The primary function of the UJS President is to represent all Jewish students – a task which at times can certainly be difficult to get right. Our student community is richly diverse, with a plethora of contradictory and conflicting opinions. Nevertheless, I’m eager to fulfil the role to the best of my ability and to have a meaningful impact on Jewish student life.
UJS has already succeeded in encouraging Jewish students to conceptualise their Jewish identity in a positive way; moreover, Jewish students have spoken out about their Judaism and have actively promoted the Jewish community in the wider world on campus. This was achieved in part due to the highly valuable work of the campaigns team and their development of the Jewish Experience Week (J.E.W.) campaign, which saw students across the country standing up for their Jewish identities, communities and beliefs. At the beginning of a new year, I can only look forward to seeing what the new Campaigns Director and the Campaigns Development Officer achieve in the coming months.
Going forward, it’s vital that we capitalise on Jewish students’ enthusiasm for the J.E.W. campaign. It has proved that Jewish life on campus is rewarding. However, I believe that now is the time to instil in students and understanding that Judaism is for life, not just for campus.
For many young Jewish people, having worthwhile and regular involvement in their Jewish societies will be the peak of their Jewish life. Considering the opportunities offered by the community at large, for all ages preceding and beyond the student demographic, this is surely a sad loss. But no fear. Here, UJS can make a difference.
Throughout the coming year, I plan on ensuring that – in addition to its current projects and initiatives – UJS devotes attention to becoming a valuable and meaningful access point for Jewish students to familiarise themselves with the Anglo-Jewish community, its stakeholders, leaders and key organisations. Having an empowering experience at university should only be the beginning of a lifetime’s awareness of and gratitude for what British Jewry has to offer.
Undoubtedly, sowing these seeds of confidence amongst young British Jews to get further involved in Jewish life beyond campus is no easy task. But I believe the answer can be found in inclusion. We will continue to work further with a vast range of student demographics and will aim to loosen the boundaries of our circles. We will champion the thriving community organisations which aid and nurture Jewish life in Britain, connecting them with our students. We will cherish our students who are committed to each and every stream of denominational Judaism, and celebrate the youth movements and synagogues that have shaped and enriched their lives.
By contributing to the crafting of a Jewish journey for young people, I hope that student interaction with UJS becomes simply a stepping stone and not an isolated event. It is truly through this kind of continuity that we will serve our young community best and safeguard a flourishing future for Anglo-Jewry.
It is true that I have big hopes – and this article has only touched on one element of my ideas for the year. However, as we all do, I believe that the Anglo-Jewish community is precious. As rates of aliyah rise across Europe, UJS can demonstrate to young Jews that there is vibrancy here, and that this vibrancy is worth investing in.
Students are the future protagonists of our story. Looking ahead to our next few chapters, I can only anticipate the greatness that is still to come.