NUS seeks to mend relations with Jewish students

National Union of Students and Union of Jewish Students representatives have 'productive' meeting


A new era in campus relations was signalled this week when the president of the National Union of Student held talks with a Jewish student leader.

Shakira Martin andsenior NUS officers met Liron Velleman, UJS campaigns manager to discuss how to repair the relationship between the organisations, with the meeting described as “productive” and “heartening”. 

Topics discussed included finding new ways for the student groups to work together on projects including anti-racism, anti-fascism, and Holocaust education. 

Ms Martin tweeted that she had “had a really productive meeting with… [the] Campaign Manager at UJS talking about priorities 4 the years and building back trust”.

The relationship between the two organisations suffered when Ms Martin’s predecessor, Malia Bouattia, was voted in as president in 2016. 

Ms Bouattia had previously made comments about the University of Birmingham being a “Zionist outpost”, and referred to a “Zionist-led media outlets oppressing the global south”. 

Despite dismay from many Jewish students at Ms Bouattia’s election, delegates at the UJS conference in December decided not to cut ties with the NUS. 
Ms Bouattia was defeated in her bid for re-election this April. 

Following his meeting with Ms Martin, Mr Velleman said: “It was so heartening, after everything that Jewish students and UJS went through last year, to have a day of positive meetings and discussions on how we can rebuild and develop the relationship between UJS and NUS.

“Clearly there is much work to be done, but I’m glad that everyone seemed to be on the same page to work on a two-track process to deal with some of the issues that still exist, and also find more ways to work together, particularly around faith and belief and Holocaust education.”

Ms Martin told the JC: “It was great to start the year [as president] with such a positive meeting with Liron. Learning more detail about UJS’ work for and with Jewish students is always inspirational. 

“I recognise the need for our union to start taking seriously the concerns Jewish students have raised about our political spaces; this meeting was the first of many to begin to address them.” 

She added that it was important for the two unions to work together.

She said: “We discussed how our work on zero tolerance and faith and belief will be crucial in bringing about a student movement that is welcoming to all. 
“It was clear that there are many overlapping priorities for the year and we are determined to collaborate through joint projects such as Anti Racism - Anti Fascism to ensure Jewish students feel safe in our spaces.”

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