The chaplaincy that students rely upon
The first of three profiles of good causes that we are urging readers to support
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.”