The Union of Jewish Students is to have its first female president in seven years after Nottingham undergraduate Ella Rose was elected to the position with a large majority.
The result was announced at the union’s annual national conference. Ms Rose, a 20-year-old final-year history and politics student, said she was “excited to embrace the opportunities and challenges” that lay ahead.
Overall, 534 votes were cast. Ms Rose thanked the students who had elected her, and congratulated her opponent, 21-year-old Manchester University student Raphi Diamond, on a strong campaign, adding: “I have taken inspiration from many of his visions”.
Ms Rose, who is only the fourth woman to become president in the union’s 40-year history, campaigned on a platform handing power back to individual Jewish societies at universities across the country.
She will take over from the current incumbent, Joe Tarsh, in June.
She told the JC: “I don’t wish to be seen as a female president, rather a president who happens to be female. A lot of the reaction around the result of the election has focused on my gender, which I don’t believe should be the case. It should be about the mandate I have received, who I am as a person, and the job that I will be doing regardless of whether I am male or female.”
More than 80 students representing 30 JSocs attended Sunday’s conference at JW3 in London.
Heated debate was sparked over the issue of how far UJS should encourage JSocs to counter the boycott movement on campus. Consensus among students from larger campuses, including King’s College London, Cambridge and University College London, was that UJS must take a stand against growing antisemitism and press JSocs to take a more visible pro-Israel stance.
But concern was voiced among representatives of smaller JSocs, who argued that they would be vulnerable to action from anti-Israel activists. Sussex JSoc president Saul Gaunt, said that life for Jewish students was problematic enough on campus, not least because Palestine supporters vastly outnumber the 15 JSoc members.
He said: “If someone said something antisemitic, I’d go down on them like a ton of bricks. But I can’t do that regarding Israel. I can’t even walk down the road in Brighton where the Israeli EcoStream store is, because the boycott protestors outside know me.”
The conference also saw the election of six representatives to the Board of Deputies and five members of the union’s national council.
Delegates also heard from National Union of Students president Toni Pearce who said her recent trip to Israel had made her more aware of Middle East issues.
She also urged more women to take leadership roles in student politics.
● Ella Rose pledged that she would prioritise the work of campus Jewish societies and make UJS officials more accountable when she takes up the reins as president next summer.
She told the JC: “The UJS means something different for everyone. Each campus represents a unique and specific challenge that should never be underestimated, and the focus on each individual Jsoc is key.”
She added: “I would like to bring UJS back to the students through increased peer-leadership, feedback and accountability.
The experience of campaigning for president had been “incredibly intense”, she said, providing her with “a real insight into the job ahead.
“The members I met told me to keep connected to the students. I believe the role of UJS president can become lost from the perspective of the students.
“To combat this, we need more regular and structured feedback from students on campus, who are the only ones who truly understand the issues of the day.”