Supporting Our Jewish Students: A Call for Continued Solidarity

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 30/11/23

Dear friend,

I hope this message finds you in good health. During these trying times, we find solace in our community, seeking strength, support, and solidarity.

While we are heartened to see the return of some of our hostages, the ongoing conflict in Israel continues to profoundly affect our students and the entire community. Jewish students, in particular, are grappling with increased stress and anxiety due to the impact of protests, walkouts, and sit-ins on campuses across the UK.

Despite the challenges, our Chaplains on the ground are continuing to roll out events, programming, meals and support and the Jewish students are attending in high numbers. They are seeking connection, reassurance and understanding. The thousands of meals, extensive welfare and pastoral support are making all the difference. 

Despite the challenges, we wanted to share some positive highlights of events taking place on campuses:

Campus highlights:

  • In Edinburgh, the Shabos hosted a bagel lunch for 60 students, a Thanksgiving meal and following last week’s protests a ‘Solidarity Coffee’ event was run in the university library. 
  • In London, Rav Gav has been extremely busy holding events in LSE, Queen Mary and City University with over 60 students in attendance. 
  • In Oxford, Dinah Rose, President of Magdalen College, joined a ‘Welfare Tea’ with the Chaplain and students to discuss recent events and how to best suppor thte Jewish students. 
  • In Manchester, Rabbi Guttentag hosted an ‘Evening of Inspiration’ with Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis for Manchester, Salford and Lancaster students.  
  • In Glasgow, a Friday Night Dinner gathered over 30 students in the beautiful Garnethill Synagogue, the historic ‘cathedral synagogue’ of Scotland. 
  • In Birmingham a ‘Cocktails and Desserts’ evening was hosted by Rabbi Fishel for the new Birmingham Jsoc Committee.

We are proud to announce our participation in Jewish Legacy Giving month. We ask you to consider your greatest gift today by planning for the future and including University Jewish Chaplaincy in your will.

Your legacy to University Jewish Chaplaincy will make a real difference in the lives of the students we support in our UK Universities.

Your support during these trying times has been invaluable, and we express our deepest gratitude for standing with us and our 8,500+ Jewish students.

As we navigate these difficult times and look to the week ahead in which we will make sure Jewish students across the UK will be able to celebrate Chanukah proudly, your continued support is crucial. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our students.

Thank you for standing with us. 

Warm regards

Sophie Dunoff, Chief Executive Officer

Hoping for safety and security; on campus and in Israel

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 23/11/23

Dear friend, 

As we enter the seventh week since the war in Israel started, the campus environment for our students and Chaplains continues to present significant challenges. While the atmosphere is calming somewhat in some regions, we remain extremely concerned about the level of fear and discomfort being experienced by our Jewish students. I never thought I would be writing an email to our supporter base detailing how some Jewish students are seeking support from their Chaplains to help them move out of university accommodation where they no longer feel safe.

The ongoing conflict in Israel continues to impact our students deeply, with Jewish students facing heightened stress and anxiety due to protests, walkouts, and sit-ins across UK campuses. And despite this we continue to stand with Israel and demand the safe return of our kidnapped.

These are challenging times, and our Chaplains on the ground are committed to being there for our Jewish student community.

Our Chaplains continue to go above and beyond, providing thousands of meals, hours of welfare and pastoral support and robust representation to universities who are failing in their duty of care to their Jewish student body, the figures speak for themselves:

Campus highlights:

  • In Cambridge a ‘Schmooze for Jews’ event with Jnetics brought together over 20 students.
  • The popular ‘Bagels with Fishel’ continues in Birmingham and Warwick with over 70 students in attendance.
  • Friday Night Dinners continue across campuses including in Oxford with over 100 students.
  • In Nottingham, a sushi night attracted over 30 students, and in Leicester, an inaugural dinner event had over 20 students.
  • Oxford welcomed Gila Fine, renowned educator for Shabbat and discussions with a number of students.
  • In Liverpool students organised a food and a collection for a homeless charity for Mitzvah Day.
  • Chaplains hosted March of the Living events in Edinburgh, St Andrews, Manchester, Birmingham and Durham for over 200 students.

