Amanda Sefton our current Head of Campaigns, reflects back on her two years at UJS and shares her experiences and insight into what it has been like working in UJS:
As I sit to write this blog, I am struggling to find the words to describe how my last two years have been. It is impossible to explain to anyone the work we do and what it is like to be a sabbatical officer at UJS, and that’s because it is the most indescribable experience.
Right from the start I was thrown in the deep end, not knowing what to expect with campus being closed, and beginning the role with the first few months fully online. This was the new normal, but I could never get used to it. The idea that I was building relationships with students and colleagues only through a screen and never meeting in person was mind blowing. It was in March of 2021, after having worked at UJS for 8 months, I came into the office and met one of my colleagues who I hadn’t seen since the group interview in February 2020. This made me realise how important it was to form these relationships and make every moment count of being in person.
Now looking back at my second year, this was a complete contrast. We started with one of the most difficult times for Jewish students, with the impact of the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Dealing with an increase of over 400% in antisemitic incidents, whilst trying to find my feet as the new Head of Campaigns. Through this time, I felt scared and nervous about the year ahead, but also so grateful and privileged that I was continuing to work for an organisation dedicated to supporting Jewish students.
Taking on the role of Head of Campaigns, I was looking forward to continuing the work of my predecessor; campaigning for universities to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism; expanding antisemitism awareness training to universities and empowering Jewish students to stand up to antisemitism on their campuses. I have found this year inspiring to see so many Jewish students take initiative and lead the way on campus to raise awareness of the incidents occurring and to keep fighting for the rights of Jewish students. From petitions to protests, statements to stalls, Jewish students are thriving and raising their voices, showing everyone that they will not be silent.
If there is one message I can pass on to the next team and Jewish students, it’s to always find the light in every situation. Any time things become tough or too difficult, find the one thing that will help you keep going. Always remember the immense impact you are having on the people around you and that there is a whole community there to support and guide you through anything. These past two years have not been easy but were the greatest.