CAM­PUS Leader who thought he was too frum for UJS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY NAOMI FIRSHT

THE NEXT leader of the Union of Jewish Stu­dents never ex­pected to get in­volved in cam­pus pol­i­tics, but was thrown in at the deep end af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at first hand anti-Is­rael hos­til­ity at his Lon­don univer­sity.

Josh Seitler, who beat three other can­di­dates in last month’s UJS pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, said that com­ing from a frum back­ground in Manch­ester meant stu­dent ac­tivism was not a nat­u­ral choice for him.

“Frum stu­dents aren’t nec­es­sar­ily en­gaged with UJS. They only go to univer­si­ties in three or four cities so stick to­gether and don’t feel like they need UJS,” he said.

But an episode at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, where he is a fi­nal year stu­dent in crim­i­nol­ogy, shocked him into get­ting in­volved.

He said: “I was quite shel­tered, I wasn’t re­ally in­volved in pol­i­tics. Then I ex­pe­ri­enced my first Is­rael Apartheid Week in 2014 [an an­nual cam­paign held by pro-Pales­tinian stu­dents] and I thought: why do I feel so un­com­fort­able on cam­pus? It made me aware of how se­ri­ous the sit­u­a­tion can be.”

As a re­sult, Mr Seitler, 21, started at­tend­ing UJS events and found him­self be­com­ing more en­gaged with stu­dent pol­i­tics, even­tu­ally be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the Is­rael so­ci­ety in his se­cond year.

“The things I felt very per­sonal about I got in­volved in. I went on Man­higut [a UJS Is­rael ac­tivism trip], and to the World Union of Jewish Stu­dents con­fer­ence. I was only 20 and writ­ing a mo­tion at a world congress.

“I pre­sented the mo­tion, I spoke and it was unan­i­mously passed. I was shocked; I’m just a nor­mal stu­dent. I didn’t re­alise how much of an im­pact you can make. If you’ve got some­thing to say you can get up and say it and the world is there to lis­ten to you.”

LSE is known for anti-Is­rael ac­tiv­ity — most re­cently an ex­hi­bi­tion in the stu­dent union came un­der fire for com­mem­o­rat­ing Pales­tini­ans in­volved in ter­ror at­tacks.

Mr Seitler said com­bat­ing anti-Is­rael cam­paigns will be one of the big­gest is­sues he will have to tackle when he takes up his post i n the

Josh Seitler sum­mer. He be­lieves UJS should tai­lor its ac­tions to each in­di­vid­ual cam­pus.

“What it means is that stu­dents have a big in­volve­ment in UJS’s re­sponse. It’s no good UJS im­me­di­ately writ­ing a re­sponse. What they should be do­ing is phon­ing up the stu­dents in­volved and then for­mu­lat­ing a re­sponse. It has to come from the stu­dents.”

One of his pri­or­i­ties is to have UJS rep­re­sen­ta­tives meet stu­dents in as many univer­si­ties as pos­si­ble. An­other aim is the cre­ation of a net­work for JSocs, which would in­clude us­ing so­cial me­dia to share ad­vice. Mr Seitler is a for­mer pupil of the Charedi school Manch­ester Me­sivta and also stud­ied at a yeshiva. He is keen to get more religious speak­ers from all de­nom­i­na­tions onto cam­puses in the hope of bet­ter en­gag­ing Ortho­dox and Pro­gres­sive stu­dents. “I’m very ex­cited at the thought of look­ing back in a year and half’s time and hav­ing more Jewish stu­dents in­volved in the union,” he said.

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