The chap­laincy that stu­dents rely upon

The first of three pro­files of good causes that we are urg­ing read­ers to sup­port

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

AS THE range of is­sues dealt with by Uni­ver­sity Jewish Chap­laincy rises, so does the strain on its re­sources.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Rabbi Yoni Sher­izen warns that UJC faces “a real chal­lenge” to main­tain the ser­vices of its nine-chap­lain net­work to an es­ti­mated 3,500 Jewish stu­dents.

The char­ity has been forced sig­nif­i­cantly to in­crease fundrais­ing ef­forts over the past year, and Rabbi Sher­izen ac­knowl­edges that gen­er­at­ing al­most £1 mil­lion will be dif­fi­cult in the pre­vail­ing fi­nan­cial cli­mate.

UJC aims to en­sure that stu­dents re­ceive the prac­ti­cal, spir­i­tual and wel­fare as­sis­tance they need. Chap­lains work closely with the Union of Jewish Stu­dents, Hil­lel and Jewish so­ci­eties to strengthen Jewish iden­tity, pro­vide qual­ity Jewish ed­u­ca­tion and boost the ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able for Jewish stu­dents.

Chap­lains are based at the uni­ver­sity with the largest Jewish stu­dent pop­u­la­tion in their re­gion, but travel reg­u­larly to smaller cam­puses and work to in­volve those iso­lated from the main­stream in wider events.

“This en­cour­ages stu­dents to mix,” Rabbi Sher­izen ex­plains. “We want to unite stu­dents to pro­mote a big­ger pic­ture than just their lo­cal J-Soc.”

UJC sees one of most im­por­tant as­pects as com­bat­ing hos­til­ity on cam­puses — for ex­am­ple, stand­ing up to an­tisemitism and help­ing in­di­vid­u­als who are vic­tims of dis­crim­i­na­tion. In such cases, the chap­lains can of­fer a “com­fort­ing voice”.

In re­cent times, UJC chap­lains have also faced an up­surge in wel­fare-re­lated prob­lems. Rabbi Sher­izen points out that one-in-five stu­dents seeks help for de­pres­sion dur­ing the first half of the course, and Jews at uni­ver­sity are no ex­cep­tion. At the ex­treme end, they have been called upon to deal with self­harm and even sui­cide at­tempts. “We have seen a num­ber of very un­pleas­ant cases re­cently and, when they hap­pen, we have to drop ev­ery­thing and be at the stu­dent’s doorstep.”

UJS chair­man Adam Pike be­lieves the JC Char­ity Ap­peal judges made a wise de­ci­sion to back the chap­laincy ser­vice. “The char­ity is an in­valu­able sup­porter and part­ner to Jewish stu­dents, J-Socs and UJS. Ev­ery penny UJC re­ceives will en­sure more mean­ing­ful Jewish cam­pus ex­pe­ri­ences.”

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