Three quarters of Jewish students experience mental health challenges, says landmark survey

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Three quarters of Jewish students experience mental health challenges, says landmark survey

Partnered with Jewish News, Union of Jewish Students (UJS) also found nearly half of all Jewish students study in either Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Nottingham or Oxford

UJS survey 2024
UJS survey 2024

The largest ever survey of Jewish students in the UK has revealed that an overwhelming number are impacted by mental health challenges.

The National Jewish Student Survey 2024, of which 85 percent of responses were received prior to the Hamas atrocities of October 7th 2023, is only the second comprehensive study of the Jewish student experience from UJS.

The organisation represents 9,000 Jewish students, across 75 Jewish Societies (JSocs) on campuses across the UK and Ireland.

The survey recorded more than 1,000 student submissions between June and November 2023 and highlights a range of experiences of Jewish students from antisemitism and Israel experiences to mental health, Jewish life on campus, and post-university plans.

Included in the key findings are that 74 percent of Jewish students have reported experiencing a mental health difficulty in the last 12 months, which compares to 57 percent of British students, as recorded by mental health charity Student Minds in 2023.

A total of 29 different mental health difficulties were reported by Jewish students, including ‘stress’ (44%), ‘anxiety disorders’ (37%) and ‘depression’ (30%).

UJS Survey screenshot 2024

Nearly half of all Jewish students (44%) study in one of six cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Nottingham, and Oxford.

Over the last decade the numbers of Jewish students at campuses like Manchester have decreased (-37% since 2011) while others like Bristol have grown in the size of their Jewish populations (+200%).

It also found that top worries for Jewish students are the cost of living, events in Israel, antisemitism and climate change.

UJS Student Survey 2024 Screenshot

Thirty nine of Jewish students affiliate with modern orthodoxy, with Reform and Liberal students making up 24 perecnt of students. Masorti students make up 8 percent and 15 percent of Jewish students say they are ‘Just Jewish’.

The report adds that UJS’ Jewish Societies and national UJS programming are the most popular Jewish provision with 89 percent and 63 percent of Jewish students participating respectively and that 40 percent of Jewish students directly experienced antisemitism. More than three-quarters reported experienced ‘casual’ antisemitism.

Only around a third were comfortable talking about Israel at university.

UJS Student Survey 2024 Screenshot

Additionally, Jewish students have strong and positive feelings about Israel whilst only 14 percent would not identify as Zionist.

Nearly every respondent attend a Pesach seder each year, 95 percent light Chanukah candles, and 86 percent said they fast on Yom Kippur.

Whilst more than 90 percent of students said they had at least some knowledge of almost every area of Jewish life that the survey asked about, areas of Jewish life that students were less familiar with (‘no knowledge’) included Hebrew language (15%), stories of Tanach (8%), and traditional songs (7%).

UJS head of leadership development, Sarah Wilks said: “This is the first comprehensive study of Jewish student life since 2011, and the second ever. These results are hugely important and will shape UJS’ ongoing work to support Jewish students and provide the leadership skills, opportunities, and Jewish experiences that inspire so many to be active members of the Jewish community”

UJS Student Survey 2024 Screenshot

“One sobering fact remains, that many Jewish students aren’t interested in
working in the Jewish community, and if they do are only interested in working there for 1-2 years. This is a situation that needs to be resolved, we are seeing masses of student leaders emerge from our JSocs, yet for most of them this is where their Jewish leadership experience ends. It is essential for the future of the Jewish community that this changes.”

UJS Student Survey 2024 Screenshot

UJS President, Edward Isaacs said: “This survey provides invaluable insight into the experiences of Jewish students. Despite the challenges and complexities of Jewish campus life which stray far beyond the well documented reality of campus antisemitism, it is clear Jewish students have never been more motivated than they are now to live a meaningful Jewish life on campus.

“The figures of those experiencing mental health difficulties in the National Jewish Student Survey 2024 paint a concerning picture when compared to the national statistics. There are of course many possibilities as to why this could be and it would be irresponsible to over-hypothesise, but, regardless of comparative data, our community must address the need to support the mental health needs of this student generation.

“It is with pride that UJS continues to welcome more and more Jewish students to events and opportunities on campus than ever before. These insights will not only drive our work in the years ahead but should serve as a roadmap for the Jewish community to guarantee our collective future.”

To facilitate the National Jewish Student Survey, UJS partnered with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, CST, Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Jewish News, Progressive Jewish Students (PJS), University Jewish Chaplaincy, and UJIA.

To download the full report, click here. 

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