Revitalised Reform offers hope to next generation

By Marcus Dysch, November 15, 2012
Deborah Blausten (left) at a conference with Jeneration organisers

Deborah Blausten (left) at a conference with Jeneration organisers

The popularity of campus events for Reform students has soared thanks to the work of a revamped group.

Almost a year after relaunching as a solely Reform movement project, leaders of Jeneration said students, and the organisation itself, were now reaping the benefits.

Progressive students have in the past reported their concerns at not feeling welcomed by Jewish Societies or at Hillel House events.

But Jeneration activities since September have included a cheese and wine evening in Cambridge, a dinner in Nottingham, speaker tours, and sessions in Liverpool. In Oxford, the numbers attending the community’s egalitarian services have soared.

A group of 28 sixth-formers from progressive communities took part in a weekend away at Cambridge University earlier this month.

Designed to give 17 and 18-year-olds a better understanding of what life is like at university, the “on campus” trip provided an opportunity to stay in students’ houses and discuss concerns about moving to university.

In previous years the event has attracted as few as five school pupils, but this year’s session was organised by Jeneration and Liberal Judaism, working closely with the Union of Jewish Students.

The sixth-formers took part in a JSoc dinner, met chaplain Rabbi Yisrael Malkiel and joined a question and answer session with UJS’ Georgina Bye to discuss the realities of life away from home and hear more about egalitarian services offered at campuses.

Deborah Blausten, Jeneration’s new campus fieldworker, said: “We have active Jeneration groups on seven campuses and a database that identifies Reform students we are in touch with across the UK.

"We operate a model on campus that is strongly influenced by community organising principles, with student campus organisers building relationships and networks. These allow our work to be student-driven.”

Jeneration also works with JSocs to help provide speakers from Reform backgrounds and to link students with Reform communities in the towns and cities where they are studying.

Ms Blausten said: “We believe strongly in the framework that UJS and JSoc create, and are working wherever we can to support them in making communal Jewish spaces accessible and open to all. We are also able to offer an alternative model of Jewish engagement for those that the JSoc/UJS structure doesn’t suit.”

Jeneration hopes its success will provide continuity for young Reform Jews, who often drift away from the community when moving to university.

Last updated: 11:12am, November 15 2012