Analysis: An encouraging year, but big challenges are ahead

By Marcus Dysch, June 10, 2011

Until May 17 the Union of Jewish Students could have reflected on the academic year as a successful one.

Despite the continued thorn in the side of university invitations to hate speakers, the past nine months had passed off in relative peace. Occasional flashpoints aside, Jewish students could highlight dozens of positive initiatives as proof of a job well done.

But on that Tuesday three weeks ago, the NUS executive committee adopted a vehement anti-Israel stance that shocked students and set up a potentially tortuous path to repairing relations.

UJS chair Alex Dwek and his team have largely performed admirably. The Israel Awareness Week in March, complete with a "battle bus" full of Israeli students, was a masterstroke and showed the positive impact of dialogue and bridge-building efforts.

The continued growth of the Juefa Cup football tournament and student awards were regarded by many as the highlights of the year.

Jewish students have continued to show why they are the pride of the community. Leading from the front as they challenge anti-Israel activity in their student unions, face individual attacks, and arrange an array of charity efforts, JSocs and their members have yet again stood up to be counted.

A more cohesive attempt at organising activities in London has already produced results, with record-breaking attendances for events across the capital.

University Jewish Chaplaincy has celebrated its best-ever year, its chaplains dishing up thousands of meals to students in need of sustenance and emotional support.

The continued emergence of groups such as Jeneration, Chabad and Marom - once considered fringe elements on campuses - mean Jewish students from all backgrounds have an equal opportunity to socialise, pray and volunteer.

But overturning the new NUS policy now stands out as the number one priority. UJS predicts a reversal could come as soon as next month, but it will not be easy. The NUS's Black Students' Committee will lobby vociferously to maintain, and implement, the measures.

If there is no NUS backtracking, Jewish students will be forced to redouble their efforts to defend Israel.

As with each of his predecessors, Daniel Grabiner will arrive at his desk as new UJS president in July with a heaving in-tray.

Last updated: 10:46am, June 10 2011