As battles are being fought for Israel, Jewish students in the UK are having to fight “an online war” that they aren’t prepared for, the co-chair of a new grassroots organisation said this week.
Dana Brass of I-gnite, told the JC: “What is happening now in Israel is horrific, but there is a parallel online war against misinformation that is set to go on for many years that our children must be confident to address.
“We know that online spaces and campuses are tough places to exist for young Jewish people, where history is being rewritten and narratives are changing, and the demand for the skillsets to combat modern antisemitism is only going to increase.”
I-gnite has been set up to empower Jewish students in Jewish and non-Jewish schools to express their Jewish identity and relationship with Israel, said Brass.
The organisation has just formed a partnership with PaJes (Partnership for Jewish Schools), to help Jewish secondary schools prepare their students “for the challenges of contemporary antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments”, she said.
The programme will provide a combination of factual knowledge on Israel, Zionism, as well as critical-thinking skills. Students will be exposed to contemporary debates and be able to participate in workshops and cross-school conferences.
Lauren Breslauer, founder of I-gnite, said: “This flagship programme has been designed as part of a wider initiative from I-gnite, aimed at helping students to take pride in their identity, regardless of their religious or political views.”
Ten educators from seven Jewish secondary schools, who have been charged with taking responsibility for Israel and antisemitism education, have received training from I-gnite.
Stuart Roden, principal funder of the project, said: “The combination of outstanding and motivated teachers and access to best-in-class educational resources, supported by a dedicated professional team, will positively transform the way in which our students feel about their Jewish identity.”
In the meantime, the Union of Jewish Students has been made aware of “a number of incidents”on campuses connected to events in Israel in the last few days.
Writing on X/Twitter, UJS said: “Thousands of Jewish students across the country have spent the past three days checking up on their family and friends in Israel and bracing themselves for a wave of antisemitism on British campuses.
“Meanwhile, their fellow students leading [pro-Palestinian] societies have glorified and celebrated the murder and kidnap of hundreds of innocent men, women and children by a terrorist group proscribed in the UK.”
UJS urged the universities and students’ unions “to take harsh action against this despicable celebration of violence”.
A spokesperson for UJS told the JC that the union had “made it clear to student unions that there must be zero-tolerance of antisemitism and the glorification of Hamas on campus”.
It has also written to more than 100 student unions outlining “how best to support Jewish students on their campus”.
Additionally, the University Jewish Chaplaincy has told the JC they were working “tirelessly to ensure Jewish students on campus feel supported, safe, and valued”.
Rabbi Fishel Cohen, chaplain for Birmingham and West Midlands universities, said: “We are here for students. No matter the circumstances, we stand with you.”
The effort is also being organised by StandWithUs UK, a charity which aims to educate people about Israel.
Daniel Marcus, StandWithUs UK Campus Coordinator, said: "I am incredibly proud of the leadership demonstrated by our Emerson Fellow Joel Herman at Leeds in supporting his fellow students. Our students up and down the country have been working hard to stand up for Israel and fight antisemitism. Stand With Us UK stands with all students willing to make an impact on their campus and we are proud to be the leading provider of Israel education for all".