Peter Strauss, 2nd Year Oxford Brookes, studying Computer Science.
Hi, my name is Peter Strauss, I am in my second year of studying and am UJS National Council Elect & LGBTQ+ Caucus leader for the Union of Jewish Students.
UJS, for me, is a space for Jewish students of all backgrounds and denominations to meet and come together to ensure that all higher educational spaces are welcoming and celebratory spaces for Jewish students. UJS empowers Jewish students to feel proud of Israel and their Jewish identity and makes sure that anyone can practise their religion in the way they would like.
As LGBTQ+ caucus leader I have seen how people can present themselves differently at university and while in their normal communal environment they may not feel comfortable identifying as a Queer Jew at university they may present as Queer. For this reason UJS’ work on making Jewish societies and all UJS events open spaces is so vital. UJS works very closely with different communal organisations to ensure that everyone feels welcome.
Something I am particularly proud of that UJS has recently done is at our student conference we overwhelmingly passed a motion to produce and distribute a guidebook to all student leaders on how to be inclusive to all and to work with a Jewish LGBTQ+ partner organisation to ensure everyone feels welcomed regardless of sexuality. We also held a liberation conference in January that welcomed over thirty students from different minorities within the UJS student body. The LGBTQ+ Caucus focused our discussions on personal experiences within the Jewish community being queer and had some deeply important discussions on how much UJS had achieved in helping queer Jewish students but also what more UJS needs to do. I am really excited to be working with the UJS team to implement these changes.
I wouldn’t say I have one particular LGBTQ+ role model. I am deeply inspired by many members of the Jewish queer community who have fought for queer rights on both a civil level and a religious level and who consistently challenge perceptions within the Jewish community about queer people. I have always admired the work of Rabbi Lionel Blue Z”l who always challenged people to think differently and believed in tolerance and learning. I am thankful that I have grown up in a generation that is completely accepting of me for my sexuality and I think UJS having one of the first openly gay CEOs in the Jewish Community shows how, like many student campuses, UJS are a liberal thinking modern organisation that I am proud as a gay Jew to be a part of.