Our chaplains need your help

By Jennifer Lipman, December 16, 2010

Negotiating the country's unreliable train network may not sound too appealing, but for Ian Kamiel a visit to a university campus in St Andrews, Durham or Brighton represents a major success.

The University Jewish Chaplaincy chief executive has overseen a period of major growth, with the charity doubling in size in the past five years.

There are now 10 chaplaincy couples working across the country, with a greater emphasis than ever on campuses which are not traditionally regarded as favourites for Jewish students.

In September, the north east gained its first designated chaplain, with Rabbi Mati Kos and his wife Vanessa installed to cover universities in Durham and Newcastle.

A projects officer also began work in London in September, assisting Rabbi Gavin Broder.

Mr Kamiel said: "It would be lovely to be on every campus where there are Jewish students, but we have to balance whether the numbers justify the investment."

With salary, accommodation and expenses to be taken into consideration, it costs around £80,000 to fund each chaplain for a year.

UJC's annual budget is almost £1 million, but the charity receives no funding from universities. While some support comes from dedicated Jewish community efforts such as the annual Kol Nidrei fundraising appeal, Mr Kamiel's team has to raise around 85 per cent of the funds themselves.

He said: "While we have managed to slightly buck the trend, now is an exceptionally hard economic environment. People don't always perceive UJC as a charity. There's no physical symbol of need, no building."

UJC's long-term strategy aims to build on its 41-year history which has seen thousands of students – now adult members of the community – benefit from chaplains' help.

The charity is compiling a database of graduates in the hope that many will be willing to give something back.

Finding the right chaplaincy family for each campus or region is difficult. Locations without Jewish schools or easily-accessible kosher food can be tougher sells.

Mr Kamiel said: "The work is exciting and attractive for a young couple. Still,

    Last updated: 3:07pm, December 16 2010