'Jewish students stand together to fight antisemitism'

November 24, 2016 23:17

In response to the letter I previously wrote, I am amazed and overwhelmed with the support that the letter has received and the support surrounding my personal experience from students and friends. Jewish students’ standing together is what can make change happen.

Over the weekend, I have been sharing my blog with my friends, fellow students and members of Union of Jewish Students (UJS). I have now felt intimidated and threatened because of my identity on two occasions. The first being with the incident on campus that I mentioned in my original blog and the second, with regard to the accusations surrounding my experience being fabricated.

However, I didn’t need to feel vulnerable because the support from Jewish Students and the union has been amazing and I have truly felt that they have had my back. This does not mean that everyone within the union agrees all the time, but as Ella Rose has previously said, it is important that our union and J-Socs can be “unified not uniform”.

UJS President, Ella Rose wrote an open letter to the national executive committee ahead of the discussion; highlighting the general importance of being able to decide for yourself what is defined as antisemitism – no one else can do this for you. Additionally, writing how declaring my experience as false and UJS mentioning it for political gain not only undermines an ability to express experiences, but also stifles the potential to expose and stop genuine hatred against Jewish people and minorities.

Not only did Jewish students and UJS support my letter but it was fantastic to see the NUS leadership unequivocally stand up for Jewish students. There has been an unprecedented move by Toni Pearce, president of NUS, with her statement recognising the rights of Jewish Students to define antisemitism for themselves, and her pledge to resign the chair in order to speak against this amendment.

Toni stated “I’m really proud that as a movement we understand that when a woman tells you she has been harassed we believe her – we don’t accuse her of lying. That when LGBT students speak about homophobia on campuses that we believe them. I’m proud that our movement takes the underreporting and conviction of hate crimes and sexual violence seriously. We must take the same stance on anti-Semitism.”

Toni raised the prominent issue that why when referring to antisemitism is it okay to define what is or isn’t an antisemitic incident, but for any other scenarios, it is not questioned. This aside, it is great to see the NUS leadership and specifically Toni speaking up on this matter and recognising the seriousness of the situation and the need to work to defeat antisemitism.

This is all a clear example of how when Jewish students work together with their peers, friends, leadership or otherwise and fight together, positive change can happen and as a result of this, the amendment in discussion was withdrawn. Jewish students must continue to work together to ensure that their voices are heard, counted for and represented; to ensure that we can all work together to combat antisemitism and all other types of racism and prejudice, and the risk it poses not only on campuses throughout the UK, but throughout the world.

Having said this, it is still concerning that there was the initial political manoeuvring within NUS NEC which led to student leaders attempting to undermine the experiences of a prejudice faced by a minority. I, along with my fellow students and UJS will continue to work with students of all backgrounds to fight racism and prejudice. I especially urge all Jewish students and J-Soc peers to join me in Liverpool next year at NUS National Conference to speak up for ourselves. We need to have our voices heard, because I for one am sick of this NEC misrepresenting me and this is something only we, as Jewish students, can change!

Jewish students stand together. This is what can make changes happen and it is vital that now more than ever, Jewish student define for themselves what antisemitism is and represent themselves. I am so grateful to have the support from my union, from other students and from NUS leadership and hope to never see an incident like this again.

I’m from a small minority and President of a small J-Soc – and at times I’ve felt small. But to everyone reading, and in particular Jewish students, please remember Jewish students across the country stand with you. So if you’re going to a small J-Soc, or feel sometimes it’s hard being from a small minority on campus, or simply feel small – or are made to feel small – don’t. I stand with you. Jewish students across the country stand with you. UJS stands with you. Come and stand alongside us at UJS conference and NUS conference.

November 24, 2016 23:17

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive