On the 7th of April, it was my privilege, along with my colleague Shayna, to host the 14th annual UJS Student Awards. Our largest ever!
Over 200 Jewish students from universities across the nation and Ireland came together to celebrate their hard work and dedication throughout a fantastic year. Of the hundreds of events, programs and initiatives students ran on their campuses, a select few were recognised and awarded throughout the evening.
The atmosphere of excitement and anticipation was contagious.
It was amazing to see such a turn out on what is really a crucial and staple UJS event. Once again a huge congratulations and Mazel Tov to all the nominees and winners:
This past year has been truly remarkable. After two years of isolation, Zoom events and a disconnect from all things Jewish, our students have built back stronger than ever! We have seen more students signing up to be UJS members than ever before in recorded history and an unprecedented number of events hosted, students engaged and connections formed. For one amazing night, we came together to celebrate that. Every week, across the UK and Ireland, student volunteers are working tirelessly to create localised Jewish communities and build the ‘home away from home’ that we have all come to know and love. And they do this often without thanks, without praise, and certainly without payment.
Education Project of the Year, in partnership with LSJS, was won by Glasgow J-Soc for their Tea and Torah educational events.
They exemplified peer-lead education by getting students to run talks about topics they're passionate about. While many J-Socs have a constant stream of external speakers, Glasgow organises among themselves discussions about topics that are important to them.
LSE J-Soc was the proud winner of the Interfaith Project of the Year award, in partnership with Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination.
LSE Jewish Society collaborated with LSE's Islam, Catholic, Sikh, Christian Union and Hindu Societies in preparing and running a Soup Kitchen. The Soup Kitchen was run over two nights, and volunteers from each of the societies were able to prepare and provide meals, snacks and hot drinks for over 100 people in need in the local Holborn area. All faith societies, no matter their differences in religious practices, value the importance of charity work and helping those in need. It was an amazing collaborative event that highlighted and manifested these shared values, and it was especially important to help those less fortunate during the cold winter months.
LSE J-Soc's emphasis on the importance of Interfaith relations to bring people together and celebrate each other's identities has been evident consistently. As well as the Interfaith Soup Kitchen, LSE JSoc have held an Interfaith Coffee Morning with all LSE faith societies and the LSE Faith Centre, have held a discussion between a Priest and a Rabbi with LSE Catholic Society, have been part of LSE Faith Society President meetings, have hosted an anti-discrimination workshop during UJS' Antisemitism Awareness Week by the Project Manager of StandUp!, with a focus on learning the similarities between Islamophobia and Antisemitism, and were part of LSE SU's National, Cultural and Faith Sports Day. Furthermore, we have invited other LSE Faith societies to attend our events, such as when we hosted Lord Alfred Dubs (former child refugee, MP and advocate for refugee rights), who highlighted the importance of different communities coming together for a greater cause; the Interfaith Soup kitchen exemplifies this, and was a project which succeeded at bringing people of different faiths together and making a genuine difference.
Jack Saideman and Nina Bassalian (mid) from LSE J-Soc
Social Action Project of the Year, in partnership with Mitzvah Day, was awarded to Emilia Peters at Durham J-Soc for her Mitzvah Day event.
Making a change from the previous Zoom events of the last few years, Emilia wanted to get the J-Soc outside and working alongside the Durham local community. She therefore reached out to the Durham Heritage Gardens and organized a day of volunteer gardening for the community.
In a Durham University first, she ensured the event was open to other faith societies as well, in order to share the importance of Mitzvah Day and we therefore also had attendees from the Durham Catholic Society joining them for the day.
They were gardening through the sun and rain, and have even been invited back by the Heritage Gardens to do another event this year with them.
Durham J-Soc President Erin Waks (right), accepting on Emilia's behalf
An award for Israel Engagement, in partnership with UJIA, was jointly won by The London Business Israel club for a set of outstanding activities this year culminating in their Israel Trek trip in collaboration with UJS to send a cohort of 90 Jewish and non-Jewish students to Israel. The Israel club worked tirelessly to put this together and it was a privilege to recognize their efforts.
