Durham JSoc mission to provide Shabbat dinner

Kosher kitchen on campus has propelled North East students to new heights

By Marcus Dysch, April 29, 2010
Members of Durham JSoc committee collect their trophy at the UJS annual awards ceremony

Members of Durham JSoc committee collect their trophy at the UJS annual awards ceremony

The meat is delivered from Manchester, the rabbinical supervision comes from Gateshead, and the chef works for the university.

Preparing a kosher Friday night dinner for Jewish students in Durham is a team effort, but it is one that has brought significant rewards.

Durham University's Jewish Society picked up the Developing JSoc of the Year trophy at the UJS awards ceremony last month in recognition of its achievements over the past 12 months.

Its greatest success has been the opening of a kosher kitchen as a dedicated base for events on university premises. It was set up with the assistance of UJS and the University Jewish Chaplaincy.

"It's an amazing experience to see the Shabbat dinners put together for us," said Emily Black, the JSoc joint president who, together with Susie Sandle, has been the driving force behind efforts to boost Jewish life on the campus.

"A lot of the success is due to the kitchen. This was the first year that freshers knew in advance when applying to Durham that the facility was here.

"It has allowed us to do more events such as Lunch and Learn sessions with speakers. We could not do these dinners every week in our own student houses or flats."

Membership numbers have increased to around 60 in the past year, with more than half regularly attending the weekly dinners.

Students from Newcastle also make the short trip to join in and further support comes from Rabbi Garry Wayland, North East and Scotland chaplain.

In February the JSoc hosted a regional Shabbaton weekend for the first time.

Susie Sandle, joint president, said: "It's nice here because we are a smaller group and it's not cliquey like you might find at the bigger universities."

Emily said picking up the UJS award had been the icing on the cake: "I wasn't that confident we would win but all our hard work has paid off.

"It will be up to the new committee to decide how we go forward from here, but we are hoping for a dedicated North East region chaplain for us to share with Newcastle. We'd like to put on more religious provisions, perhaps with more regular shul services.

"It's important that the hard work carries on."

Last updated: 3:06pm, April 29 2010