...as Durham enjoys exciting new era
Durham University Jewish Society has gone from strength to strength since winning the UJS Developing JSoc of the Year award two years ago.
Although it may not be the first university that comes to mind when thinking of Jewish campus presence, Durham offers a friendly, community feel that is often difficult to find in more politicised "Jewniversities".
Jews from every background - whether Orthodox, Reform or non-religious - are made to feel comfortable at the regular Friday night dinners. Prepared in a kosher kitchen and eaten in a dedicated space at Durham's St Aidan's college, the dinners allow the society a space to bring in Shabbat and hear regular speakers discuss issues affecting Jews and Israel.
The meals attract crowds of 20 to 30 members, and with lifetime membership at only £15 and three-course meals charged at just £3.50, students are inclined to participate and feel free to come and go as they please.
The JSoc focuses on raising awareness of Jewish and interfaith issues in Durham. Like many smaller universities, Durham suffers somewhat from a lack of multiculturalism; in my experience, many here have never even met a Jewish person. However, the attitude is one of curiosity, not rejection, and the society's events aim to combat this lack of knowledge.
Free lessons in basic Hebrew have allowed people to reach the standard of being able to read prayers and even learn a few phrases - a great benefit for those who missed out on Jewish school or Hebrew classes. The society also runs regular minibus outings to Booze 4 Jews events across the country. Links with nearby Newcastle University JSoc and the Gateshead Jewish community are particularly strong.
Ultimately, while Durham JSoc may not provide a chance for you to meet hundreds of Jews, it does offer a friendly environment without taking over your campus life. What more could you ask for?
Joe studies history at Durham. He is from Redbridge, Essex