The UJS Alumni Inspiring Dedication to Community Award in honour of Sir Victor Blank, was won by Danny Stone. Danny was given the award because he has given an untold amount of dedication to the Jewish community. His work extends far beyond that working in every stretch of society, civil society, government and with faith communities. Danny has supported and inspired numerous UJS teams and sabbatical officers, with advice, guidance and often some knowing experienced words of wisdom.
Winner Danny Stone (right) with Sir Victor Blank (left)
The winner of the Campaign of the Year, in partnership with CST, was Guy Dabby Joory at Oxford J-Soc.
Guy led the way for expanding antisemitism awareness training on his campus.
He organized the logistics for every training across all the colleges in Oxford, educated other JSoc members to be able to deliver the training, and worked with UJS to create the content for the training condensed down from 2hours into 30mins sessions. They also delivered the session themselves, and has continued to work with the colleges and the SU to continue this training for future years.
Guy was instrumental providing comprehensive antisemitism awareness education to freshers at Oxford.
He worked with UJS to train the J-Soc committee to deliver these sessions, ensuring that they were knowledgeable and confident about the topic. Guy then worked with Oxford SU to contact each of Oxford's more than 30 colleges - which was no easy task due to their considerable autonomy - and was able to persuade over 15 of them to hold a session for freshers. Guy then organised timings for these sessions with each college, and worked with them to address any concerns ahead of the talks. Due to Guy’s drive, he managed to organise antisemitism awareness sessions for over 600 non-Jewish students, training them in knowledge of antisemitism, Jewish traditions, and the IHRA definition, and how to be a good ally to Jewish peers.
Guy (right) with Nathan from CST
Event of the Year award, in partnership with Moishe House, had two winners this year: UCL and Queen Mary J-Soc joint For their organisation of Tel Aviv Takes London, a phenomenal Israel themed party that had hundreds of students from across London partying together and was so good they did it twice!
The second winner was Imperial J-Soc for their Chanukah on Ice.
While usually an event exclusively reserved for Imperial students, this year the committee led by Jordan and Ashira decided that Chanukah on Ice should be extended to all London J-socs and taking advantage of the newly formed London J-Soc Forum, they worked extremely hard to make the event bigger and better than ever before.
The second being Imperial JSoc whose Chanukah on Ice was both a popular and enjoyable Ice-skating experience for all students who experienced it followed by a beautiful and moving candle lighting outside the Natural History Museum, that filled the streets of Kensington with positivity and Ruach.
Left to right Adam Rossano from Moishe House, Eli Elmalem UCL J-Soc, Joel Azulay Queen Mary J-Soc, Jordan Passe Imperial J-Soc, Rob Auerbach Imperial J-Soc
Volunteer of the Year, in partnership with the Jewish Volunteer Network, was awarded to the Student Poland Volunteers.
In conjunction with University Jewish Chaplaincy, these students stepped up to the plate and dropped everything to fly to Poland and support Ukrainian refugees in Poland. These students took time out of their degrees and paid out of pocket to fly to Warsaw and work with the children refugees who had fled the ongoing conflict in their homes. The students organised activities, played with the children, and gave the parents who had just escaped an active war zone the break they so desperately needed. These students recognised that any little bit helps, and while they may not be professional support people or have many resources available to them, they did have skills that were urgently needed. The students figured out ways to balance school work and extra curricular commitments and go to Poland for several days to provide much needed support.
Left to right Hannah Haskel, Nadia Goldman, Oli Sultan, Sasha Cohen, Isaac Bencomo
New J-Soc of the Year was won by Huddersfield J-Soc and presented by University Jewish Chaplaincy
Huddersfield although being a small J-Soc pack a mighty punch. They have massively grown their membership since establishing and have continually led and inspired with myriad successful events and campaigns. As their sabbatical officer I was kvelling!
