The battle to be new UJS president

The new Union of Jewish Students’ president will be elected on Wednesday night. Candidates Daniel Grabiner and Marcelle Jennings have been campaigning for weeks to succeed Alex Dwek in the top job in Jewish student politics. Here, they outline the main points of their manifestos and explain why students should vote for them as the person to take the union into 2012


Marcelle Jennings

Marcelle Jennings

Marcelle Jennings

Age: 21
Course: Sociology
Uni: University of Sussex
Slogan: Putting the 'U' back into UJS

What will you do differently if elected?

While I will focus more on individual JSocs instead of basing development on a largely regional basis, I will also continue with a lot of the great initiatives set up by the existing UJS team. I want to continue their work on "widening the debate", reclaiming the word Zionism, and the work towards helping graduating students with their career network forum.

I want to make UJS an organisation that tailors as much as possible to the diverse group of Jewish students in the UK.

What is the main focus of your campaign?

The need for a more individualistic approach to JSocs. By working closely with JSocs as individual entities we will be able to better understand and meet the needs of each campus. I hope to draw larger numbers of Jewish students to their JSoc. I also believe that we can create an environment where students really understand that their JSoc is what they make it and they have the ability to shape it.

What new charac-teristics can you offer as the leader of Jewish students?

I offer a fresh perspective. I've been involved with my local Jewish community from a young age, involved in Jewish youth movements, and took my gap year with, and been a tour leader for, FZY. My experiences with the UJS, NUS and the University of Sussex student union, being a member of the university women's rugby team and my experience of being the only Jew some people have ever been friends with mean I have a unique understanding of how people see UJS and what they want from their student experience.

What makes you the best candidate at a difficult time for Jewish students?

I understand the difficulties students face on campus. I want to significantly alleviate their fears, and help students feel as comfortable as possible in expressing their Jewish identity. My time at Sussex has allowed me to experience the threats first hand. I have witnessed criticism of Israel spill into antisemitism and I have seen both Jewish and non-Jewish students persistently attack our JSoc anytime the mere mention of Israel is heard at any JSoc event. This experience allows me to help prepare Jewish students and JSocs for what they may face. It has left me well placed to help provide support for students who find themselves overwhelmed by campus politics.

What will you do to encourage university chancellors to take more seriously the threat of extremism on campus?

I believe university management are aware of the threat of extremism on campus. The problem lies in ensuring that university management understand how radicalisation of students is taking place, who exactly are hate speakers, how to detect them and prevent them from obtaining an open platform. I will work with university chancellors to help them understand where potential risks may come from.

How will you bring the wider Jewish community and UJS closer together and gather more support from the community?

The community needs to be made aware of the issues facing students, whether it is antisemitism, anti-Zionism, apathy, disenchantment with their Judaism or culture. I will do this through the relationship UJS has with groups such as UJIA, to keep them informed of what issues are affecting Jewish students at the time.

Daniel Grabiner

Age: 21
Course: Economics and Politics
Uni: Leeds University
Slogan: Grabiner - Making UJS current

What will you do differently if elected?

The current UJS team have done a great job and I take my hat off to them. In recent years, UJS teams have been part of an ongoing process of progression. I would seek to press on with the evolution of UJS by shifting the focus of attention to concentrate on engaging more of the student body. My concern is making UJS a more relevant organisation, by getting more Jewish students involved with their individual JSocs or UJS and through events that are appealing and relevant.

What is the main focus of your campaign?

Bringing UJS to the forefront of Jewish students' lives. This manifests itself in a number of ways: helping to create social events (building communities and continuity), offering opportunities that appeal to a diverse range of students, helping students with careers when they graduate, campaigning on matters that Jewish students feel strongly about within the university sphere and also leading on issues that may affect the whole community.

What new charac-teristics can you offer as the leader of Jewish students?

All I can offer is my total commitment, energy and enthusiasm. I can guarantee to inject passion into every aspect of the job. However, a strong UJS is not simply dependent on a strong president. It is vital to have a strong, dynamic and able tzevet (team). If elected, I am determined to build a strong, focused and professional team. By working together we can hopefully enthuse and motivate all Jewish students.

What makes you the best candidate at a difficult time for Jewish students?

Daniel Grabiner

Daniel Grabiner

I have a deep understanding of the challenges Jewish students face on campuses all over the country. In my time as Leeds JSoc president, I tackled many challenging situations, both internal and external. In conjunction with my committee, I gradually developed successful working relationships with university and union leadership and worked hard to ensure that Leeds remained a safe and welcoming environment for all students. I envision a similar strategy for UJS, one which responds forcefully to threats to Jewish welfare, but simultaneously fosters positive and constructive relationships.

What will you do to encourage university chancellors to take more seriously the threat of extremism on campus?

This is a very important issue, but one which UJS cannot fight alone. We need to work with the local JSocs as well as with the leaders of the Jewish community. Together, we can approach vice-chancellors, government ministers and NUS members to help them understand the importance of the issue. UJS plays an essential role in the protection of the welfare of Jewish students, and this must remain one of its top priorities.

How will you bring the wider Jewish community and UJS closer together and gather more support from the community?

The community has always been committed to helping Jewish students. They understand the issues which students face and want to help, whether in combating antisemitism or helping create communities. I wish to build on this relationship. One of my key initiatives is to work with the community to offer work experience or internships exclusively for UJS. We need to explore other possibilities for working with the community regionally and nationally. I welcome the Jewish Leadership Council initiative to invite the UJS president to become a member, providing a platform for UJS to work directly with the community.

Last updated: 11:40am, December 2 2010