This year UJS Conference was like no other, we combined the old with the new and the physical with the virtual to create a brand-new hybrid Conference. We saw our largest ever attendance, over 80 motions submitted and a massively engaged student body. Not every motion could be discussed and not every motion passed, but the uniqueness of this year’s conference, was that it gave an opportunity for many Jewish students who have never engaged with Conference before to come along and have a say in their Union, guiding the work of UJS for the future. But this is only the cherry on top of an incredible cake.
The 2021 Conference also saw Joel Rosen announced as the winner of UJS Presidential Election for 2022-23, with an almost 60% majority in the first round of voting. Joel will take over in June 2022 from his predecessor and incumbent president Nina Freedman, and together with his team, he will be ready to once more start a brand-new year of UJS.
It is incredible to see that this year Conference saw a huge breadth of motions including UJS reducing waste at events, improving representation of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish traditions, the placement of siddurim on campus and to donate leftover food from Friday night dinners. We also saw the passing of a motion for UJS and JSocs to be more inclusive for students who identify as neurodivergent, committing members of the JSoc to receive training on this specifically, and for UJS to work with community organisations to educate about fighting against misogyny on campus.
This year’s Conference showed that Jewish students are not backing down when it comes to standing up against antisemitism on their campus. With an increasing number of antisemitic incidents across the UK and Ireland, and many Jewish students describing their campuses as ‘hostile environments’, UJS Conference proved that Jewish students will not be silent. It was incredible to see many motions focusing on tackling online hate speech, combatting antisemitism in both academic and student spaces on campus and for UJS to be working more broadly within the Higher Education sector to tackle antisemitism. Additionally, a motion to reaffirm UJS commitment to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of antisemitism was passed unanimously.
Motions that were not discussed have been remitted to the National Executive Committee, include topis on UJS Israel Advocacy, our work on fighting hate speech on campus, standing against xenophobia towards Israelis and many MANY more. UJS’ structures ensure that every motion that students have put time and effort into bringing to UJS can be discussed and debated and have the opportunity to become UJS policy for the future.
Lastly, UJS Conference 2021 was a day full of passion, engagement and excitement, and despite difference and debate within our Union, students left feeling fulfilled, listened to, and engaged in the democratic processes of the Union of Jewish Students, connected to 102 years of history and an endless amount of potential for the future.
Watch this space!