Studying in the capital can pose a challenge for Jewish students — particularly those who are observant, live in north west London and cannot attend Jewish Society synagogue services in the city centre.
UCL business management student Benjy Trent found himself in such a situation. He spent his gap year in Israel and grew accustomed to praying every day with people his own age at yeshivah.
After returning to his family home in Hendon, he bemoaned the lack of a nearby student minyan.
Benjy was not alone. He teamed up with school friend Gadi Fisher and in September 2011 created Na’aleh, an autonomous minyan based at Hendon United Synagogue. Students lead the services and deliver sermons on subjects of interest to young people.
Benji said: “Every seat is full with people of the same age
and at the same stage of life. There’s a strong sense of community.”
Around 30 students joined Na’aleh’s first Shabbat services, but the most recent Friday night dinner attracted 90 people, and there are 60 regular members, attending from universities across London.
The group has also run social events and invited speakers, including Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller.
Benjy said: “There have been numerous teething problems and it’s a huge amount of work, but the Hendon rabbis and the shul chairman have been incredibly supportive.”
With the minyan’s founding members now in their third year of studies, the hunt is on to find Na’aleh’s next generation of leaders. “We want to show it’s not a one-trick pony and will benefit the community for a long time to come,” said Benji.