish map. 

The Middlesex campus stands grand like a stately home in the middle of Hendon. Just minutes from infamous kosher carb-palace Hendon Bagel Bakery and surrounded by shuls of all denominations, the university has not traditionally been a very ‘Jewish’. Despite its prime location in the heart of London’s Jewish hub, Jewish students have not commonly opted to go study there and it has never had a large or particularly active J-Soc. That is, until recently!

Over the past few months the J-Soc has really gathered steam. With more members than ever before and regular and diverse events, Middlesex J-Soc are well deserving of their newly acquired title of ‘Developing J-Soc of the Year’.

Once a week the J-Soc meet to schmooze and eat sushi together. To celebrate their recent accolade and to say goodbye before Easter break, the students invited me to join them for their last lunch and learn of the year. London chaplain Rabbi ‘Rav Gav’ Broder  joined us and brought Kosher for Passover chocolate cookies, always a good way to make a nice gathering ever nicer!

Outgoing J-Soc President Joe Stoll reflected on the past year, laughing as he recounted the society’s dramatic start to their Jewish Experience Week activities.

“We had permission from the Union to set up a J.E.W. stall, but it was never verified! Leanne (the in-coming J-Soc President) and I had to set up the stall, not knowing if we would then be asked to take it down. Luckily the security guard on campus that day was Israeli and ended up helping us out!”

Outgoing Middlesex J-Soc President Joe Stoll and incoming President Leanne Mitchell
Outgoing Middlesex J-Soc President Joe Stoll and incoming President Leanne Mitchell

The J-Soc’s J.E.W stall was a great success and engaged many non-Jewish students, who were awarded a free doughnut in exchange for answering a question about Judaism. Joe revealed that even the doughnuts had presented a challenge, as the order they had made never showed up. Leanne giggled as she recalled the franticness of the day, remembering how fellow J-Soc member and in-coming Vice President, Moshe Abudarham  had had to go on a kosher doughnut hunt, eventually showing up in the nick of time with 300!

I asked Leanne and Joe what their plans for the future of Middlesex J-Soc were. One of the first initiatives they were eager to tell me about is a project they are calling ‘Mitzvah Month’, which will involve J-Soc members volunteering in the community once a month.

Leanne promised that the J-Soc would ‘keep developing’ and that there are even plans in place to get kosher hot chocolates served in their university café!  She believes that by winning Developing J-Soc of the Year, Middlesex are able to “show that smaller J-Socs can accomplish just as much as larger J-Socs.”

The ambitious new President would like the J-Soc to do much more next year, and she especially hopes to get Jewish students more involved in inter-faith activity. She has also set herself the goal of securing a Chanukia on campus next Chanukah.

The Developing J-Soc of the Year Award was sponsored by Chaplaincy, who helped to select the winner. A frequent attendee of the J-Soc’s events, Rav Gav is visibly proud of the Middlesex students and told me that he thinks how they “support each other is amazing”. The rabbi, who is chaplain to every campus in London, noted that the J-Soc, though small, successfully manages to “involve many Jewish students from all over the university” and remarked how impressive the frequency of their activities is.

Having gone to a small university myself, with a very tiny J-Soc, I am impressed with how active Middlesex J-Soc is. I am delighted that Jewish students have so much to participate in and by how dedicated the committee members are.

Considering Middlesex University’s prime location and the fact that dinners, sushi and schmoozing have now become frequent fixtures on campus, I wonder if maybe we have stumbled across a winning formula for the creation of the next big ‘Jewniversity’…

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