Students from J-Socs across England and Scotland gathered in London on Sunday to attend UJS’ second annual Liberation Conference. The Conference provided a space for Jewish students who self-define as women, disabled and/or LGBT+ to meet each other, discuss their experiences, empower their peers and be empowered and inspired.
Additionally, as the event was open to all Jewish students, it was an opportunity for allies of these marginalized groups to learn about the challenges that are specific to their peers, particularly in the context of being Jewish on campus as well.
This year, Liberation Conference was structured so that students who self-define into minority groups could attend caucuses. At the same time as each of these, a concurrent session was offered to allies so that they could learn more about how to best support their peers.
All sessions were run by those who spoke authentically and often from personal experience, including Rob Young (NUS Vice President – Society and Citizenship), Melantha Chittenden (NUS LGBT+ Officer – Women’s Place), the Misogynist Film Club, Jami, Yakira Kellman (Edinburgh J-Soc), Dex Grodner (UAL), Ethan Axelrod (Cambridge J-Soc), Jess Rich (Vice President – Welfare at Essex SU), Michali Belovski (City and Cass J-Soc), Rebecca Filer and Sally Patterson (both of Bristol J-Soc).
Michali, who ran the self-defining Women’s caucus along with Sally and Rebecca, said: ‘It was great to see so many women empowering each other, particularly as Jewish student women, and I believe those who came to the session were as inspired as we who ran it were to continue being a positive force for change for Jewish women of all denominations.’
UJS President Josh Seitler said: ‘It’s so important to provide a safe space for students to discuss sensitive issues that are often not talked about enough, and I am grateful to all the speakers who were able to help us facilitate that at Liberation Conference 2017. We also saw many new faces at Liberation Conference, and I hope that these students who may not have been involved in UJS before will continue to play active roles in our work. It’s important to UJS that we not only endeavour to be as inclusive as possible for all Jewish students, but also that we are actively part of the wider efforts to make campus environments accessible for all students as well. I’m proud of what UJS has achieved in this area so far, and look forward to us continuing this work in the future.’
Liberation Conference 2017 also marked the end of Reclaim, UJS’ mental health awareness week, which you can read about here.
Students left Liberation Conference feeling empowered and enthusiastic to follow up with future initiatives and we are excited to support them to develop these projects. There was also discussion about reviving UJS’ Liberation Networks; if you are interested in supporting these in any way, please get in touch.