NUS survey reveals extent of Jewish students' alienation on campus

Two-thirds say union responds inappropriately to antisemitism allegations while 68 per cent are concerned over BDS policies


Two-thirds of Jewish students say the National Union of Students does not respond appropriately to allegations of antisemitism, according to a new survey of their experience of campus life.

Sixty-eight per cent of the Jews who responded said they did not feel comfortable that their student unions had adopted BDS policies.

The survey was carried out for the NUS by an internal research team and aimed to take stock of Jewish student experiences in the wake of a rising tide of reported antisemitism and hate crime.

In a further worrying sign that Jewish students feel increasingly detached from the NUS, almost half of those questioned - 49 per cent - said they would not feel happy attending union events.

Asked if they would feel comfortable engaging in the NUS policy making process, 40 per cent said they would not.

But half of the respondents said they felt comfortable engaging in debate on Israel/Palestine on campus.

In response to the findings, Josh Nagli, Union of Jewish Students campaigns director, said: “In the last 12 months, Jewish students have regularly raised concerns, particularly about antisemitism on their campuses and the toxicity around the Israel/Palestine debate.

“It is therefore unsurprising that the report shows that such a large number feel uncomfortable engaging with NUS and student politics.

“The organisation must work to rebuild trust with Jewish students and, along with students’ unions and higher education institutions, aim to fully understand Jewish students’ needs; we hope this report will act as a catalyst for this to happen.”

Some 485 students responded to the survey carried out by an NUS research team between last November and February.

The survey was carried out in co-operation with the UJS, and the NUS steering group directing the research included Mr Nagli and Izzy Lenga, a Jewish student who has served on the union's national executive committee.

The study also gauged opinion on the provision of kosher food across campuses, with 42 per cent of students reporting there was no provision on or near their campuses.

The majority of students – 59 per cent - disagreed or strongly disagreed that their university avoided scheduling classes and exams during Shabbat and Jewish festivals.

The report concluded that “the attitudes of lecturers and students towards issues relating to Jewish people as well as Israel/Palestine present a challenge to be addressed.

“Furthermore, better understanding of Jewish students’ identity with Israel, including what Zionism means to many Jewish people, could foster a culture of healthy debate and respectful campaigning around what are often divisive issues.”

It added: “Like many students of faith and belief, Jewish students have reported that they do not feel their institution understands their needs.”

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