Yesterday UJS (the Union of Jewish Students) hosted its annual training seminar for students heading to campus in the coming weeks. 40 students from 19 campuses across England and Wales gathered to attend Time to Lead in London, where they attended sessions to prepare them for the new academic year.
The keynote address was given by Gilad Erdan MK, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Erdan thanked students for their involvement, which he called ‘brave and admirable.’ He added: ‘You are not alone in this struggle. All of Israel stands behind you; all those who want to make a better future for Israelis and Palestinians stand behind you.’ His words were met with hearty applause.
The Minister also addressed the importance of combatting the BDS movement and reiterated that the road to peace ‘is paved only with diplomacy and dialogue, not isolation. Solutions come from engagement and effort, not hate and hostility. Boycotts make peace less likely, not more.’
The Minister closed his address by referring to the moment in the Torah just before Joshua led the People of Israel into the Land of Israel, when Moses told him ‘Chazak v’Ematz’: be strong and have courage. This, Erdan said, is his message to Jewish students as they return to campus.
Other sessions throughout the day included a discussion facilitated by UJS President Josh Seitler, in which J-Soc committee representatives discussed how to make J-Socs and J-Soc events inclusive to all; they explored the differences and similarities between various denominations of Judaism and considered practical ways to make J-Soc spaces welcoming to everyone. Meanwhile, student activists discussed antisemitism and anti-Zionism with David Hirsh, and Jami offered mental health support training. Robbie Young, NUS Vice President Society and Citizenship, joined the seminar too. Robbie is currently working to increase national understanding and awareness of the issues facing Jewish students, so Time to Lead provided him with an opportunity to hear from a range of students on a range of campuses.
Rebecca Filer, a student at the University of Bristol, commented that the day was ‘really great’ and it had been ‘worthwhile’ coming along, whilst Josh Aroesti from the University of Reading felt that not only had the day been ‘very enjoyable’ but that he felt keen to increase his involvement with UJS after making friends with other students at Time to Lead.