In Shabbat under Lockdown - creative innovations in UK Jewish student communities
, Zara summarises the changes to Shabbat rituals within a Jewish student community during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst the pandemic has impacted on worship activities and rituals across all faiths, Zara was aware that the usual educational and worship activities of an Orthodox Jewish student support organisation had been limited more than most.
Whilst many faith communities have been able to move their worship and other activities online, Zara’s research explored the challenges facing an Orthodox Jewish community, which could not deliver online services on the Sabbath and other Holy Days. Instead, they developed ‘Shabbat packs’ that could be delivered to students’ homes or collected, enabling students to celebrate the Sabbath in their own homes without the use of online resources.
Zara’s research discovered that these changes to the religious practices of this student community led to stronger engagement by Jewish students with their faith, and increased volunteering with the student centre. Zara concluded that, “whether Shabbat was celebrated together or apart, experiences were still shared within the community through the use of these packs”. From 17 May, the changes in COVID-19 regulations once again allow groups to meet indoors, and the impacts on the communal life of this worshipping community will be seen.
UKCEM Senior Lecturers, Rev Ruth Dowson and Dr Ian Lamond, supervised Zara’s research project entitled ‘Enquiry into Jewish Students’ Relationship with the Jewish Community during Covid-19’. They expressed their appreciation for the Jewish student centre that enabled Zara to complete her research.
BRIC-19 researcher, Dr Eleanor O’Keeffe tweeted: ‘It was a total treat to profile Zara’s research on our blog and celebrate the great contributions to research and understanding that undergraduate students can make, which is even more astonishing in these tough times.’