Jewish students didn’t let snow and travel disruption get in the way of a day of thoughtful and passionate debate discussing and deciding policy at UJS Conference 2017.
39 motions were submitted and some important policy passed including working with universities and students' unions to ensure observant students' needs are accommodated surrounding timetabling, exams and deadlines; combatting online harassment; raising awareness of Jewish genetic diseases; and campaigning to reopen the Dubs amendment.
As a cross communal union we’re committed to leading, defending and enriching Jewish Life on Campus and the students’ views reflected this during motions in regards to Campus. Conference re-affirmed UJS’s commitment to ongoing interfaith work which is seeing an ever growing engagement and presence on campuses across the UK, with Jewish students having been involved in a record 90 events and initiatives in 2017. The safety and welfare of Jewish students on campus is paramount and this was no more evident than with the reaffirmation of CST as the port of call on campus in dealing with antisemitism and the vote to re-issue and maintain UJS’ no platform policy in regards to individuals who spout Holocaust denial. UJS proactively and passionately continue to build a safe environment on campus, free from hate speakers in accordance with the law. Most recently, Campaigns Manager Liron Velleman provided evidence to the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into free speech on campus.
Conference voted to endorse the positions that Jewish students should elect their own representatives onto the National Union of Students (NUS) ARAF committee. Jewish students do not currently have any guaranteed representation in the national or liberation democratic structures in the NUS and this policy seeks to change this. Our campuses are no exception to the national rise in racism and fascism, which affects Jewish students among all those targeted by these vile forms of hatred. UJS Campaigns Manager Liron Velleman said, ‘Jewish students have been involved in anti-racism and anti-fascism activism within the student movement for many decades, but with no guaranteed representation in NUS’ national or liberation structures, the ARAF committee is the only place that Jewish students can be certain their voices will be represented within that organisation. Though there are often Jewish members on NUS’ National Executive Council, they have not been elected by Jewish students and therefore cannot be held to account by Jewish students. With the passing of this motion, we’ll be seeking to work with NUS to find a system that allows Jewish students to vote for their own representatives, ensuring that the only guaranteed representation of Jewish students within NUS can democratically represent and be held accountable by those students – a position endorsed by a former NUS President.’
On the back of UJ4 Building Bridges in the Palestinian territories being passed, Josh Holt, UJS president said ‘As a union we remain firmly committed to combatting BDS and campaigning for a two-state solution, longstanding positions that have been affirmed overwhelmingly at every UJS Conference for many years.’ Our Bridges Not Boycotts campaign is moving into its third year thanks to tremendous engagement of over 12,000 students from a diverse range of faiths and backgrounds.
Almost unanimously, the motion to develop the numbers of Women in Leadership passed. Dana Winter, former president of Leeds J-Soc and proposer of the motion engaged the conference floor and spoke powerfully, ‘Although we have made so much progress, there is still a big difference in the numbers of men and women in leadership positions. The lack of female leaders can unfortunately lead to a discouragement for women when applying for such positions. Men tend to aim for more leadership positions in the Jewish and wider world, which should not be the case. This motion is not about putting people into positions without them being qualified for them. This motion wants to see 50% reserved positions for women or non – binary individuals in all UJS structures, including the board of deputies, national council and the UJS sabbatical team. We want to improve representation and this structure will only be necessary until we overcome subconscious gender bias. Women need more encouragement to put themselves in to leadership positions. UJS should empower under represented voices, especially women, to go out into the world as leaders.’
UJS are proud that three of the last five UJS presidents to have been elected have been women and are determined to continue providing open and welcoming spaces for women in leadership. UJS seeks to continue engaging and educating students on this important topic which has featured prominently at UJS events across the UK including liberation conference and summit weekends. We anticipate a strong turnout for the re-launch of the UJS Women’s Network on January 7th and believe this event can act as a catalyst to build on this motion.
UJS and students alike are always keen to ensure their union is as representative as possible which has been highlighted recently by the focus groups we have run in order to hear how we can better accommodate Sephardi and Mizrachi students. Motion UJ19 continues this trend by calling on our union to review how we can continue to be as cross communal as possible and further this vital area of our work.
Online abuse and trolling is unfortunately a common theme for students of various backgrounds and faiths. Mindful of the experiences of current and past Jewish students including Izzy Lenga, Zachary Confino, Luciana Berger MP and current campaigns manager Liron Velleman, UJS has reaffirmed its commitment to stand by the brave current and former Jewish student activists who combat hate and tackle trolling and online aggression. Motion UJ5 seeks to circulate resources regarding online harassment while working in tandem with social media sites to reduce the abusive messages seen online.
As a cross-communal organisation, UJS believes that UJS and J-Soc activities should be open to all Jewish students. We aspire to represent students who are traditional, progressive, cultural and spiritual; we come from the left, centre and right and can be found across religious and political spectrums. This value was reaffirmed in motion UJ12, calling for ‘Active Pluralism’. Based on this policy, we will continue our efforts for UJS and J-Socs to be welcoming and inclusive, as illustrated at our recent cross-communal leadership summit.
