A little bit about UJS

Our history and impact

The IUJF (Inter University Jewish Federation) was the creation of the Manchester Jewish Association. They had the vision and the foresight to comprehend a growing pride in the Jewish community and that the time was ripe for Jewish students to have a national organisation to co-ordinate the activities of the Jewish student Societies and to represent Jewish students at a national level.

Their first step was to host a conference in Manchester on July 17th 1919 at which four societies were represented: Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Oxford. Although not represented on the outset, the London University Jewish Society subsequently took an active and eventually a leading part in the federation’s affairs.

In 1946 the following Universities had societies affiliated to the Federation: Belfast; Birmingham; Cambridge; Cardiff; Dublin; Durham; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Leeds; Liverpool; London; Manchester; Oxford; Reading; Sheffield.

The two main activities of the Federation, from its inception, were an annual Summer School and an Annual Conference, held in the winter vacation. 

With the rise to power of the Nazis, large numbers of Jewish students had their studies disrupted and many sought refuge in various countries outside Germany; the International Students Service was in the forefront of providing advice to these displaced students and financial assistance was made available from communal funds.  The Federation was active in supporting these efforts; almost £2000 was raised from University students in Britain. Our commitment to and connection with Jewish people across the world continued with involvement in the struggle to support Soviet Jewry. UJS takes huge pride (indeed schleps enormous nachas) in being the first Jewish students’ union in the world, and plays an active role in the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS.)

Throughout its existence the IUJF was involved with the general Jewish community. It was represented on the Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation and had an ongoing liaison with Jewish Youth Study Groups.

For almost fifty years from its foundation until the creation of the Hillel Foundation, the IUJF had no office, no staff, no sabbatical officers and no assured budget other than the money that the students could raise themselves.  The Federation was run from the rooms of the then Chairman or Secretary; all activities were organized by the students themselves on a voluntary basis in their spare time; from time to time small subventions were obtained from the general community. 

It was the partnership with B’nai B’rith set up the Hillel Foundation which provided the IUJF with its first permanent office and its first professional assistance. This enabled the Federation and its successor, UJS, to increase its work beyond the wildest expectations its founders.

Following the passing of Zionism = Racism at the United Nations in 1975, and some J-Socs being banned for being Zionist, UJS emerged as a leading force in the fight against those who attempt to demonise and delegitimise the State of Israel. The same decade witnessed the rise of the National Front in Britain and as we evolved as a campaigning union, UJS was at the forefront of the wider student movements anti-Racism anti-Fascism work; a leading role we continue to champion today.  

The organization was renamed UJS in 1973 and currently represents a constituency of approximately 8,500 Jewish students, with somewhere between 2500 – 3000 active members of its affiliated Jewish Societies (J-Socs) on individual campuses.

We are proud to be an incubator for future leaders of the Jewish community and beyond, including Alan Senitt z'l, Israel Lobbyist for BICOM and inaugural Director of the Coexistence Trust, Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Waverley and previously Shadow Minister for Mental Health, and Adam Pike, founder of BeyondMe and Supercarers. More recently, Jewish students continue to make phenomenal impact on the world around them - read more in our latest annual review.

We continue to impact positively upon the lives of Jewish students and many others thanks to the incredible support we receive - be a part of it here. 


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