Candidates compete to lead the Union of Jewish Students

The UJS presidential hopefuls tell the JC what sets them apart


Josh Cohen

Former president and current campaigns officer at Nottingham Trent Jewish Society

In addition to his time serving on JSoc committees in Nottingham, Josh has also served on the NUS National Security Council and UJS’s National Council.

He has previously worked to combat antisemitism on social media through his TikTok account.

Josh has placed this experience at the centre of his campaign, and says that he is running out of a love for UJS, which, he says has been “a significant part of how I’ve embraced my Jewish identity”. He said that his campaign will focus on bringing more Jewish students into the union.

When asked about his proudest achievement during his tenure as president of Nottingham Trent JSoc, Josh cited the JSoc ball held in February of this year, the first time he saw the student community coming together post-Covid.

One area in which Nottingham’s JSoc has grown is through student sport over the last year. Although he was not directly involved with the establishment of Nottingham’s Jewish football and netball teams, he has proposed creating a national Jewish sport event - a “Jewlympics”.

One policy which Josh has outlined in his manifesto is his commitment to a new approach to Israel advocacy, saying that it currently risks being “stale and partisan”.

His policy on Israel activism calls for UJS to take a more active role on the subject as he believes the UK is “missing a space for productive dialogue” and has proposed that the union set up their own Israel fellowship programme.

Although Josh did not suggest that JSocs should disassociate themselves from individual Israel advocacy organisations which are on different sides of the political spectrum, he said that these types of movements “risk becoming echo chambers”, and that UJS is the organisation which has the potential to bring students together during these difficult times.

When asked about how he would deal with students who do not agree with his leadership, Josh redirected me towards his focus on accountability, and that “any leader needs to know how to bring leaders with him in what they are doing”.

Samantha Cass

Former chair of  University of Leeds Jewish Society

Samantha Cass is a current member of UJS’s National Council, an NUS delegate for Leeds University and former University of Leeds JSoc chair.

She is running for UJS President in order to “put students back at the centre of UJS '' and to ensure proactive advocacy against antisemitism.

During her second year at university, she said that her proudest moment on the committee came in overseeing a large Chanukah event on campus in Leeds, one which she said was “an incredible way to bring students together, both Jewish and non-Jewish”.

Uniting students and collaboration are two messages which seem to be at the centre of Samantha’s manifesto.

Her manifesto calls for the need to amplify underrepresented students, including but not limited to international students, chavruta, Jews of colour, LGBTQ+, Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews and those currently studying abroad. “I believe that every student matters”, is what she said when asked about what she would do to ensure that the values of all students are respected, such as helping Orthodox students with the provision of kosher and prayer spaces, whilst also offering the same option for progressive and egalitarian students, as well as accessible spaces.

Another example of this collaboration was through student sport, and she believes that UJS should be doing more to collaborate with

those involved.

Samantha praised the way that student sport has opened up options for many different students to participate even without playing for the teams, through areas such as journalism and graphic design.

The message of bringing people together also extends to Samantha’s approach to Israel activism. She says that Israel activism within UJS should be focused on “being supportive of the student experience”.

In terms of combating antisemitism, she has encouraged proactively reaching out to student unions with training courses,

educational initiatives both for secondary school children and on campus to engage with non-Jewish students to help them recognise and understand modern day antisemitism.

When asked about accountability, Samantha said that she would

establish regular office hours for the president “to be held accountable and hear what students want…What they say matters.”

Sami Berkoff

President of Durham University Jewish Society

Sami Berkoff says that she has always had to fight for her Jewish voice to be heard. This comes from having gone to a non-Jewish school and then on to Durham, which had a small Jsoc at the time she started there.

She also has a strong cross-communal background, having grown up attending an Orthodox shul, going on summer camps with Noam and now leading on RSY.

During her tenure as Durham JSoc president, Sami said that her proudest moment has been the way she has increased the number of people coming to JSoc events, with over 50 people attending a Friday night dinner, for a JSoc which previously struggled to

get 15.

She has also worked with Durham’s Student Union to sign UJS’s own statement condemning Hamas, one of just five across the country which has done so.

In her manifesto, one of Sami’s policies would be to restore the role of the Israel engagement officer. She says this role would involve taking a step back from commenting on Israeli politics, instead focusing on looking at how events in Israel have impacted students on campuses in the UK.

She has also proposed another UJS weekend separate from politics, which would give students from all backgrounds the ability to learn about each other and celebrate their Jewish identity. Sami is also keen to advocate for female students, who are underrepresented in the UJS presidency - with just six in the last 20 years.

As part of this, one of her policies calls for the creation of a women's empowerment network.

Along with the other two candidates, Sami attended the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) march in central London and

advertised the event to members of her own JSoc, stressing a proactive approach to combating antisemitism.

When asked about how she would manage students that disagreed with her on policy, Sami pointed towards her incredibly diverse background and said that “you can represent everyone but not speak for everyone’s views”, and that she knows she has the experience to do what is right.

Register to vote at You will need to include graduation year and institution. Voting closes at 23.59 on 7th December. The results will be announced at UJS Conference later this month

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