The best kind of educational space is one that encourages, celebrates and shows pride in the variety of people from different cultures that can come together to learn and to grow. Before I started at Brampton, I was unsure if there would be much of a sense of community. Typically, a sixth form college is known to have one purpose and one purpose only- to succeed at A-levels and get into university. In other words, you go in. Study. Go home again. Repeat. Luckily, I quickly discovered that- at least at Brampton- this is not quite the case. So much is done by the college throughout the working week to provide a sense of community and a feeling of belonging that is imperative in establishing an environment that best supports academic thriving. What I would like to focus on is the Brampton College Jewish society.
5 years ago, student Sam Kutten decided to gather a group of his Jewish friends at college, order pizza and create a chilled, welcoming and safe place for Jews to meet new friends of a similar background and to feel part of something special. Since then, the JSoc has grown into a space that is truly valued by the Jewish students at college. Now, JSoc is organised by Gabriel Kutten, who is the executive leader along with deputy head Benny Hanouka. Every week, around 30 Jewish and non-Jewish students meet to discuss Jewish culture and values (and of course pizza is provided!). There is usually a guest speaker- for example, most recently the inspirational and engaging Rabbi Jonny Hughes from Jewish educational charity The Abraham Effect spoke to us about morality in Judaism, sparking a thought-provoking discussion. I asked Gabriel Kutten what his favourite memory of JSoc has been so far, and he fondly told me about the sessions with Rafi Joseph, a Jewish educator who used to teach at Jewish school JFS, and now works with Jewish educational charity Aish. He is a brilliant speaker, who is able to really connect, giving you a stronger understanding and connection to Judaism. Having now experienced one of these sessions myself, I could not agree more.
Being a new student, I can only give you my first impressions. Immediately, I felt such a rich sense of community and belonging within the society. Everyone was welcoming, inclusive and genuinely interested in whatever it is the speaker has to offer as well as other students’ thoughts. It seems to me that The JSoc is a really important space for Jews at college, and I now know I am not the only one who thinks so. ‘It gives a sense of belonging to Jews in a Non-Jewish school,’ Gabriel Kutten told me. ‘It ensures that people don’t feel lonely- there is always someone there to connect with who has a similar background to you. It feels almost like a family.’ This really moved me. The Office for National Statistics reported that almost two thirds (63%) of students’ mental health and wellbeing has worsened since the pandemic, with 33% of the student population aged 16-29 reporting that they feel loneliness often or always, in comparison with only 8% of the adult general population. Although, In my experience loneliness effects more students than people would care to admit, given that sometimes it is easy to feel alone even when surrounded by people due to feeling misunderstood, or lacking a sense of belonging. I know that some people may argue that having cultural societies would only create a divide in the overall community, but it is clear this is not the case. Clearly, the Jsoc has had a positive impact on student loneliness and belonging. Logically, if each student has a personal increase in wellbeing, this would increase general engagement with a college community at large, and consequently an increased engagement with academic studies. More recently, during the attack on Israel by terrorist organisation Hamas, the JSoc gives Jewish students a safe place to talk about how this affects them personally; connecting with others in shared despair, reminding us all that we are not alone. This increases the feeling of having support from others, fostering an environment where students feel safe to grow in confidence both inside
and outside the classroom. This being one of the priorities in education, it is clear that the Brampton college Jewish society is an integral part of the community.
If you are interested and would like to find out more about times and locations (as this can vary from week to week), or if you have any questions, please contact Gabriel Kutten, +44 7756 190376. Everyone is invited, but we ask for respect, tolerance and interest, to ensure that JSoc remains a safe place for everyone.
By Sophie Lunzer, student