Race hate a key issue in campus elections
CANDIDATES FOR the top job in Jewish student politics are making their final appeals to their electorate.
The contest for the chair of the Union of Jewish Students is usually a two-horse race, but this time there are four, all final-year students campaigning on improving Israel’s image and fighting antisemitism on campus.
They are canvassing via personal websites, YouTube videos and Facebook groups, as well as traditional flyer campaigns.
Manchester University’s Adam Pike, 22, promises to front “a new strategy to challenge Israel’s critics by the whole Jewish community”.
With “students among the most active and passionate, dealing with these issues each day, working with opinion-formers of the future, they should be on the front line”. He views current efforts throughout the community as “ad hoc” and calls for a “thought-out, three- to five-year strategydealingwith Israel’s image”. On a student level, this would include trips to Israel aimed at a non-Jewish audience, as pro-Palestinian trips are proving very successful and “we are losing, if we have not already lost, hearts and minds on campus to them”.
Harrison Cohen, 20, at UCL, wants to make UJS truer to its policy on antisemitism, saying: “Zero tolerance to antisemitism is something that UJS promotes, but something it still needs to achieve.”
Adam Levy, 21, at Manchester University, wants a stronger union more prepared to combat antisemitism “through whatever route, whether motions in meetings, legal avenues, or by increasing understanding through more interfaith work”.
He says that UJS must press student unions harder, as they sometimes turn a blind eye to antisemitism. “In Manchester, there has been antisemitic chanting and nothing was done.”
Bristol University student Etan Smallman, 21, believes UJS campaigning is already “at the top of its game” and wants to broaden its focus. He promises a week of social-action projects in association with Jewish and non-Jewish organisations and increased campaigning on Darfur.
The candidates are divided on ways to boost membership. According to Mr Cohen, the union is stuck in the “middle ground” of British Jewry “and alienating the more religious and the more secular”. He says it needs to run more niche events for students from varying backgrounds.
Mr Levy thinks UJS events are low impact, on grounds of quality rather than focus. “The reason that UJS is smaller than it should be is that for a while it has not been as good as it should be. This should be changed by improving the quality of events and services we offer.”
Mr Pike wants UJS to pull in more people by running a careers service, setting up internships and keeping databases of scholarships. Mr Smallman pledges to address UJS’s “real image problem” and cater for mature students, who are “almost completely neglected”.
Hustings and voting will take place at roadshows nationwide over the coming week, with the winner announced shortly afterwards.