Since my time as a student (Leeds University ‘07-’10) I have been overwhelmingly impressed by the work of UJS. From the thousands of Friday night dinners served, to the game-changing national campaigns, to representing and standing up for students on campus; UJS is a dynamic, boundary-pushing and difference-making movement, and I am excited to be a part of it once more.
David Davidi-Brown has been a formidable CEO of UJS, and leaves behind some large boots to fill. The organisation he has built - together with a succession of presidents, sabbatical officers, permanent staff, lay-leaders and volunteers – is a stronger, more influential and more impactful organisation than ever before. Over the past 6 years under David’s guidance, UJS is doing more, for more students and at more campuses and for that and for so much more, I know, so many people are eternally grateful.
As we come into UJS’ 100th year, reflection on history is encouraged. Anniversaries are always a fantastic way of looking back over successes and key moments from the past. Joining UJS in it’s 100th year, I want to take this opportunity to look to the future of our movement and our community.
With the changing demographics of the UK Jewish community, more people going to Jewish schools, less people taking gap years and an exponential increase in activities and opportunities for students when arriving at university, the way UJS works has had to, and will continue to need to, adapt to these changes. The future of UJS depends on us being able to adapt, and our history has shown we can. Looking forward we will continue to do this, engaging with schools, sixth forms, universities and colleges to ensure that we are Leading, Defending and Enriching Jewish life on campus and at EVERY institution, leading from the front and not being afraid to challenge.
Celebrating 100 years of UJS also gives us the opportunity to re-engage our Alumni. We have an incredible history of people who have felt the impact of UJS directly and indirectly, and we want to hear from you. Our current students deserve to be inspired by our incredible alumni, and to this end our centenary and beyond will give an opportunity to re-engage with all those for whom UJS played an important and formative part of your life.
UJS will continue to build on the exceptional work of previous years in representing Jewish students in all circumstances, staying true to our mantra of Leading, Defending and Enriching Jewish life on campus. This will include deepening institutional and collegiate relationships across the country so that if and when we need to call upon our allies, we can and we will.
Most importantly though it is a good time to be a Jewish student in the UK and Ireland. There is no campus in the country where Jewish students cannot set foot for fear of attack, there is no institution in the country where Jewish students must hide their identity, and there is certainly no Jewish society outright banned for their beliefs – all things that have happened in the past, and none of which are occurring today. That is absolutely not to say that hatred, anti-Jewish racism, antisemitism, targeted anti-Zionism and even some instances of these being institutionalised- can happen and do. UJS stands on the front-line of calling out and tackling these disgusting forms of hatred when they target our student communities or individuals. But as my colleague Hannah (UJS President) wrote in the Jewish News, “Antisemitism is exhausting and debilitating. But it does not consume the lives of Jewish students, and the headlines should not let it consume them either.”
We must, and will continue to, enable Jewish students to be proud of their identity and not to ever feel they must hide any part of it. The entire community should support UJS in this and we, in turn, will support all those working with students to create a diverse, rich and vibrant campus life.
In his leaving blog, reflecting on his time at UJS David urged all to “Be proud, be passionate, and maybe a little more patient and pragmatic”. These words could not be more important to listen to and take heed of.
So from me, I will build on that and look to the future. My message to all, students and non-students alike is to be bold, be strong, be idealistic and challenge us all to be better!
I am really looking forward to meeting our diverse and exciting student community and getting to know everyone our student movement has impacted on. I can’t wait to get started!
Arieh Miller, CEO of UJS