Liberal Judaism has appointed Rabbi Leah Jordan, a young rabbi who serves Jewish students as Student Chaplain all across the country, from Aberdeen to Exeter.
Liberal Judaism Student Chaplaincy begins with support for our students, who are a minority within a minority on campus — whether that’s advocacy for the Progressive perspective within university Jewish Societies and the Union of Jewish Students (through cross-communal initiatives like ‘Jewish Students for Pluralism’), or support for them as Jewish students in general on diverse campuses, or bringing them an LJ Shabbat filled with familiar music and a home-cooked meal, through visits from Rabbi Leah with our Shabbat kit projects and care packages. Pastoral care and mental health are also cornerstones of Chaplaincy.
We also represent Liberal Judaism to young Jews across the spectrum on campus, showing them that we are active in a contemporary and compelling way, and encouraging them to join us. This includes support of Egalitarian initiatives, in order to empower women in their Judaism, as well as men.
Our most successful programme is our Shabbat kit project, where Rabbi Leah visits most of the UK’s main campuses throughout the year, bringing Progressive Jewish students everything they need to make a warm Shabbat away from home; £50 food voucher, Shabbat candles and wine, challah recipe, Havdallah candle and spices, and specially tailored Liberal Shabbat prayerbooks for campus and student-oriented text study. LJ Student Chaplaincy also sends three care packages over the course of the academic year, which students look forward to receiving: a Chanukah parcel with chanukiah, candles, dreidel, gelt, and the blessings to celebrate far from home; a Pesach or Purim pack depending on when Easter term break falls; and a May end-of-year exam stress pack to help students through tough revision.
However, the most important work that we do is immeasurable – quiet conversations with individual students, getting to know who they are, with what they are concerned, and how we may provide the help that they need.
Liberal Judaism maintains regular contact with around 350 people via the LJ Chaplain’s Facebook page. This is updated several times a week with a mixture of information and humour, and often leads to interactions with individual students as they comment on the posts. It also enables us to collect information about campus events and discussions across the country, giving us a sense of the issues that engage our young people during their student days and nights. This communication is supported by our sister Facebook page for the LJ Student-Worker that has over 650 ‘friends’, and an LJ Students Twitter feed. Experience has shown us that we are more likely to receive student responses via social media than e-mail, so these links are crucial.