The joint Winners of the Maurice Helfgott Award for Leadership were Davina Mahgerefteh from Warwick J-Soc and Eleanor Tobelem, St George’s University of London.
Eleanor is a mensch and a role model for the Jewish community. She has outstanding leadership skills and has demonstrated adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through her role as St George’s University of London J-Soc president, she has helped people to settle into University and student life. Eleanor took the initiative to arrange a nationwide J-Soc fundraiser for the Ukraine conflict, highlighting her ambition and drive. As well as this, in her role, she has helped to organise several events including Friday night dinners, a Holocaust memorial event, and a virtual Games night. She has also spent countless hours volunteering at Royal Free Hospital talking to and providing emotional support to parents.
From before starting University, Davina was an proactive leader within the Jewish community at Warwick. As a consequence of the pandemic, the Jewish society at Warwick was inactive, however this didn’t stop her from arranging Shabbat dinners and social events for Jewish students during her first few weeks of starting uni. During lockdown, she arranged smaller Shabbat dinners in different student halls every week. One of her most successful events was the Mizrahi Shabbat dinner, where she told her family’s story to over 60 people. She has also utilised her large network and relationship with Birmingham JSOC exec to organise the first Warwick and Birmingham Purim party. She is always there to support other exec in their events and always early on a Friday night to help prepare any food that's left or set the table. Davina is also a UJS representative on the Board of Deputies. It is without a doubt that the society would not have been so active, and seen such growth, without her consistent dedication and excellent leadership. She has united Jewish students from all backgrounds and given them a unique safe space and community. It is her attitude to JSOC and presence within the community at Warwick that made her so worthy of this award
Davina (left), Joel Rosen incoming UJS president (middle) Eleanor (right)
The Alan Senitt Outstanding Contribution to Campus Life award was won by Joel Azulay of Queen Mary JSoc. As President of QMUL JSoc for over a year and a half, Joel has revitalised his JSoc. His involvement with QMUL JSoc began during his time in JSoc committee as a fresher, during which time he went on UJS’ Manhigut trip to Israel, which spurred him to become yet more involved in Jewish student life. The pandemic did not stop Joel’s work, despite covid restrictions, he ran multiple virtual nationwide events, including a nationwide Purim event attended by 180 students, featuring a Megillah reading and cocktail making. For Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, Joel organised for a survivor to share their testimony with 160 staff and students from across the University of London, most of whom were not Jewish. Joel has also continued his organisation of events since lockdown was lifted, most notably by organising two ‘TLV takes LDN’ party events for nearly 200 students each time. Joel has also been an incredible advocate for Jewish students at Queen Mary. Joel was at the forefront of the successful effort to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism at QMUL, and also successfully passed a motion at his SU for them to also adopt this definition. Joel not only works for Jewish students on his campus but also sits on UJS’ National Council and is one of UJS’ representatives to the Board of Deputies.
Joel Azulay (right) with Jamie Senitt-Sargent from the Alan Senitt Memorial Trust
Finally there was a huge build-up of anticipation for J-Soc of The Year Award which was given to Dublin J-Soc. Dublin J-Soc has gone from strength to strength this year. The J-Soc members are friendly and welcoming to all students who want to get involved in J-Soc activities. During Covid, Dublin J-Soc organised online activities and socials which kept the community together even whilst isolating. Dublin J-Soc engage in an incredible range of activities, from Moishe pod socials, to Yiddish learning, to visiting local Jewish sites! The J-Soc have worked incredibly hard to combat antisemitism in Dublin and campaign for the adoption of IHRA. They are a prime example of a successful J-Soc and we congratulate them on their success.
Dublin J-Soc president Jodi (left) with UJS president Nina Freedman
By Daniel Marcus, Israel Engagement Officer 2021/22