We should welcome non-Jews - on or off the pitch

By Sam Mohr, January 21, 2012

On January 2 I took part in the JUEFA cup, a 5-aside football competition for young Jews, competing for a prize to win a trip to Israel. The evening, although fraught with four tough losses together with our one scraping win, was highly enjoyable.

While putting what I hoped would be a winning team together, I was chatting to a non-Jewish friend of mine. He said that he would like to play and would love to win flights to Israel, somewhere he has never been. On examination of the rules, I discovered that all participants must have at least one Jewish grandparent, and that we might be required to prove this.

I completely understood that the competition was targeted at young Jews, however surely the odd non-Jewish player who is happy to play and wants to win a trip to Israel would not have done any harm? Considering the bad press and unfair treatment Israel and Jews receive, letting a non-Jew play would have been of massive benefit to the Jewish community and Israel.

Unfortunately I had to experience the embarrassment of telling my friend that he could not play. He was quite shocked at this and immediately said to me that he felt discriminated against. This, of course, made me feel even more embarrassed that I was involved in such a competition.

If we put this into context, the rule that you had to be Jewish to play, was surely discriminatory? Had an organisation said that you had to be black, white, Muslim or Christian to take part in a non-religious or ethnic based event such as football, this would have been deemed as racist and discriminatory.

Following the competition, I submitted a piece to Campus Comment, criticising this very policy. UJS has now made a very positive change and I have altered my original piece.

The new policy now states that to play you must be a current or previous member of a Jsoc or UJS. This is a much more positive attitude as to join a Jsoc you do not have to be Jewish. A highly commendable part of the Jsoc's work on campus is that they welcome anyone. I have attended events and Friday night dinners where non-Jews have been invited and present. This is fantastic, and is how it should be as it demonstrates us as an open and friendly community.

It is also more in line with UJS's recent decision to condemn "Jewish Fraternities," for the reason that they were "exclusive and sexist."

Good relationships with the local community on and off campus are highly important to the future security of the Jewish community, therefore we should be welcoming non-Jews into our social community and we should never refuse them entry because they were not born Jews.

This change in policy has also made UJS appear dynamic and responsive to the needs of Jewish students on campus. It is good that in an era of rising antisemitism Jewish organisations on campus are demonstrating us as an open community who welcome outsiders, who are willing to respectfully join our ranks and get involved in Jewish sporting and social events. It would be detrimental to the future wellbeing of the Jewish community if we were to treat non-Jews as complete outsiders, especially on campus, an area where often we face our greatest critics.

Sam Mohr is an International Relations student at Leeds University. Follow him on Twitter here.

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Last updated: 3:30pm, January 23 2012