Chaplains celebrate record year

Scotland chaplain Rabbi Garry Wayland (right) with students on a trip to The Cobbler mountain in Loch Long

Scotland chaplain Rabbi Garry Wayland (right) with students on a trip to The Cobbler mountain in Loch Long

University Jewish Chaplaincy is celebrating its most successful year after its chaplains fed more students and dealt with a greater number of requests for help than ever before.

The 10 chaplaincy families around Britain served more than 4,500 meals to students, the highest total ever reached in UJC's 40-year history.

Chief executive Ian Kamiel said the charity's success was even more pleasing because of the number of chaplaincy families who had started work in new areas this year.

UJC expected chaplains, including Rabbi Mati Kos in the north east region, Rabbi Avi Neuman on the south coast and Rabbi Amiel Vasl in Nottingham to take time to settle into their roles, but each had an immediate and successful impact.

Mr Kamiel said: "I honestly did not believe that we would exceed last year's totals. It's staggering. I am delighted that so many Jewish students have had the opportunity to enjoy a meal in the chaplains' homes.

"This is testament to the amazing efforts of our chaplains who make themselves available round-the-clock."

He said chaplains had seen a significant rise in the number of students seeking emotional support and assistance in dealing with exams which clash with Yom Tov and Shabbat.

Reflecting on his family's first year in Nottingham, Rabbi Vasl said: "Working with the students not long after my wife and I finished our degrees made it easier for us to understand their needs and what they are going through.

"We are here to support them when they are under pressure and to serve as a 'safe zone', a home away from home. Our work as a chaplain team rather than just as a 'one-man show' makes a huge difference and helps us reach out to more students."

As part of their attempts to boost activities, Rabbi Vasl's wife, Einat, organised girls-only weekly workout sessions and a girls-only megillah reading.

UJC has doubled in size in the past five years, but the growth has posed new challenges for the organisation.

Among the expansion of UJC's work has been the addition of a projects officer, Georgina Bye, to assist Rabbi Gavin Broder in London, and the installation of Rabbi Kos and his wife Vanessa as the north east's first dedicated chaplaincy couple. It costs around £80,000 a year to support each chaplaincy family. Although UJC's annual budget is almost £1 million, the charity receives no university funding and uses fundraising initiatives to collect around 85 per cent of its required resources.

Mr Kamiel said: "All of this comes at a cost. We need the community's support more than ever to ensure we can continue to provide this clearly vital service to all Jewish students."

Last updated: 11:11am, May 26 2011