Education minister addresses sixth formers at campus anti-Semitism forum

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Education minister addresses sixth formers at campus anti-Semitism forum

I-gnite organises inaugural pre-university preparation day with Robert Halfon, CST and Campaign Against Anti-Semitism advising students what to expect, and how to prepare, for life on campus this September

Left to right: Harlow MP Robert Halfon, Gideon Falter, CEO CAA, Mark Gardner, CEO CST. Pic: I-GNITE
Left to right: Harlow MP Robert Halfon, Gideon Falter, CEO CAA, Mark Gardner, CEO CST. Pic: I-GNITE

An organisation which helps to empower young people to express their Jewish identity and relationship with Israel through education held its inaugural pre-university preparation event at JW3 on Sunday 3rd March.

The I-gnite event welcomed 120 sixth-form students from 35 schools to hear from Mark Gardner, chief executive officer of CST, Gideon Falter, chief executive officer of Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and Harlow MP Robert Halfon, the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, who each shared advice and anecdotes with the Year 12 and 13 students.

Attendees also had the opportunity to take part in panel discussions about what campus anti-semitism looks like and what communal organisations can provide to support Jewish journeys on campus.

The Right Honourable Robert Halfon, MP, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education said: “I’m doing everything I can in my role to support Jewish students to ensure that universities know we will not stand for what has gone on. If I have to ring every vice chancellor in the country, I will do so.”

Mark Gardner, chief executive of CST, explained how antisemitism can manifest itself on campus and how so much support exists for Jewish students. Explaining that CST has student security groups at 37 campuses, he said: “Campus is the one place where Jews are opposed as Jews. Whatever Jewish student you want to be, you have so much more resource at your disposal than any other group of students on campus. And it’s all because we care. We just want you to go, have a great time on campus and be strong and resilient and say what’s on your mind and be there for each other.”

Pic: I-gnite, 3rd March 2024, JW3

Gideon Falter, chief executive officer of Campaign Against Antisemitism spoke about how students can take action. He said: “If people have a problem with Jews it’s their problem not your problem. You’re not supposed to have to go through university fighting people off. It’s our job collectively to stand behind you as Jewish students.”

He added: “It’s really significant that the minister for higher education and the CEO of CST have taken time out of their Sunday to be here with us. We’re all very active and very busy right now but this is probably one of the most important things we will do in terms of our public speaking at the moment.”

In a student-moderated debate on what it means to be Jewish at university today, Daniel Burke, UK Lawyers for Israel said: “You can put your heads down and put up with antisemitism, or you can put your heads up and remember that you have three and a half thousand years of incredible proud history behind you”, whilst Sophie Dunnoff said the University Jewish Chaplaincy was “there on campuses to ensure that you can lead a very full, very proud and enriching Jewish life.”

Emily Sinclair, the president of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said: “There is a lot of fear on campus right now. It’s understandable. UJS will direct you to the organisations where to go.  But there is also a lot of joy on campus at the moment. Since October 7 we’ve seen the biggest Friday night dinners we’ve seen at university.”

Devorah Stoll from, StandWithUs said: “It’s important to educate yourselves on your history and be proactive and speak up for your people”.

The event left students feeling informed and empowered and some even inspired to take on leadership positions at university.

A spokesperson from I-gnite said: “We felt this event was essential at a time of rising campus antisemitism and a resurgence of Jewish pride. We want to ensure that Jewish sixth formers go to university feeling informed, supported and proud. The afternoon left them feeling empowered, inspired and knowing where to go for help. We hope this event will become a key component of pre-university preparation for Jewish students.”

Undergraduates from several universities spoke to sixth-formers and offered advice and guidance, with representatives from partner organisations, including Aish, Camera UK, Chazak, JLE, the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and Tribe, manning information stands.

All participants at the event are eligible to attend a public speaking course with Lord Mann, the Government’s Advisor on Antisemitism, after exams.

The event was such a success that I-gnite hopes to make it an annual fixture.

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