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The Year of Student Sport with UJS & Maccabi GB

This year sparks a new wave of sporting opportunity for the Jewish community at university campuses. The Union of Jewish Students and Maccabi GB have teamed up, for ‘The Year of Student Sport’, a project which aims to facilitate accessible Jewish sports teams for students in Jewish societies in universities across the UK and Ireland.

Sport is one of the best ways to interact and create bonds amongst fellows Jews. For many, it is an essential part of their Jewish identities as it keeps people connected and engaged within the community. The UK’s Jewish population offers a wealth of opportunity to play and participate in Jewish sport through Maccabi GB activities in the primary and secondary school age groups, and then, as we settle into working life, with the adult leagues and grassroots sports initiatives. In between these two periods of life, the years spent at university are of the most formative, and UJS’s mission is to support JSocs to enhance their activities and Jewish student life on campus. ‘The Year of Student Sport’ brings together the aims of these two organisations, aiming to engage as many Jewish students in sport activity, creating opportunities for social engagement and promoting interaction between JSocs.

The past year has highlighted an increased demand for Jewish sport within the university age groups, Leeds university’s Hapoel Hyde Park brought huge attention to the scene when they hosted an exhibition match against Birmingham’s Maccabi Selly Oak named “The Game for Ukraine”, raising close to £2,000 for World Jewish Relief. Students also made a big impression in Manchester, with the student team ‘Jewventus FC’ placing second in Manchester’s prestigious Jewish Soccer League. Until now these student teams and others have had to source their own sponsorship or pay themselves for league fees and kit, making representing the Jewish community in university sports leagues expensive and inaccessible to many Jewish students.

This year the narrative has changed; UJS collaborating with Maccabi GB have put together an inclusive package, sponsoring registrations, marketing, sports kit, equipment and travel costs, to support existing teams and promote the creation of new ones, with the initial focus being on football and netball. The aim is to give as many Jewish students access to Jewish sport and to supply JSocs with the funding to facilitate this. Matches between JSocs will also be central to the new initiative, with a rematch between Birmingham and Leeds already taking place at the end of November, and other national student sporting events in the plans for this academic year.

Leading on the project, Leeds student Aaron Black said of the initiative: “The inspiration behind ‘The Year of Student Sport’ is the late Joshua Freddie Carr; his silhouette has been featured across the logo and branding. Josh was a student in Leeds and involved himself heavily in everything Jewish on campus, he had a drive to create a positive and supportive society for all Jewish students on campus. Josh achieved this by volunteering countless hours, he held a position on the JSoc committee and co-founded the student football team, Hapoel Hyde Park. Josh had an innate ability to bring people together and he used this to create communities. This initiative aims to carry on Josh’s legacy and use sport as a vessel to bring Jewish students together, honouring his drive and passion to improve the Jewish community around him.”

About the initiative, UJS CEO Arieh Miller said: “We are proud to be partnering with Maccabi GB on this initiative. But more importantly we are so pleased to be able to make an idea and initiative started by a Jewish student come to reality. UJS aims to create as many opportunities for Jewish students to engage as possible, and by opening the door to these sports opportunities, we create yet another way for students to engage in Jewish life on campus.”

Maccabi GB Head of Operations, Nathan Servi said: “this new initiative in partnership with UJS fits right within the strategy of engagement of Maccabi GB. We aim to provide the Jewish Community with sport, health and wellbeing activities across all ages, and university students are central to our mission, bridging the gap between our schools sport and adult leagues and grassroots clubs”.

Signing up for Jewish sport on campus has never been easier; if you are a new or current student and would like to be involved with Jewish netball or football within your university JSoc, please register your interest here, and follow @yearofstudentsport on Instagram.

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