Jewish societies have been undeniably busy this year, with efforts ranging from Friday night dinners to campaigns to block boycotters and counter Israel Apartheid Week on campus.
These achievements will be honoured on Sunday, when over 180 students come together at JW3 in London for their version of Oscar night — the annual Union of Jewish Students Awards.
It will be the sixth time the awards have taken place, with a greater number of categories and nominations in the running than ever before. Among the highly-contested prizes are the JSoc of the year award, social action project of the year award and campaign of the year award, which is sponsored by the Community Security Trust (CST).
More than 50 contenders from JSocs across the country have been nominated in 12 categories that spotlight the efforts of whole committees and individual students.
A new addition to the category list is the award for dedication to liberation networks, following last year’s launch of three networks to provide more representation for female, disabled and LGBT students on campus. Among the nominees are Manchester student Melissa Leigh, chair of the UJS Women’s Network, and Hannah Brady, who heads the Disabled Students Network.
While the country’s larger JSocs and their student members are well represented, up-and-coming groups have also been recognised, with six societies, including those in Durham and Brighton & Sussex, in contention for the developing JSoc of the year award.
The annual event was founded six years ago by then-UJS president Adam Pike, who wanted students’ achievements recognised in a formal way.
Previous winners have included Rachel Wenstone, recipient of the Alan Senitt outstanding contribution to campus life award, who is now vice president of the National Union of Students, and Benjy Levey and Stu Bernstein who, having been honoured for their Friday night cooking, now run successful caterers Eat Me Events.
UJS events organiser Roxy Kaye said: “We want to encourage these young people to continue what they are doing and to know how important their work is. We want the world to know about them too, hopefully opening doors and creating opportunities for them as a result.”
AND THE NOMINEES FOR BEST JSOC ARE...
The Leeds JSoc president says: “Our proudest moment was introducing a full kosher section into the university union. Students are now able to buy kosher sandwiches on campus, as well as kosher meat, cheese and dry goods.”
“We’re an important part of campus life because our Hillel house is on site, meaning it is a drop-in centre for all Jewish students from all denominations.
“The most valuable contribution we make is our campaigns. Our “Justice for January” video, commemorating Israeli victims of terrorist attacks, reached thousands of people around the world and really showed that Leeds JSoc and other students will defend Israel’s right to defend itself. And our Friday night dinners are important too, when around 200 students turn up to engage with the tradition on a weekly basis.”
The Oxford JSoc president says: “Our proudest moment was when JSoc’s own Louis Trup won a landslide victory in the student union presidential elections. We shepped a lot of nachas.
“The JSoc plays a vital role in helping students relax. It’s no secret that Oxford undergraduates work extremely hard over intense eight-week terms. JSoc provides a community outside the college bubble in which to have some chicken soup and let our hair down. Our bagel brunches have rescued even the most stressed students from the library.
“Our Jewbilation celebration has become a termly institution, providing traditional food and the most enthusiastic simcha dancing around. The event has previously sold out in under 24 hours and attracts guests well beyond Oxford.”
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
The UCL JSoc co-president says: “By working closely with UJS, LSE and other organisations, we were able to host a debate on campus in response to Israel Apartheid Week. We are proud to have made such a positive contribution in what was a troubling week.
“In London, there is such a diverse group of students, so JSoc means different things to different people. From offering support and a warm meal to weekly lunches and larger events, we’ve attempted to ensure that we can offer something for everyone.
“Our collaboration with the other JSocs across campuses in London means that we have been able to pool our efforts as a team throughout the year and create amazing events and engage with hundreds of students.”
The Cambridge JSoc co-president says: “Our proudest moment this year? It’s difficult to choose between our production of Fiddler on the Roof, launching our radio show Hava Nagiggle, continuing progress with interfaith events, or hosting the thought-provoking play, God on Trial, for Holocaust Memorial Day.
“Our JSoc provides a valuable meeting point for Jewish students to socialise outside their colleges. The variety of activities available, from sushi-making to ballroom dancing, provides a relaxing environment away from their studies.
“Students can get involved in any aspect they like — social, religious or educational. Recently, we’ve branched out to include our own a cappella group, new sporting teams, and access officers to help prospective Jewish students.”