Simon Friend



My highlights of the academic year

By Simon Friend, March 26, 2009

The academic year is coming to an end and, after a remarkably varied six months, my highlights have been:

- Best Campaign: as part of Holocaust Memorial Day, Leeds University JSoc acquired more than 12,000 bottle tops to create a centrepiece for the university’s new Hillel House, to represent just one per cent of those who suffered. Support came from far and wide; large numbers from the Limmud conference and, bizarrely, contributions from Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs.

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UJS holds inaugural student awards dinner

By Simon Friend, March 26, 2009

This week UJS held its inaugural student awards dinner in Middlesex New Synagogue, Harrow — the community of the late Alan Senitt, the former UJS chairman after whom an award was named. The awards recognised the hard work and dedication of Jewish students who have made an exceptional contribution to Jewish life on campus over the past academic year. The results were:

- UJIA Education Award: Adam Parker, a founding member of the Oxford Israeli Cultural Society.

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UJS-Hillel to open new non-residential student centre in Leeds University

By Simon Friend, March 26, 2009

UJS-Hillel will open a new non-residential student centre in Leeds University in September 2009, in place of the existing Hillel House, due to a number of central and local government regulations in respect of shared properties. As well as a café serving kosher food, on the new premises there will be a chaplain’s office, where students can get confidential advice, and fully-equipped meeting rooms for student societies.

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Start of the “Jerusalem Peacemakers’ Tour"

By Simon Friend, March 19, 2009

This week has seen the start of the “Jerusalem Peacemakers’ Tour”, which intends to hold talks on eight different campuses, asking: “Is peace possible after Gaza?” The discussions are led by Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, co-directors of the Jerusalem Peacemakers.

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UJS holds party in celebration of Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary

By Simon Friend, March 19, 2009

UJS held a party in celebration of Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary this week. The event, held in Birmingham’s Custard Factory nightclub, was attended by hundreds of Jewish students, making it the largest Jewish student event this year. The klezmer band Ghetto Plotz played alongside renowned DJs the Scratch Perverts, with live acts from acrobats and break-dancers.

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King’s College Student Union escapes take-over bid by anti-Israel campaigners

By Simon Friend, March 19, 2009

King’s College Student Union escaped a take-over bid by anti-Israel campaigners at elections for its student board positions last Friday.
A group called “Another King’s is Possible” put forward six candidates who said their candidacy “emerged from the occupation at Strand”, a pro-Palestinian sit-in demonstration on a King’s campus in January, which was repeated in 17 other universities nationwide. Dalia Nelson, outgoing co-chair of umbrella student society London JSocs, says the group would have hijacked the union with anti-Israel campaigns.

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Single Jewish student running for Bournemouth presidency

By Simon Friend, March 12, 2009

Dan Matalon of Bournemouth University was the only Jewish student to be running this year for the post of president of his students’ union. Mr Matalon has held the positions this year of JSoc president and executive officer of the union, but was unsuccessful in his campaign, gaining only 370 votes (23 per cent), 223 votes behind his nearest rival.

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Former Fatah leader removed from SOAS lineup

By Simon Friend, March 12, 2009

Last week, former Fatah leader Hussam Khader was removed from SOAS’s “‘Israeli Apartheid Week” bill, having been refused permission to travel by Israel. Khader was arrested in 2003 and convicted of being a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement that played a key role in the second intifada, and for helping fund the group through connections to Hizbollah and Iran.

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Reform's student branch appoints second campus fieldworker

By Simon Friend, March 12, 2009

Jeneration, the student branch of the Movement for Reform Judaism, has appointed a second campus fieldworker. Dan Rickman has joined Sheldon Mordsley to work on various university campuses across the country. Mr Rickman commented: “I know the importance of having a good time at university, but I have also learnt that it is a great opportunity to start asking key questions about life and really explore who you are and who you want to become.”

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ULU sabbatical team members in anti-Israel campaigning

By Simon Friend, March 12, 2009

The top two students in next year’s sabbatical team at the University of London Union (ULU) have both recently been actively involved in anti-Israel campaigning. ULU, which includes London campuses such as University College, LSE, King’s College and Queen Mary’s College, this week elected Nizam Uddin as next year’s president. Currently the co-president of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ (SOAS) Students’ Union, Uddin called his university’s “Tel Aviv 100” lecture series “embarrassing”.

