Family & Education

Comment: It's been a tough year - but we're stronger


As the current academic year comes to an end, Jewish students will be reflecting on a relatively peaceful period on campus, if not an entirely harmonious one.

The grim scenes of last year's anti-Israel lecture theatre occupations have thankfully not been repeated. But the fall-out on campuses following last month's Gaza flotilla incident would surely have been more considerable had students not been busy studying for exams.

Over the past 10 months we have covered a wide array of student news and views in JC On Campus.

From freshers winning flying lessons to former Apprentice contestant Michael Sophocles's tales of life as a gambling male escort, via interfaith work and the impressive lengths generous students go to to raise money for charity, we have attempted to highlight the variety of Jewish university life.

Perhaps most importantly, you, the students, have had the chance to speak out, to explain what being Jewish on campus means to you and to bring us first-hand accounts of both the fun and the fear that surround student life.

We have recognised the work of individuals and groups such as UJS, Jeneration, Hillel, and the heroes and heroines of our campuses, the UJC chaplains and their families.

There has been the chance to learn more about the rise of smaller JSocs and the impressive achievements at previously-ignored campuses such as Durham, Warwick, St Andrews and Hull.

Adam Pike's two-year stint as UJS chair came to an end earlier this month. His successor, Alex Dwek, must speedily get to work.

His bursting in-tray includes improving relations with student unions and vice-chancellors, preparing contingency plans for future anti-Israel activity on campus, and reaching out to non-Orthodox students who feel the organisation too often overlooks their needs and views.

Sadly there have, as always, been dark clouds. The arguments over vice-chancellors' apparent reluctance to take in hand the matter of extreme speakers appearing at campuses and spreading their hatred remains a thorn in the side.

Mistakes have also clearly been made. Cambridge University's Israel Society and UJS must surely now regret the short-sighted withdrawals of invitations to Benny Morris and Douglas Murray respectively.

The attack on Israel's deputy ambassador, following a lecture at Manchester University, crossed the line of vigorous protest and acted as a reminder that our students, and those who wish to speak to them on campus, are too often directly under fire from those who work to attack our community.

But the demand for additional chaplaincy services and the number of newly-founded JSocs serve as proof that, regardless of the difficulties associated with living a Jewish life on campus, our student community grows ever stronger and proudly leads the way in defending Israel against some of her harshest, and often most violent, critics.

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