This sentiment was echoed in motion UJ24 calling for the inclusion of non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish students. Students who hold these views have often informed UJS that they’re made to feel unwelcome in J-Socs and other Jewish spaces. This motion gained support from many students who are Zionist, yet understand J-Soc and UJS activity and educational discussions can and should allow space for dissenting views, even if they are held by a very small proportion of our membership.
This motion focused on the inclusion of a small minority group within our diverse and dynamic union. This one policy will be implemented within the context of being a union led this year and next by Presidents elected in votes where over 90% of students supported Zionist candidates. This policy will be added to current policy governing our work alongside our constitution, core values, and many other policies on Israel education and campaigns – including clearly and consistently mandated policy to combat BDS and promote Two States for Two Peoples.
Community is an integral and imperative part of UJS work. This was echoed by the vote to ensure UJS is committed to Social Action through positive change. Mitzvah Day, our Succot homelessness project and the upcoming launch of the Chanukah anti-slavery project are the most recent initiatives which have provided the opportunity for hundreds of Jewish students to be involved in Social Change. UJS organised a rally for Aleppo in 2016 which provided the platform to begin a wider social action programme in which UJS has committed to expanding its work in this area, supporting students to raise awareness and coordinate donation drives for Syrian refugees. This year’s conference reemphasised our commitment to the fight against Islamophobia and called on UJS to mobilise our members in support of the campaign to reopen Dubs Amendment.
Conference voted unanimously to pass motion CO1 to Save Lives and Support Opt-Out Organ Donations. Michali Belovski, former president of City and Cass J-Soc put forward an amendment (which was accepted as friendly and passed) that seeks to educate students about the reasons that one might choose to opt out with a particular focus on halachic reasons. Michali spoke passionately and openly, ‘There are halachic issues with organ donation, but that doesn’t mean we should stop people from donating organs if they wish. The amendment to the motion will encourage people to participate in halachically acceptable ways such as blood donation, bone marrow donation and further research into halachic organ donation’. The coming together of orthodox, progressive and secular students in shaping this motion to respond to the passions and needs of various types of Jewish expression demonstrated how our unified, not uniform, union can come together to take action inspired by many interpretations of Jewish values.
Summary of Motions - please click here to read the full text of motions below
CA1 UJS should re-issue and maintain its no platform policy in regards to individuals who spout Holocaust denial
CA2 Timetabling, exams and deadlines
CA3 Affirming the UJS Commitment to ongoing Interfaith Work CA4 Jewish Genetic Disease Awareness
CA5 Reaffirmation of CST as the port of call on campus in dealing with antisemitism
CA6 No Hate Speech on Campus (additional notes: there was a procedure motion to remove how you want it to happen point 1- this fell. The motion passes as fully written)
CA7 Jewish students should elect their own representatives
UJ2 Establish a Clear Framework for Individual Event or Programme Funding
UJ3 UJS should provide better support for J-Soc balls
UJ4 Building Bridges in the Palestinian territories
UJ5 Online harassment: it’s not on
UJ12 Active Pluralism
UJ14 Women in Leadership (and constitutional amendment)
UJ19 Internal Review of UJS
UJ24 Inclusion of non-Zionist, anti-Zionist and Zi-Curious Jewish students and their ideas
CO1 Save Lives, Support Opt-Out Organ Donations (with amendment)
CO2 Ensuring UJS is committed to Social Action through positive change and not just financial donations
CO3 Campaign to reopen Dubs Amendment
CO4 Fighting Islamophobia
CO5 Make Votes Fair: Support Automatic Voter Registration
C06 Liberation History Months (with amendment)
UJ8 UJS should not support exclusive groups
UJ1 Make ‘listening’ UJS’ fifth core value
16 Differed to UJS national council
UJ6 Presidential accountability at UJS
UJ7 A clear plan for Jewish student mental health
UJ9 Working with Youth Movements
UJ10 (with constitutional change) Maximising Conference voting and engagement
UJ11 Location and timing of national UJS events to include Scottish JSocs
UJ13 More accessible kosher food
UJ15 UJS should have a travel policy in order to allow J-Soc members to attend events at other J-Socs
UJ16 Supporting International Students
UJ17 Defining Zionism
UJ18 (with amendment) This Union will work to ensure orthodox practising students feel they have a place on any campus
UJ20 Prohibiting dating apps as a mechanism to campaign in elections
UJ21 It’s beigels not bagels
UJ22 Support non-violence in Israel-Palestine
UJ23 Commemorate the Nakba
CO7 Condemn massacres of Palestinians and call on Israel to apologise
CO8 (and amendment) Stop Birthright trips