Your support during these trying times has been invaluable, and we express our deepest gratitude for standing with us and our 8,500+ Jewish students.

However, the challenges persist, and the statistics are alarming. In the 40 days between the Hamas terror attack on Israel and November 15th, CST recorded a staggering 1324 antisemitic incidents across the UK. This marks the highest-ever total reported to CST within a forty day period.

As we navigate these difficult times, your continued support is crucial. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our students.

Thank you for standing with us. 

Warm regards

Sophie Dunoff, Chief Executive Officer

The Challenge Continues

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 16/11/23

Dear friend,

I hope this email finds you well.

While the situation on campus continues to be challenging for our students and Chaplains we will continue to ensure that we are briefing you and keeping you updated. Our Chaplains are the boots on the ground on campus, supporting students on a daily basis. The ongoing conflict in Israel has reverberated through our university campuses, affecting the lives of our students in profound ways.

Over the past weeks, Jewish students have found themselves in the midst of university protests, walkouts, and sit-ins organised across the UK ostensibly calling for a ceasefire.

The national walkout on the 9th-10th of November, endorsed by various groups has added an additional layer of stress and anxiety for our students. The impact of these direct action protests, which include incendiary, antisemitic, chants and imagery, is considerable.

Many of our new students, just beginning what should be a transformative and enriching educational experience, are instead grappling with an emotionally charged and violent atmosphere. The trauma experienced by these young minds is palpable, with Chaplains reporting that students are fearful and full of trepidation when attending lectures, events, and even residing in their own halls of residence.

In the face of these challenges, our Chaplains remain steadfast in 12 regions across the UK. They are providing invaluable support to our students, addressing issues of antisemitism, mental health, and any university-related problems that arise.

They continue to bring normality to students’ lives with Shabbat dinners, communal Havdalahs, weekly discussions and events. It is during these trying times that your support has proven to be especially crucial.

We want to express our deepest gratitude for standing with us and our 8,500+ Jewish students during this crisis. 

Providing opportunities for students to hear from others who can provide strength and inspiration is crucial at this time. In this spirit the Chaplains were delighted to welcome Rabbi Leo Dee on campus, who visited a number of universities this week to support the Jewish students, following the increase in antisemitic cases across universities. Rabbi Dee’s wife Lucy, 48 and daughters Maia, 20, and Rina, 15, were tragically murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in the Jordan Valley in April this year. Over 100 students came to hear Rabbi Dee in Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham and Leeds and gained so much from his strength in the face of adversity. 

On a lighter note, we were delighted to take part in ‘Trustees week’ celebrating the contribution and efforts of our trustee board, especially at the moment. Our trustees support UJC, our Chaplains and Jewish students all around the country through their insights, experience, varied skillset, care and passion for a thriving Jewish environment on and off campus – and we are so thankful to have them by our side.

As we navigate these challenging times, we are reminded of the strength and resilience of our community. Your ongoing support empowers us to stand strong alongside our students, providing the care and guidance they need.

Your contributions enable us to continue our mission of fostering a supportive environment for Jewish students at universities. Together, we are making a meaningful difference in the lives of these young individuals, helping them navigate through the complexities they face.

If you would like to contribute or learn more about our initiatives, please visit our website or contact us directly.

Thank you for your unwavering support. Together, we can make a positive impact on the lives of Jewish students during these difficult times.

Warm regards, 

Sophie Dunoff, Chief Executive Officer

Your Support Matters: Standing Strong Together

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 09/11/23

Dear Friend,

In the face of the intensifying conflict in Gaza, we want to reassure you that University Jewish Chaplaincy (UJC) remains dedicated to providing vital support to Jewish students across university campuses. We understand that these are challenging times, and our Chaplains on the ground are committed to being there for our Jewish student community.

