Oxford JSoc finds recipe for success

By Marcus Dysch, February 16, 2012

Oxford JSoc leaders believe the success of a dedicated fundraising initiative will help "turn the tide" on falling numbers attending its Shabbat dinners.

In an attempt to stem the decline the society's committee approached donors within the wider Jewish community to raise the money needed to lower the cost of Friday night meals for students.

The committee had witnessed a significant drop in attendance in the latter half of 2011 and put the problem down to the amount students were being asked to pay.

Friday night dinners were priced at around £5.75 for JSoc members. But meals in college dining halls are available for just £2, meaning many students chose not to attend JSoc events.

But the fundraising effort, led by Alex Margolis, received sufficient contributions to reduce the Shabbat meals to £2. One donor sponsored an entire Friday night function, giving students the chance to eat for free.

It's not just about getting bums on seats, it's about the atmosphere

Sam Heitlinger, JSoc co-president, said: "We wanted to raise money specifically for our dinners because of the falling numbers. Observant Jews were coming but those who were interested more in the social aspect had drifted away. It has been working. We had 100 people the other week and have been able to hold the £2 price for the first six weeks of term."

The society also hosted a successful interfaith week earlier this month. Events included a drinks evening with members of the Catholic Society, a lunch and learn session with guest speaker Rabbi Jonathan Romain discussing intermarriage, and a Friday night dinner featuring a speech from the president of the Hindu Society.

Sam said: "We really hope that these efforts will turn the tide for our fortunes and reverse the decline. Now we are looking for a way to make cheaper meals sustainable long-term.

"It's not only about how many people come to events, that's not the measure of success. It's the atmosphere that is created and giving students the opportunity to come to JSoc events by providing something for everyone. It's not just about getting bums on seats."

The society hosts a klezmer party tomorrow night (February 18).

Last updated: 11:57am, February 16 2012