120 leaders shape the future of Jewish student life on campus at UJS Summit 2017

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120 students, guest educators and friends of UJS descended on a small village on the border of South Wales this weekend.

We were joined by representatives of 26 J-Socs, the vast majority of whom were newly elected committee members. 

Within 36 hours, the UJS team and our fantastic guest educators ran 52 sessions; the majority were focused on helping the newly elected committees develop their visions of their J-Socs for the coming year, but open sessions also took place, on topics from Jewish women in leadership and the Israel-Palestine conflict to the challenges of Brexit for Jewish communities in Europe.

12 languages were spoken at Summit this year, a fun fact that serves to emphasise the diversity of the UK’s Jewish student community, who not only originate from various countries but also have different religious and political affiliations too. Engaging students across this diverse spectrum is one of our four core values, and we have focused on increasing the visibility of our work in this area lately; particularly following the passing of a motion on this topic at last year’s UJS Conference. We were therefore delighted to offer nine Shabbat service options, including traditional services conducted by Rabbis from several denominations, as well as a meditative Kabbalat Shabbat and a critical reading of the weekly portion, Vayetze, unpacked in the wake of the ongoing #MeToo campaign. Emma Jacobs, newly elected Campaigns Officer of Leeds J-Soc, Tweeted:

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, tweeted that Summit was an ‘outstanding example of cross communal quality and joy’:

As well as modelling a cross-communal Shabbat through religious practice, we also held sessions on inclusivity, where J-Soc leaders had the opportunity to engage with representatives of Orthodox, Reform, Masorti and Liberal Judaism; Keshet UK, who work to ensure that nobody needs to choose between their LGBT+ identity and their religious identity; Jami, the Jewish charity for mental health awareness; and educators who focused on catering for diversity of political views. Like the range of Shabbat services on offer, these sessions aimed to help J-Soc leaders ensure that their J-Socs cater for the diversity of their membership on campus.

Post-Shabbat, Summit also featured the first of two Presidential Election hustings, chaired by UJS President Josh Holt. The three candidates, Annie Cohen, Hannah Rose and Lawrence Rosenberg each gave a statement of up to five minutes then answered questions that were variously submitted from the floor and by email. Questions included:

Click on any of the questions to see the answers that the candidates gave (in Twitter threads.) A second hustings will be held in Leeds next week, so please come along if you are studying in the area. The hustings will also be live streamed on the UJS Facebook page, so make sure you are following us there to tune in and submit your questions online! Once you have decided who to vote for, don’t forget to submit your vote – go here to do so.

The final morning of Summit saw a group of students rise early to make shakshuka with Mor Sofer of the Jewish Agency, which they then enjoyed for breakfast:

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Summit 2017! We were honoured to be able to host so many current and future leaders, and we look forward to working with you all in the future.

About UJS

We are the voice of over 8,500 Jewish students, spanning 60 Jewish Societies (J-Socs) on campuses across the UK and Ireland. We are traditional, progressive, cultural and spiritual; we come from the left, centre and right and can be found across religious and political spectrums.

Together we create and deliver powerful campaigns; fighting prejudice, advancing inclusion, and inspiring education and action on the issues that matter to us. 

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