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LA campaign combats campus antisemitism

By Simon Friend, March 5, 2009

Israel Apartheid Week was not greeted with total apathy. Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre took a tough attitude to the growing harassment of Jewish students on campuses across Britain and north America. It has launched a new campaign which is aimed, according to the centre’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, at “debunking the mythology of the anti-Israel forces”. Central to the campaign is “iCan”, featuring two aluminium cans connected with string. The iCan posters and adverts in student papers ask where modern society would be if it boycotted Israeli technology.

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Former Israeli ambassador speaks at Oxford

By Simon Friend, March 5, 2009

The former Israeli ambassador to the UK, Yehuda Avner, last week spoke to a crowd of 120 students from universities around the country in Oxford’s David Slager Jewish Student Centre. The talk, hosted by Chabad, was set against the backdrop of a small crowd of anti-Israel protesters who demonstrated against the speaker, waving flags and offering leaflets to passers-by and people entering the centre.

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Oxford paper editors resign over Holocaust spoof

By Simon Friend, March 5, 2009

The co-editors of Oxford University’s student newspaper, Cherwell, resigned this week because of a spoof issue that joked about paedophilia and the Holocaust. Lecher was distributed last November and included a story in which two students talked about molesting and killing babies, and another about a street musician in Oxford playing the bagpipes and joking that it was used for torture by the Nazis.

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Student outrage as crucial debate on Gaza is tabled for Shabbat eve

By Simon Friend, March 5, 2009

Jewish students at University College London have threatened to resign from the union after a stormy AGM last Friday afternoon in which a motion was passed attacking Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

The motion declared that UCL had “a responsibility to condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza”, and was passed by a majority of 34 votes.

The AGM was due to have been held three weeks ago but was delayed because of snow. Instead, it was rescheduled for Friday afternoon.

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SOAS marks Israeli ‘apartheid’

By Simon Friend, March 5, 2009

SOAS Union marked its support for the fifth annual Israeli Apartheid week (IAW) with two motions strongly critical of Israel.

The first, entitled “Make Apartheid History”, declared that “Zionism promotes racism and xenophobia through acts of parliament, supported by a set of racist laws.”

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100 student members of Orthodox Zionist youth movement give blood

By Simon Friend, February 26, 2009

As part of the “Bleed B’nei Akiva Dry” campaign, last week over 100 student members of the Orthodox Zionist youth movement gave blood, including 40 first-time donors. Stations were set up in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge and London university campuses. “We want to educate our members in the practical ways they can make a difference to society at large,” said BA’s education director, Zak Jeffay. He said that after “phenomenal support for the programme”, the movement intends to run a second one in four months’ time — the required waiting period between donations.

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Ex-JSoc members dominate Leeds union executive

By Simon Friend, February 26, 2009

Three out of six posts on next year’s Leeds University union executive have been won by former prominent members of Leeds JSoc. Jak Codd, next year’s communications officer for the union, was the education officer for JSoc; Mike Gladstone, former events officer for JSoc, will be education officer of the union; and Josh Landy, last year’s JSoc president, will be next year’s union activities officer. Next year will be the first time that there has been more than one Jewish officer of LUU.

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Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week to be marked on campuses countrywide

By Simon Friend, February 26, 2009

Activities and campaigns marking the Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will be held next week on campuses around the country. In previous years, events have taken place in Oxford, Manchester, London and Edinburgh universities, as well as more than 40 other campuses around the world. The main aims outlined on the organisation’s website are “to achieve full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and an end to the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands — including the Golan Heights, the Occupied West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”.

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2,000 Friday night meals delievered to Jewish students

By Simon Friend, February 19, 2009

Last week 2,000 Friday night meals were delivered to Jewish students across the country as part of UJS Hillel’s Shabbat UK drive. Students from a wide range of JSocs — from Cardiff, Bournemouth and Keele, as well as the larger ones such as Leeds and Manchester — were provided with Shabbat candles and “How to…” kits.

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Glasgow Gaza demonstrators meet principal

By Simon Friend, February 19, 2009

Following a petition from students at Glasgow University with over 1,000 signatories denouncing Israel’s military action in Gaza, a meeting was held this week between the demonstrators and the university’s principal, Sir Muir Russell.

The petition came after a sit-in last week, in which students occupied the university’s computer science building, refusing to move until their demands were met.

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