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Exams timetabled during festivals, access to kosher food and antisemitism among issues Jewish students face, report finds

All of those interviewed perceived a 'pro-Palestinian bias' on the part of their students' union

    Student at a UK university graduate ceremony
    Student at a UK university graduate ceremony (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    Jews on campus face include antisemitism, timetables clashing with religious festivals and lack of access to kosher food, a new report has highlighted.

    Faith and Belief on Campus: Division and Cohesion, a report by the Theos think tank, said British universities still had “considerable work to do” in order to create safe spaces for Jewish students.

    It identified a “lack of consistency between universities” in making special arrangements, for example for exams which fall during religious festivals, or lectures on Friday afternoons in winter, when Shabbat begins early.

    Lack of access to kosher food was also an issue, “exacerbated by…a tendency to assess the relative importance of different religious practices from a Christian perspective”, with assumptions that prayer would be more important to a Jewish society than observance of dietary rules.

    But antisemitism was also an issue, with cases of swastikas daubed in student accommodation, and tensions high particularly around the issue of Israel-Palestine.

    The report noted that while Jewish students “generally felt secure enough to be able to express their views on the situation…all were critical of a perceived pro-Palestinian bias on the part of their university or students’ union.

    “Non-Jewish students and staff often made assumptions (rightly or wrongly) about their personal or the Jewish Society’s position on the conflict.”

    Ben Ryan, Head of Research at Theos and one of the report's authors, said: “You can’t fix issues on campus without working with students.

    "This is why we talked to students who attend faith and belief societies at their universities, to understand the world through their eyes."

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