The Olami Impact Accelerator programme started with a conference this February in New Jersey. Hundreds of Jewish students and young professionals from around the world gathered together to learn what it means to be a Jewish leader. Following on from the Olami Summit in 2017 which focused on #JewishGreatness, we started to think about how we could use this inspiration to be leaders and role models in our local communities. Over the past few months, we have been enrolled in a tailor-made Olami leadership course, learned with our campus educators and been active in getting more young people involved in Jewish life. We have also been keeping track of each other’s achievements online and celebrating the success of Olami leaders’ projects in over 21 countries. The programme ended with a fantastic week-long Leader’s Forum in Spain at the end of May. A hand-picked group of dedicated Aish members from different campuses went to represent the UK at the Forum, ready to learn how to put our new leadership skills to use. We had the unique opportunity to schmooze with our generation’s most influential Jewish speakers and business people, as well as bounce ideas off each other in an international think-tank session. We were pushed to think about leadership using an inside-out approach, how we could #bethechange we want to see in the world and #makeanimpact on those around us.
One of the key messages I’ve gained from the experience is the importance of taking responsibility, which is why I have started to think about a new initiative that I would like to set up on the University of Bristol campus. We have been very lucky to have a growing number of Jewish students join us at Bristol over the past few years - it’s now one of the most popular choices out of all the UK universities. However, despite the thriving population and numerous activities on offer throughout the week (with Aish, Chabad, Chaplaincy and J-Soc), I find that Jewish involvement is somewhat lacking. My guess is that it could be down to conflicting religious interests amongst students and increasing assimilation, but whatever the reason, I feel that the next academic year should bring a refreshing change to the Jewish scene on campus.
My idea to refresh Aish on campus and boost general engagement in Jewish life in Bristol is to open up an Olami co-working café. This would be a trendy retail space doubling up as a co-working café by day and a space for social events and Jewish activities by night. As a space exclusively for Aish affiliates on campus, it would offer the same Genesis learning programme that we know and love, as well as a variety of weekly, monthly and special one-off events. The aim would be to establish an innovative and dynamic hub of Jewish activity in the heart of the city, appealing to all Jewish students regardless of their religious affiliation. The exclusive nature of the café is how I plan to bring all Jewish students together, to counter assimilation and create excitement about Judaism. What’s more, I propose that this should be an initiative run by students themselves in order to increase engagement and help create and maintain a vision suited to our particular needs at Bristol.
The Olami Café would be a space focusing on the social and co-working elements as well as the café itself. The co-working aspect would be easy to implement in the café - it would just involve tailoring the space to make it appropriate for independent/group study sessions and project collaborations. Comfortable seats, large tables, charging ports and good lighting are all key design features. It has to create a vibe appealing students so they would actively choose to spend their day at this café as opposed to any other in Bristol. Serving food throughout the day to keep students nourished whilst they study, this would be Bristol’s first and only kosher café. I’m thinking: a simple daily menu of food and beverages, plus a constant supply of everyone’s favourite kosher snacks to purchase, bagel brunches, happy hours and candlelit Friday night dinners (to give you a sneak peek). The last function of the space would be catering for exclusive social events and Jewish activities. Events such as the Genesis programme, Ulpan classes, challah bakes and themed activities for upcoming chagim would connect students to their Judaism, but there would also be social events aiming simply to bring students into a Jewish environment. Bristol students are constantly seeking out the trendiest spots to socialise and study, and so I am certain that the Olami Café would attract a large membership and become a valuable asset to our growing community.