Life & Culture

Festivals versus freshers’ week — this year you can enjoy both

It's your first week at uni, but it's also Rosh Hashanah. What to do?


As Jewish students unpack their IKEA saucepans into musty student accommodation cupboards, their families are baking honey cakes for Rosh Hashanah. How do you cope with the clash between yomtov and freshers’ week or the first week of term?

Jewish societies and chaplains are there to help, with meals and services on Shabbat and festivals throughout the academic year.

“Up and down the country our chaplains and chaplaincy couples will be aiming to create a Jewish ‘home away from home’, by organising services, building succahs, blowing shofars and providing meals to students on university campuses,” says Josh Gershuny, of the University Jewish Chaplaincy organisation. “Students should look out for our stand at freshers’ fairs and leaflets in their freshers’ packs.

“This year we have a new fieldworker couple in Brighton and full time residential chaplains in Bristol.

“In Cambridge, our chaplains will be blowing the shofar from the tallest building in the city, and a grand succah tour will visit St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“We expect a good turn-out in Leeds for the festivals, where the chaplains have taken over the university’s Great Hall to hold their services.”

Rabbi Zalman Lewis, representing Chabad in Sussex, says his job is to help Jewish students engage with Judaism.

“This year freshers’ week coincides with Rosh Hashanah, so some students may feel conflicted.

“Jewish students in Sussex are generally from a traditional background, but have chosen not to go to a “Jewniversity”. This can make things more difficult for them if they want to stay connected, but also more fulfilling when they do.

“Regular free dinners, services and shofar blowing take place in Sussex and Kent and we also offer meals before and after the Yom Kippur fast.

“We try to make it easy for students to find us through leaflets and posters on the key bridges around campus and I visit students in Canterbury, and Southampton every week.”

At a big “Jewniversity”, Nottingham, where Yom Kippur falls at the end of freshers’ week, Chabad lays on meals before and after the fast, open to all.

“Last year we had a marquee as there were over 200 people,” says Rabbi Mendy Lent, with pride. 
“There’s no need to book. We always over-cater as some people realise it’s Yom Kippur 10 minutes before the fast begins, or decide at the last minute to stay at uni for the festivals.”

Maya Skaarbrevik, field worker for Jeneration, the student outreach project of Reform Judaism travels around the country visiting universities with large and small Jewish populations.

“We want students connected with Jeneration to feel as though they have the space to practise the style of Judaism they are used to,” she says.

“Our student chaplains for Reform and Liberal Judaism are ready to provide spiritual and pastoral support and students can book a free-of-charge seat at their local Reform synagogue through the Jeneration High Holy Day ticket scheme.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive