Sophie Dunoff is in her second term as Deputy for University Jewish Chaplaincy but her involvement in Board affairs stretches back several more years to her time as its Parliamentary Officer.
The excellent work she did in her two-and-a-half year stint led to her appointment as Chief Operating Officer and then Chief Executive of University Jewish Chaplaincy, the organisation which exists to help Jewish students navigate the sometimes choppy waters of campus life.
Now in her seventh year in the job, Sophie explains why her organisation is essential for students: “We’re here to help in numerous ways. Students’ problems can be pastoral or religious. They may have social issues or difficulties in completing their course. Whatever happens, our network around the country exists to provide whatever help is required.”
These problems can also revolve around religious freedoms which is the prime area in which Jewish Chaplaincy’s work intersects with that of the Board.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, University Jewish Chaplaincy, and specifically Jewish students, have also stepped up to help with the refugee crisis. She says: “There was huge will from the students to actually go and do something meaningful for the Ukrainians. Our Scottish Chaplain led on this and we took five self-funded delegations to Poland over a five week period – around 10 students each time – and they volunteered with refugees on the ground in Warsaw.
“Primarily, they ran programmes for the children to occupy them which gave the adults time to make sense of their personal affairs. They also worked at a volunteer centre providing things that refugees needed such as bags, water, power packs etc. They were the first Jewish group to go there and they did amazing work, supported by Chaplaincy. It was a really wonderful thing to lead on with the students.”