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Secondary school students are given guidance on how to deal with university antisemitism

The plan is for the I-gnite pre-university conference to become an annual event

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Panelists speak at an event organised by I-gnite about how high school students can prepare themselves for the antisemitism they may face on university campuses, 3 March, 2024 (Credit: I-gnite)

Minister for Education Robert Halfon has said that reports of antisemitism he heard during a recent meeting with school students had reduced him to tears.

The remarks from the MP for Harlow came during a university preparation conference, organised by I-gnite, an organisation which helps empower young people to express their Jewish identity and relationship with Israel.

The purpose of the event at JW3, which saw sixth formers from 35 different Jewish and non-Jewish London schools attend, was designed to ensure students go to university “to experience the best of campus life while feeling informed, supported and resilient about antisemitism and to know whom to speak to if they encounter it”, said organisers.

The minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education said: “The stories I’ve heard made me cry. It’s not acceptable; we are determined to put a stop to this. I’m doing everything I can in my role to support Jewish students to ensure that universities know we will not stand for what has gone on. If I have to ring every vice chancellor in the country, I will do so.”

He added that the government is committed to making Jewish students feel supported so that their university years “are the best of their life”.

Students heard from other speakers during the event, including CST CEO Mark Gardner, CAA head Gideon Falter, CEO of University Jewish Chaplaincy Sophie Dunoff, Daniel Berke of UK Lawyers for Israel and Devorah Stoll from StandWithUs UK.

Gardner explained to students how antisemitism could manifest itself on campus and what support existed for Jewish students, adding that CST maintained student security groups at 37 different campuses.

Dunoff said: “It’s important to educate yourselves on your history and be proactive and speak up for your people. [UJS] is on campuses to ensure that you can lead a very full, very proud and enriching Jewish life.”

Lord John Mann, the government’s advisor on antisemitism, offered all participants a complimentary public speaking course after their exams.

The event was warmly welcomed by the students, with one saying afterwards: “I go to a non-Jewish school and there's a lot of antisemitism and anti-Israel hate. It's nice to hear that I'm not alone, that there are lots of people going through the same thing, and what we can do to combat it."

An I-gnite spokesperson told the JC: “We felt this event was essential at a time of rising campus antisemitism and a resurgence of Jewish pride. We wanted to ensure that Jewish sixth formers go to university feeling informed, supported and proud.

"The afternoon left them feeling empowered, inspired and knowing where to go for help.”

I-gnite plans to make the event an annual fixture in the calendar.

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