Over the last few weeks our Chaplains have gone above and beyond as these figures will represent:

In the 32 days inclusive between the Hamas terror attack on Israel (Saturday 7th October) and Tuesday 7th November, CST recorded at least 1124 antisemitic incidents across the UK. This is the highest ever total reported to CST across a thirty-two-day period. These developments have left many of our students feeling understandably anxious about their safety. University Jewish Chaplaincy has been featured in The JC & The Telegraph talking about these issues.

Over the past week I collaborated with the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), CST, UJS & Universities UK to present an online briefing for parents of students at university. If you missed the briefing or would like to revisit it, you can watch it at this link.

I was also honoured to address the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Jews and APPG on Antisemitism in the House of Commons yesterday, in a meeting organised by Lord Wasserman and the BoD. It was an opportunity to talk to Members of both houses about the current situation on campus and explore ways in which they can lend their support.

On Campus:

  • In a show of support and solidarity with St Andrews and Edinburgh students, Chief Rabbi Mirvis joined our Chaplains and over 70 students for discussions and Havdalah.
  • Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski, our Chief Strategist and Rabbinic Head, visited Edinburgh campus to engage with over 60 students during a Lunch and Learn event.
  • On a happy note we are delighted to report that our Chaplain, Rabbi Guttentag has helped the Jewish students at the University of Central Lancashire to establish a newly formed Jewish Society!
  • In Oxford a ‘Welfare & Creativity’ event brought together over 20 students.

Similar events are continuing up and down the country and we will bring you updates in our upcoming newsletters.

The strength of our student communities on campus rests on the support of individuals like you, who are dedicated to standing strong together against antisemitism and its effects on Jewish students. We appreciate your continued support, which allows us to be a lifeline for our students and create a welcoming and secure environment for them.

If you have any questions or wish to contribute further to our cause, please don’t hesitate to reach out to head office or the Chaplains directly. You can find our contact details here.

Your support is invaluable in making a difference in the lives of Jewish students on university campuses.

Thank you for being a vital part of our mission.

Warm regards,

Sophie Dunoff, Chief Executive Officer

Strength in Unity: How Chaplains Support Our Students

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 27/10/23

Dear Friend,

As we near the end of the third week since the tragic events in southern Israel, we wanted to provide you with an update on the incredible work our Chaplains are doing to support Jewish students during these challenging times.

We wanted to share a heartfelt testimonial that we recently received from one of our students. Eliana Stern, who studies at Newcastle University, reached out to our Chaplain for support and guidance during this difficult period. Eliana expressed how our Chaplain provided her with a sense of hope and unity. “Miriam and Rabbi Aaron have been an amazing support for me and other Jewish students. They helped us organise and run a vigil for Israel which everyone found to be really healing. They’ve hosted dinners for us twice a week since the beginning of the war, giving us the much needed time around other Jewish people to de-stress and feel safe. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

This testimonial beautifully illustrates the impact our Chaplains are making on the lives of our students during this immensely challenging period, and it motivates us to continue our vital work.

The demand for our Chaplaincy services has reached unprecedented levels due to the direct impact of the situation in Israel on university campuses. We have unfortunately observed a significant increase in antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish students on campus. In response, our dedicated Chaplains are on the ground, offering vital guidance, solace, and a sense of belonging to students profoundly affected by this crisis. They are actively engaging with students through ‘Lunch & Learns’ to provide a semblance of normalcy and stability in these challenging times. The impact is not limited to one campus alone; campuses across the UK have felt the repercussions. Pro-Palestine rallies including hateful chants and calls for an ‘uprising and intifada’ have created fear among Jewish students. Incidents such as the hurling of stones at Jewish student accommodation windows and trespasses on chaplain’s property have been reported to the authorities. Antisemitic notes placed in Jewish students’ halls of residence and the removal of a student’s mezuzah in private accommodation have further exacerbated the situation.  

