Campus generation embodies cross-community involvement

December 16, 2016 15:55

In a period of significant electoral upsets, people might have been forgiven for suspecting UJS would continue the trend. 

But when Jewish students were faced with a choice — between a candidate who was a strong advocate for the boycott movement and two others who were not — they opted overwhelmingly for one of the latter.

Additionally, the vote by conference delegates in favour of “opposing BDS in all its forms” conveyed a clear message from a younger generation of British Jews, many of whom have experienced first-hand the violent nature of anti-Israel activists on their campuses.

A degree of pragmatism was also noticeable at the conference, though. Despite high levels of criticism of Malia Bouattia, the NUS president, the UJS delegates voted against suspending their organisation’s working relationship with the national student body.

Although UJS has already pledged not to work with Ms Bouattia until she has issued a proper apology, it was argued that a working relationship with the NUS as an organisation was extremely important for the welfare of some Jewish students. This argument carried the day.

Amid the serious discussions on issues such as antisemitism and Israel, the conference itself was an extremely encouraging sight, whether those taking part realised it or not.

Both Josh Seitler, the current president, and Josh Holt, the president-elect, have stressed the importance of UJS being a welcoming space for young Jews irrespective of their religious or political beliefs. This aspect of the union was clear to see at Sunday’s conference.

There were frum academics and traditional ones, people from a progressive background and those of a Jewish socialist persuasion.

Some delegates were members of StandWithUs, a prominent Israel-advocacy organisation. Another was wearing a “Remember the Nakba” T-shirt. All were listened to respectfully when they spoke from the podium, regardless of their stance.

If UJS can continue to promote such open dialogue, it promises to continue to be a relevant voice for thousands of Jewish students attending universities up and down the country.

December 16, 2016 15:55

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