Who will win top UJS job? Time to decide

From left to right: Adam Parker, Alex Dwek, Paloma Sackman

From left to right: Adam Parker, Alex Dwek, Paloma Sackman

The hotly-contested race to become the new Union of Jewish Students’ chair will be decided in Leeds on Thursday night.

Efforts to succeed Adam Pike in the top job in Jewish student politics have seen the three candidates tour campuses across Britain in the search for votes. After one of the most challenging years for UJS, with rising antisemitism and widespread anti-Israel action on campuses, the winner is guaranteed a full in-tray when they take up the role in July 2010.

The candidates are: Paloma Sackman, former Birmingham JSoc president; Adam Parker, who founded Oxford’s Israeli cultural society; and Alex Dwek, former Manchester JSoc campaigns organiser.

Here, we present their views and pledges.

Paloma Sackman
University of Birmingham, French and Hispanic Studies, age 22
Slogan: Come fly with me

Where has the current UJS team failed?
Over the past two years UJS has undergone huge restructuring and rebranding. What the organisation needs now is stability and to focus on the bread and butter issues. UJS must do more to support JSocs, which are the hub of Jewish life on campus.

What is the main focus of your campaign?
My campaign is based on three principles. An inclusive UJS for everyone. Strengthening UJS’ structure by building on the core that has been revitalised. I will build on the idea of UJS being a “union”.
Together we are far stronger and better able to meet the many challenges facing Jewish students on campus. We must listen to students, not just tell them what the leadership wants.

What will you offer that is different?
UJS has an important role to play in projecting a positive image of Jewish students to the wider community.
Often the focus of UJS has been reactive, particularly in response to antisemitic or anti-Zionist threats.
It is time to present more proactive and positive images reflecting our values of tzedakah and tikkun olam.
I will encourage interfaith engagement and facilitate volunteering opportunities in the wider community.
We must also put UJS back on the international stage by being an active participant in the World Union of Jewish Students.

What makes you the best candidate to lead Jewish students at times of crisis?
I offer strong leadership but equally am willing to learn from others. I have a conciliatory character and diplomatic manner but I also have the ability to rally students and stand up forcefully for their interests.

OUR VERDICT
Solid views and focus would help bring calm and sensible approach to the role. Could snatch victory.

Alex Dwek
Manchester University, Economics and Politics, age 21
Slogan: All hands on Dwek!

Where has the current UJS team failed?
The current team has failed to reach out to a large section of Jewish students. Many are either unaware of what UJS is and has to offer, or feel it will not enhance their university experience.
The union didn’t spend enough time on campus supporting students in times of crisis, particularly during the Gaza conflict in January.

What is the main focus of your campaign?
My aim has been to educate students about UJS, what it provides and its vast potential as an organisation.
My campaign mirrors how I would run UJS – by being as open, innovative and interactive as possible. Mass participation in UJS is achievable if students are approached in the right way.
I have aimed to visit as many different campuses as possible to understand the individual needs and concerns facing students across the country.

What will you offer that is different?
A range of services to enhance students’ day-to-day lives on campus, including UJS-co-ordinated job listings, housing advice and an online travel guide.
I would start a process to prepare for the 2012 Olympics so we can welcome Jewish students from all over the world to London.

What makes you the best candidate to lead during times of crisis?
I had invaluable experience in crisis management leading students in Manchester through the difficult period after the Gaza conflict. I react quickly and show strong and decisive leadership in difficult situations.
I have never shied away from any challenge, no matter how difficult or overwhelming. My track record and experience makes me more qualified than any other candidate to lead UJS, whatever the circumstances.

OUR VERDICT
A tough-talking, heavyweight candidate with solid leadership background. Favourite to win.

Adam Parker
Oxford University, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, age 21
Slogan: Adam Parker: Creative. Effective.

Where has the current UJS team failed?
We need to develop and extend its successes – greater networking, training and support for smaller JSocs. Only a fraction of our large and diverse Jewish student body is attracted to JSoc. That challenge requires a UJS team that is creative and effective.

What is the main focus of your campaign?
I would make regular visits to campuses and open direct lines of communication to each member of my committee.
I will help JSocs include all Jewish students by expanding UJS planning days and summits, creating a comprehensive events directory, and putting more resources into inclusive social and educational events.
UJS policy would be determined with students using a network, bringing together the union, professional experts and students covering all areas – including campaigns, interfaith and non-Orthodox groups.

What will you offer that is different?
I will ensure that open communication exists at all times with students by advertising better how they can get involved with UJS. I’ll hold “Feedback Friday Nights” when UJS visits campuses.
UJS and JSocs will be more inclusive – there will be resources for postgraduate students, an annual networking dinner, and the initiative fund for creativity on campus will be widely publicised.
I will lead a UJS that will seek to bring students into the policy process at all times through the use of conference calls and other new media.

What makes you the best candidate to lead during times of crisis?
The challenges our students face require creative and effective solutions – that’s what I do best. They want a chair who is actually going to deliver on a bold vision. My track record – launching the Oxford Israeli Cultural Society and the UJS Award-Winning iFest ’08 – proves that I get big things done.

OUR VERDICT
Fresh ideas and big plans, but may lack the grassroots support that other candidates have.

    Last updated: 12:14pm, November 26 2009