Eight campus representatives from Jeneration, the Reform-backed project to engage young people, have travelled to the United States looking for tips on running vibrant university projects.
The reps, from universities in London, Cambridge, Sussex, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Leeds, visited institutions including the Hebrew Union College — the development centre of Reform Judaism — and the Jewish Theological Seminary during the week-long stay in New York.
They heard about “Storahtelling”, in which Torah is taught through contemporary performance, and “Hazon”, an initiative which links farmers and synagogues to enable communities to buy food from local sources.
Naomi Minsky, Jeneration’s Manchester campus rep, said: “Some may wonder why our trip was to New York and not to Israel where we could have seen some equally exciting Jewish initiatives, as well as benefiting from the spiritual experience of being in the Jewish homeland.
“But that was not the point. Jeneration wanted to show us how a community in the diaspora can have the confidence to be innovative and active.
“New York embraces egalitarian post-denominational Judaism and there is a real sense of pride and excitement in the activities going on over there.”
The group also met student leader peers at Columbia University to discuss the challenge of overcoming the denominational issues which can hamper relations between Jewish groups on campus.
Ms Minsky added: “I took so much from the trip — not only that change is possible and can happen as a product of hard work, boldness and confidence, but I now feel increasingly aware that it is our responsibility to create and contribute to the community that we envisage.”
Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, the Reform Movement’s executive director, said the trip “shows how seriously we are committed to nurturing our future leaders.
“We wanted them to experience first hand the vast possibilities for Jewish life and to learn from the pluralist model which pervades the New York Jewish community.”
Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the Reform movement, said it was “essential” for students to learn from their American counterparts.
Jeneration hopes to expand its services to Bristol and Oxford next year.