OPINION: Weekly Shabbat dinners can bring London students together

OPINION: Weekly Shabbat dinners can bring London students together

Dina Hochhauser

By Dina Hochhauser 

My choice of university was based on a number of criteria, principally ranking for my particular subject. But I considered another major factor to be the availability and quality of Jewish life at the institution.

Living in a student hall of residence, this was particularly important to me; never before had I been faced with such decisions concerning the extent of my Jewish involvement, a prospect that I found exciting and challenging in equal measure.

London is unique in that its Jewish students are spread across more than twenty universities, encompassing all backgrounds and levels of practice.

Each university boasts its own JSoc and together these form the body of London JSoc.

This should provide the opportunity to meet Jewish students of all backgrounds and nationalities. But a great difficulty presents itself in organising events for the large number of JSocs because of the geographical spread of students.

Several London events were held over the past year, attended by students from a number of universities.

These high quality activities were organised by dedicated individuals who put tremendous effort into their arrangement.

Although these have generally been a great success, they have drawn only a fraction of the total number of Jewish students living in London.

The distribution of students in the city is such as to inherently hinder organisation of unified events. In this way, the breadth of Jewish life in London is its most interesting aspect, but also its most challenging.

One simple way in which Jewish students could be brought together is through Friday night dinners, accessible to students of all religious levels. This provides the opportunity for students of disparate backgrounds to come together each week for a shared experience that is meaningful both socially and religiously.

In the past, a few committed individuals have run a number of popular Friday night dinners on a regular basis on their own initiative. However, the regularity of the dinners very much depended on the availability and involvement of the particular students. Additionally, the approach relied on finding such dedicated students each year and there was no established framework as there are in other universities.

As the elected Shabbat officer of London JSoc, I would like to change this system. Many students will have experienced Friday night by themselves, eating cold food in the dark, while others have been unable to find a forum that allows them to meet other students, almost inconceivable in a city as thrilling as our capital. It is essential that there should be a Friday night dinner every single week in Central London.

Although these events should be run entirely by students, as they are at other universities, it is important that the venture is established with the support of organisations that can provide the infrastructure and experience required. Although this is not a new idea, the focus must shift to ensure that these dinners become a regular, sustainable and permanent feature of the Central London Jewish student experience.

It is for this reason that I am working closely with Chaplaincy and UJS, as well as with other students, to establish weekly Friday night dinners in Central London.

Exceptionally generous individuals have already raised a staggering sum of over £10,000 for the programme and we look forward to providing a fun and vibrant atmosphere for students that can be continued for many years to come.

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