The reassuring presence of our Chaplains in the lives of these students cannot be overstated. They are not only offering welfare support but also actively engaging with universities, working hand in hand with Jewish Societies and advocating for the safety and well-being of Jewish students. Chaplains across the country have been meeting with senior staff at their universities to ensure that student welfare and security are being taken seriously. In addition to this, I have spent time this week engaging further with Vice-Chancellors following the letter we sent to all universities last week together with the Union of Jewish Students..

The support we have been receiving from our allies gives us tremendous strength. We are deeply thankful to you all for your continued commitment to our cause. Currently, approximately 75% of staff time is being devoted to this crisis which comes with its attendant costs and challenges. The contributions we have received are making a significant difference in ensuring that no student feels alone or unsupported. We are dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment for all Jewish students and combating antisemitism on campuses with unwavering determination.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in supporting our cause, please consider passing this email on to them. Your network and connections can help us reach more people who care about the well-being of Jewish students.

In closing, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering support. Together, we can make a meaningful impact in the Lives of Jewish students.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how you can further support University Jewish Chaplaincy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to head office or the Chaplains directly. You can find our contact details here.

Thank you for being an essential part of our dedicated community.

University Jewish Chaplains stand with Students and Israel in Crisis

The following email was sent out to all subscribers on 18/10/23

Dear Friend,The recent tragic events in southern Israel have deeply affected the Jewish community worldwide, leaving us collectively in mourning and shock following the heinous massacre perpetrated by Hamas. The brutal murder of thousands of Israelis has touched many of us personally, affecting our friends and family members directly. Our thoughts, prayers, and active support are with Israel and all those affected.Predictably, the situation in Israel has spilled into our local communities with a surge in antisemitic incidents – many of which have been targeted at Jewish students on campus. In light of this, we wanted to reassure all students and their loved ones that we are doing all we that we can to safeguard and support our Jewish students on campus.  Our dedicated team of 17 residential Jewish Chaplains are allocating their full time and resources to offer guidance, comfort, and a sense of belonging to Jewish students impacted by this unprecedented crisis. Their steadfast dedication to countering antisemitism and safeguarding students is crucial, now more than ever. Numerous hours have been invested in advocating for students and liaising with universities, particularly those failing to uphold their duty of care to all students. Please read the uncompromising letter we sent to every UK Vice Chancellor, co-signed with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), here.Recent gatherings, organised in collaboration with Jewish societies, have displayed the remarkable unity and resilience of our student community during these immensely challenging times. The events have exhibited a remarkable collective strength and it is clear that together, we are stronger than ever. Some notable examples of the gatherings include:

  • 150 students congregated in Birmingham to offer prayers and unwavering support for Israel, demonstrating the deep sense of connection within our university family.
  • In Leeds, 200 students united in prayer and song to express their solidarity with Israel, reinforcing the bond that unites us during these trying times.
  • At a locally organised event in Oxford, with 200 people in attendance, our Chaplain delivered a powerful message of hope and unity, emphasising the importance of coming together in times of crisis.

Numerous events like these have taken place with the Chaplains across the UK with yet more to take place. In each instance, the powerful impact of unity was palpably felt, and messages of support strongly resonated throughout the respective student bodies.We are steadfast in our commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for all Jewish students, and our efforts to combat antisemitism on campuses remain unwavering. If you would like to reach out to your university Chaplain please click here. If you are looking for any additional support or advice you can also email you or a loved one has experienced antisemitism please report it to the CST on 0800 032 3263, and in an emergency always call 999. Thank you for being a part of our dedicated community. Your support and solidarity make a world of difference to us and to the students we serve.

Safety on campus

University Jewish Chaplaincy and Union of Jewish Students have sent the following communication to all vice chancellors across the UK. Click here to download a PDF file of this letter to share as required.