This blog was originally posted on the UJS website.
Over five days in December 2017, 165 Jewish students from 36 countries were united in Jerusalem for the World Union of Jewish Students Congress, the umbrella body for Jewish Student associations globally. Right from the start, there was a clear coming together based on a commitment to fight against BDS, antisemitism, anti-Zionism and of course by a love of cheesy Israeli pop tunes.
UJS took a delegation of six to Israel to network and learn with leaders from Jewish Student Unions from countries including Mexico, Geneva and Russia. It was fascinating and obviously worrying to hear about the creative forms and clear international trends of antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the rise of far right political parties. When discussing the work within different Unions, I found it interesting to hear about the various structures each country has in place to help Jewish students. This made me reflect on the ongoing relationship Jewish students have with NUS and how important this is to help ensure the Jewish Student experience is full, enriching and something to embrace.
The conference ended by looking back at 2017 and celebrating the achievements of Jewish students. It was amazing that UJS had been shortlisted for so many awards and on the night, the work of UJS was recognised in winning ‘The Interfaith Award’, ‘Local Jewish Student Association’ for Leeds J-Soc, the ‘Union Leader of the Year’ award for Previous UJS President Josh Seitler and I personally won the award for ‘Emerging Young Leader’.
Time was taken at the awards ceremony to recognise the incredible work of Yos Tarshish for Jewish Student life. Yos started out as the Vice President of Manchester J-Soc, was then voted President of UJS and has just completed 2 years as President of the World Union of Jewish Students. At the conference, Avigayil Benstein was elected the next President of WUJS. B’hatzlacha - we are excited to see where Avigayil takes the global Jewish student movement.
The conference made me realise that regardless of how established our Union is in the UK, all Jewish students who care about having, and creating space for others to have, an enriching experience, should be constantly challenging our priorities and focusing on innovating new ideas. WUJS Congress renewed my sense of belonging to a wider Jewish student movement. As part of this movement we must be open to positive influence from global student Jewry.
Lauren Keiles, Leeds J-Soc, Union of Jewish Students of the UK & Ireland
Check out amazing blogs and op-eds here by Jewish student leaders from all over the world.