BirmUYossi.jpgChabad Lubavitch's newest shluchim, Rabbi Yossi Cheruff and his wife Rivki are finding life pretty hectic among the 1,000 or so students with whom they regularly come into contact on Birmingham's Campuses. Hayley Aaron, Editor of UKCL NEWS was keen to find out more about their lives in Brum.

So how long have you been the shluchim of Birmingham campus?
We came in November 2011 so it’s been a little over two years now. Most students we see are from the University of Birmingham, but we also cover Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham, Aston University, Newman University and the University of Warwick.

And what sorts of things do you do for the students?
Anything and everything. We provide a home away from home, so if someone wants a Shabbat meal or is longing for some home cooking, we’re here to provide these things. We also hold a beginners’ Talmud class, an advanced Gemara shuir and a Hebrew reading crash course. Our weekly events include Pizza and Parsha; Thank G‑d it’s Shabbat, which brings students together for a three-course, home-cooked lunch; and cooking classes. Every Wednesday, students can enjoy a bagel brunch at Café Chabad while gaining a Torah perspective on timely events and issues. We also organise nights out for the girls, ranging from chocolate making to chollah baking; pilates classes to sessions on secrets of the Jewish woman. And for the boys, there’s BBQ and beer nights and BLT (bagels, lox and Tefillin) Sunday mornings.

What special qualities do you think you bring to the role?
You want me to toot my own horn?

Well, why not? Now’s your chance.
I’m told I undersell myself, but if you really want to know . . . I’m personable, likeable. I enjoy the chat and one-on-one connections you make with the students. And I like to build on those relationships.

I take it that Rivki has a major part to play in all this?
You’re right. She runs the place! Aside from creating a warm, inviting and non-judgemental environment for visitors to our home, Rivki is the one who comes up with most of the ideas for the social events. She also runs her own classes. We do everything together.

So, be honest. What’s Birmingham really like?
The place is no great shakes. It has a very small Jewish community. In fact, the student population overshadows the indigenous one. There are only three or four couples who are our age, so it’s a little lonely. I’d describe the kosher facilities here as moderately adequate, so it’s certainly a challenge to get the volume of food we need. But we just go to London and pile up the car. The main thing is that we love what we do and because there’s a large Jewish population of students, there’s always something to do.

As an American from Chicago, how do you find the Brummie accent?
Horrendous! I struggle with English accents at the best of times and often can’t understand a thing being said to me.

And what’s one of the funniest things that has happened to you?
I remember coming out of my house one Rosh Hashanah and being wished happy new year by this person sitting at the bus stop. He said he was also on his way to shul. Because there are so few Jews living in Birmingham, incidences like this always make me smile.

What else makes you happy?
I love spending as much time as I can with my three children. My son Mendel is three and I have two daughters – 18-month-old Musya and Chana who is 10 weeks.

And just to throw out a completely random question, what’s your favourite food?
Anything that doesn’t eat me!

For more information about Birmingham Chabad on Campus please visit: