Imperial college JSoc was the surprise big winner at the Union of Jewish Students’ fifth annual awards night.
The London society won the JSoc of the Year award for the first time, breaking the stronghold of Britain’s largest Jewish societies — from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham — to take the top title.
Judges said the society had gone “above and beyond what is expected” when organising weekly lunch and learn sessions, speaker events, Friday night dinners and a concert to raise money for an interfaith Holocaust education project.
Imperial JSoc president Noah Nathan said: “We really try to go out and involve as many Jewish people as possible and draw in members from across the spectrum.”
More than 120 students embraced the black-tie dress code and entered the ceremony in Elstree, Hertfordshire, via a ‘JSoc Walk of Fame’, featuring the names of societies from across the country.
UJS president Alex Green said: “The success of this year has been how enthusiastic the students are and the awards are about saying thank you to all of them.”
The award for Developing JSoc went to Reading, which doubled its membership during 12 months that saw the introduction of Hebrew classes, Shabbat meals and high-profile speaker visits.
Reading JSoc president Jack Mendel said: “We have come a long way in the last few years. People didn’t want to go to shul, they wanted social events like a Friday meal. That’s what we try to do.”
The highest individual honour, the Alan Senitt Outstanding Contribution award, was won by Rob Prager.
He has held positions on Leeds JSoc, Leeds University Union, and UJS’ national executive, and said: “I was brought up with a strong Jewish identity and I have always had the impression that you have to be proud to be Jewish.”
Reflecting on murdered former UJS chairman Mr Senitt’s achievements, Mr Prager said he was “quite moved to win this award”.
He added: “For me, it has all been about building networks across campuses and making sure that the JSoc’s story has been heard. I’m a very proactive, enthusiastic sort of guy. I enjoy helping people and sharing my advice.”
Best Interfaith Project, awarded for the first time, went to Simon Leigh from Nottingham JSoc. Leeds JSoc’s Joseph Hyman won Best Education Project for his ‘Get a Pair’ initiative, which encouraged students to find a partner for Jewish education programmes.
The Event of the Year trophy was won by Birmingham JSoc’s Stacey Abendstern for the JFEST event she organised for freshers in the city. The programme included gigs and a Bedouin-themed silent disco.
The Social Action award went to Abigail Kaye, who established the successful UJS blood drive, raised £36,000 for the Duchess of Kent Hospice, donated her hair to a cancer charity and did a skydive.
The UJIA Best Israel Engagement Award was won by Nottingham JSoc’s Sam de Kare-Silver. Claire Sackman, former anti-racism and anti-fascism officer at Birmingham University’s Guild of Students, won the CST Campaign of the Year award for her work.