Ikeys minyan – a first for UCT

  • TaliIkeysMinyan
Jewish students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) recently celebrated a successful semester of their newly established weekly morning minyan.
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | May 24, 2018

The Ikeys minyan meets in the Maths building on Upper Campus every Thursday at 07:00. It is one of the many student projects powered by Chabad on Campus Cape Town.

The organisation has, in the last two years, established a thriving Jewish student community primarily on the campuses of UCT and Stellenbosch University, on which it has directed its focus – as these tertiary institutions have the highest population of Jewish students.

Ikeys is the name of the UCT rugby team. The “Ikey” nickname originated in about 1910 as an anti-Semitic epithet applied to UCT students because of the supposed large number of Jewish students at the university.

Rabbi Nissen Goldman, who co-directs Chabad on Campus together with his wife Ariella, explains: “The name was intentionally used to transform the word from being a source of negativity to a force of positivity, even holiness. We are also making a statement about the transformation that is taking place on campus. While there may be a smaller Jewish population than there were in the 1910s, the Jewish campus experience has in recent years blossomed, both in its variety and richness.”

This is largely due to the vision of the Eric and Sheila Samson Foundation which, together with Chabad, opened the Samson Student House near UCT in 2016.

“The morning minyan was actually a request from the students,” says Goldman. “We figured we’d start with one day a week, and we chose Thursday because it has Torah reading. So, we’ve borrowed the Torah from Rachel Bloch House, home of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at UCT while it’s under construction. Please G-d it’ll reopen in July in time for the second semester, and we plan to relocate there.

“In fact, I recently met with the architect to figure out how to best design the centre’s new Beit Midrash according to halacha, as the ark ideally should be facing Jerusalem,” he continues.

“So the minyan came from the students and it is student-run. Nathan Esra is the Gabbai and Yakov Schleider is the Ba’al Koreh, the guy who reads from the Torah. The only thing I do is bring Ariella’s famous chocolate chip cookies and coffee for a snack before they head to class!”

A particular reason the minyan is important is because Chabad on Campus programmes attract primarily less religious students – 10% of the UCT members are Reform. “What we strive for is to offer entry points for students across the observant spectrum, from unaffiliated to fully observant; and this is one of those programmes that cater to the more religiously inclined.”

Goldman explains that the morning minyan is also a practical way of preparing boys for living adult Jewish lives. “When they graduate and get jobs they will often choose to attend morning prayers, some as early as 06:00 in the week, and this is building that habit of communal prayer for when they graduate. Our goal is to prepare students to lead meaningful Jewish lives as adults post-varsity – something they didn’t necessarily get at school level with the classroom model of learning.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 Jp 25 May
    Kol hakavod!


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