Jewish Heritage Fortnight

At Queen Mary Students’ Union, every month is a reason to celebrate our students because we take pride in the diversity of our student body. In the last two weeks of January, after winter exams, we run the Jewish Heritage Fortnight, where we celebrate and recognise the Jewish community at QMSU.

What is Jewish Heritage Fortnight?

Jewish Heritage is celebrated in other parts of the world at different times in the year. For example, in America, the month of May is celebrated as Jewish Heritage Month to recognise the contributions of the American Jewish community. At QMSU, our student representatives and staff put together events and promotions all around our different campuses, between 23rd of January to the 5th February. This ranges from Tour of Jewish East End, Holocaust Memorial events, Jewish Heritage of QM etc. Some of our events are also set to continue through February.

How can you be involved?

You can get involved in our Jewish Heritage Fortnight campaign by following our website. All of our events, along with how to attend will be listed here. Many of our events will be free to attend and you can simply book yourself onto it. It will be a great way to meet tons of new people and understand different perspectives!

Facts and Figures
  • Jewish people only make up roughly 0.2% of the world's population and only
  • There are between 14.5 to 17.4 million Jews in the world today
  • 45% of all Jewish people live in Israel, and another 39% in the United States
  • Judaism is a religion, culture, and ethnic group
  • Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion
  • In 2019, hate crimes against Jews constituted 62% of all hate crimes based on religion in the United States

Testimony of a Holocaust Survivor

As part of Antisemitism Awareness Month 2020 and to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, last year the Students' Union, QMUL and QM Jewish and Israel society hosted guest speaker, Harry Olmer BEM.

You can now watch Harry’s Holocaust testimony on how he survived four forced labour camps over three torturous years, plus time in Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and the Terezin Ghetto, before being liberated by the Red Army in May 1945.

We were delighted that Harry agreed to share his story with us and thank him for attending the event. The testimony was followed by a Q&A with students and staff.

Watch here
Find out more

The following are broad denominations in the UK:

  • Ultra Orthodox: Most religious sect. Men often wear black hats, a garment with four strings (tzitizit), and wear long black coats. Hasidic women wear a wig over their hair called a Sheitel.
  • Modern Orthodox: Modern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law with the modern world.
  • Traditional: Traditional Judaism is a people who may be less observant but still value the Jewish traditions, culture and identity
  • Conservative (Masorti): Believe in the adaptability of the religion with the times
  • Reform: See the written texts as being inspired by God rather than the direct word of God, so they place more emphasis on the spirit of the law than the letter of the law. This means that laws are open to interpretation and change with the times.
  • Judaism originated in the Middle East, with the Land of Israel the epicentre of religious and cultural practice.
  • There are Jewish communities all over the world, stemming from the two main exiles after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and 70 CE. This is how Sephardi, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews developed.
  • Holocaust during WW2 saw one-third of Jews killed - 6 million Jewish people.
  • Modern-day state of Israel was established as the Jewish homeland in 1948.
  • 2 Jewish cemeteries on Mile End campus: Velho and Novo/Neuvo (1733-1974) (QMUL Geography. Neuvo, and featured in QMUL News 2012 (pp. 26-29)) Both are Spanish-Portuguese, a community that came to London in the 1650s. This was the first time Jews were allowed to re-enter the country after being expelled in the 12th century. These are the only cemeteries remaining in England that are exclusively for the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community.
  • Ashkenazi Jews, the majority of the UK/American Jewish community, descending from Eastern Europe
  • Sephardi Jews, mainly from Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Spain. Jews from Arabian Peninsula are also called Mizrahi Jews.
  • Other groups include Italian, Yemenite, and African Jews.
  • Strong focus on the study of Torah (written Bible), Talmud (oral commentary) and other religious texts.
  • Involvement in outer society in all fields.
  • Prayer 3 times daily. Synagogues are a central part of Jewish life, including community and social.
  • Weekly Sabbath (“Shabbat”) every Saturday, when no work is done at all, including the active use of electronics. Strong focus on family time and rest.
  • Kosher:
    - The laws of Kosher (a.k.a. Kashrut) are a set of dietary laws of which foods Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to Jewish law.
    - Examples include: not mixing meat and dairy, no shellfish, animals must have split hooves and chew the cud - excluding pork and other animals, kosher slaughter of animals. Restaurants and many food items that are kosher have a symbol to show it.
  • Friday Night Dinner, In Judaism the day starts at sunset, so friday night dinner is actually the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat)
  • Symbolic foods eaten during festivals, examples include:
    - Apple in honey for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Fried doughnuts for Hanukkah (Festival of Lights - miracle of the oil), unleavened crackers during Passover, all kinds of fruit on Tu Bishvat (new year for trees)
  • We also have 6 fast days in the year, including Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) which is after Rosh Hashana, in September/October.
  • Alcohol is not forbidden in moderation. Wine is enjoyed on Sabbath and festivals as part of the meal, and at ceremonies.
  • Why not try making some of these traditional Jewish dishes:
    - Challah
    - Rugelach
    - Cholent (Hamin)
    - Kugel
    - Chicken soup
    - Halva
    - Jachnun