The president-elect of the Union of Jewish Students has said how the ongoing Israel Hamas War and the fallout on campus made her want to stand for election “more than ever”.
Sami Berkoff, 20, who stood against two other candidates, told the JC: “I’ve always spoken out and raised my voice for what I perceive to be right, and I’m deeply proud of my Jewish identity.
“Students are at this time, across the country, facing the biggest increase in antisemitism on campus in a long time, and it is disgraceful. It’s very distressing, but it’s also never been more important to stand shoulder to shoulder as Jewish students.”
Her “Stand Strong With Sami” campaign ran on a platform of three key issues: supporting Jewish students and life on campus, strengthening ties between JSocs with the launch of a “Sibling JSocs” scheme and enhancing welfare provisions for Jewish students.
Currently serving as president of Durham JSoc, Sami was announced as the winner earlier this month at the end of the annual UJS Conference, where 400 Jewish students voted on new policies for UJS. Over 1,000 students took part in an online election for presidency.
Hailing from a mixed denomination background, Sami said she had “benefited from experiencing” both Orthodox and Reform Jewish youth movements during her upbringing in London.
Outside of Jewish student politics, Sami studies geography and has a strong interest in female empowerment, musical theatre and stage management. She has also helped to run RSY-Netzer’s year 12 leadership programme.
Sami began her campaign by asking students about the changes they wished to see and then taking to social media platforms like TikTok to disseminate her vision.
She said the most challenging element of campaigning was balancing it with writing a dissertation and continuing her duties as president of Durham JSoc.
Sami said: “Running for UJS president has been one of the toughest but most rewarding weeks ever. I’ve loved talking to and getting to know so many new people.
“I’m now looking forward to working towards providing Jewish students with more robust advocacy on campus and for us to ensure that UJS voices are being heard at the very highest levels.”
Sami will take up the new role beginning in summer 2024, following the completion of current president Edward Isaac’s tenure.
In a statement, Edward congratulated Sami on her victory saying: “Jewish students will be lucky to benefit from her fantastic leadership, and I know that UJS will be in safe hands,”
UJS, the oldest Jewish students’ union in the world, represents upwards of 9,000 Jewish students across the UK and Ireland. It supports over 76 Jewish societies, run by over 400 volunteers.