Six years ago, I entered my university’s fresher fair and joined the Jewish society. Looking back, this small decision has had the biggest of impacts on my life.
University for me and for many students is a journey. We travel from all over the country, leaving our homes, our families, and our communities in an endeavour to gain independence, knowledge and to expand our horizons.
What I found at that fresher fair was a whole new family and community, one that awaits each year to welcome students into their new adopted home away from home. For Jewish students, life has been good on UK campuses. Jewish societies continue to thrive and grow; they are organising amazing events such as Friday Night Dinners, celebrations of festivals and exciting guest speakers.
However, Jewish students, just like the general Jewish community know that this friendly environment can change in a second. The last two weeks has shown this. UJS has been constantly receiving reports of horrific antisemitic instances taking place on campus and online. Jewish students know they can never be complacent. Antisemitism on campus continues to grow, universities and academics are still fighting against the IHRA definition of antisemitism and online hate is forever increasing. Universities need to step up, words are no longer enough, Jewish students need to see action.
Nonetheless, this will not stop Jewish students, it only emboldens them. Jewish students do not hide from these challenges but face them head on. In the past year alone, we have seen Bristol J-Soc demanding Hate Off Campus, Queen Mary J-Soc successfully campaigning for both their University and Student Union to adopt the IHRA definition, Warwick J-soc defeating a BDS motion, Jewish students organising a letter published in the Guardian newspaper and Jewish students holding their universities and vice-chancellors to account. Antisemitism will never be met with silence from Jewish students, J-socs or UJS.
As my six-year affiliation with UJS comes to an end, I am proud of the work I have achieved. From fighting antisemitism on my campus as J-Soc president to fighting antisemitism nationally as the Head of Campaigns for UJS. I am proud of the progress I have helped to achieve; over one hundred higher education institutions have now adopted the IHRA definition adopted, and we have delivered antisemitism training to hundreds of student union officers and staff. But overall, the best part of working for UJS has been working with incredible Jewish students.
Together we will never rest until antisemitism is eradicated from our society, until all universities are protecting and supporting their Jewish student and that the basic needs for Jewish students, like the supply of kosher food on campus, is being met. The Jewish students and societies I have worked with, across the country, show me that the future is bright. Jewish students will continue to thrive, will continue to succeed, and will always ensure that come Friday night, they can gather together as one community sharing stories over a bowl of chicken soup (or veggie alternative!).