Oxford University Jewish Society is a society for all Jewish students in Oxford. The society organises social and educational events, interfaith and social action projects, as well as meals.
The society's President for Michaelmas term Guy Dabby-Joory, outlines the events JSoc runs, why the society is such an important part of his life at Oxford and how he and others will be celebrating Hanukkah this year.
"Hey! My name’s Guy Dabby-Joory, and I’m a second year PPE student at Worcester and I’ve been President of Oxford JSoc (Jewish Society) for Michaelmas Term 2020. I’m also my JCR’s Academic Affairs and Careers Rep, Volunteer Training and Recruitment Rep at Turl Street Homeless Action, and Features Editor at The Flete.
About Oxford JSoc
Oxford JSoc is the main hub of Jewish life on campus. We run regular social, cultural, and religious events throughout term time, as a home away from home for Jewish students. Before lockdown, we were able to run in-person events, which were so brilliant to have. Our main events are our Friday night dinners, which we run every week during term. We often have up to a hundred attendees at these meals, although social distancing has slightly limited these numbers.
For me, our JSoc events are a highlight of each week. They’re an opportunity to meet old friends and make some new ones, and also to experience the Jewish community life which is so familiar at home. I also find that they’re a really nice way of leaving the college bubble, which has been especially brilliant during Michaelmas, when many people felt quite isolated within college households.
JSoc during the pandemic
Although the pandemic has obviously been a challenge for the JSoc, we’ve been able to adapt to the new normal, organising COVID-19-safe in person events ranging from movie nights to really interesting guest speakers, and from daily kosher meals to a jam-packed Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) programme.
Even during lockdown, our events have continued in a safe way, including a meditation session, regular discussion groups, platonic speed dating, and even a Zoom Challah (a traditional Jewish bread) Bake.
Coming up this week is the start of the Jewish festival of light, Hanukkah. This commemorates the events following an uprising of the Jewish people against their Hellenistic colonisers, who had tried to secularise and convert Jews during their occupation. When the Greeks were defeated, the Israelites returned to the Temple to find that there was only enough oil remaining to light Temple’s Menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum) for one day. However, this oil instead burned for eight days, and it is this miracle which is celebrated every year during the eight days of Hanukkah.
Traditionally, my family and Jews around the world light a Hanukkiah (an eight-branched candelabrum) on each of the festival’s eight evenings, gradually increasing the number of candles by one every night. We also eat fried food, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts, to commemorate the oil’s miraculous burning.
Many Jewish people will also play with dreidels (spinning tops), which Jews used to disguise their studying of religious texts under Hellenistic rule. Although the pandemic has meant that some of the communal aspects of Hanukkah are not possible this year, alternative events are being planned everywhere, ranging from drive-in Hanukkiah lightings to doughnut deliveries."
"Wishing you all a Happy Hanukkah!"