More than 100 student leaders back suspension of JNF UK schemes over chair’s ‘Islamophobia and bigotry’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

More than 100 student leaders back suspension of JNF UK schemes over chair’s ‘Islamophobia and bigotry’

Open letter signed by current and former UJS presidents express 'grave concerns' about Samuel Hayek's recent inflammatory remarks and the charity’s 'complete inaction'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Businessman Samuel Hayek at a ceremony in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, marking the dedication of a city square in honor of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, on November 26, 2019. Photo by Flash90
Businessman Samuel Hayek at a ceremony in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, marking the dedication of a city square in honor of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, on November 26, 2019. Photo by Flash90

More than 100 school and student leaders have backed a call to suspend all programmes run by the JNF UK, in response to the “Islamophobia and bigotry” displayed by the charity’s chairman Samuel Hayek.

An open letter, currently signed by 105 Jewish student and youth group representatives, was sent to the trustees of the UK’s oldest Israel charity on Monday evening.

Amongst the signatories on the letter were current Union of Jewish Students president Nina Freedman, Joel Rosen, who will replace her next year, alongside leading figures in Bristol, Warwick, Oxford and Cambridge JSocs, amongst many others.

Ex-students from JFS and Yavneh College also sign the letter, along with members of the Habonim Dror, LJY-Netzer and Noam Masorti Youth movements.

Quoting comments made by Hayek to the Jewish News and Jerusalem Post, in which he suggested the future of Jews in the UK was threatened as a result of Muslim immigration, and also claims that Islam was a violent religion, the letter’s signatories agreed JNF UK’s work “has been firmly entrenched in our childhoods: many of us have fundraised for the JNF, we have given tzedakah to the JNF, and we have toured parts of Israel with the JNF. ”

But it then warned: “However, now we are gravely concerned about these comments and of JNF UK’s complete inaction on the matter.

“Our communal institutions, schools and youth movements have taught us Jewish values of ‘loving thy neighbour’, and Hayek’s comments are the antithesis of this. ”

Joel Rosen

The signatories, who continue to grow in number and include former UJS president Hannah Rose, then stated:”We will not sit idly by as Islamophobia and bigotry is tolerated at the heart of British Jewry.

“As such, until such a time that the JNF has proved itself to be serious about responding to these comments, we will:

“1. Ask our schools and Jewish societies to suspend further programming run by the JNF UK – such as the 6th Form Programme in JFS and Yavneh College – refuse to take part in it ourselves, and educate our peers on the truth about JNF UK.

“2. Encourage our youth movements to have no further contact with the JNF and associated organisations.

“3. Ask the Board of Deputies to suspend the JNF’s membership which brings our community into disrepute. ”

It ended by warning:”As a community, we not only expect zero tolerance of antisemitism, but all forms of hatred.

Nina Freedman

“We, the future of British Jewry, do not feel represented by the JNF, and will not be linked to Samuel Hayek’s comments or – by association – the JNF. ”

The letter was accompanied by a further call for action from current Union of Jewish Students president Nina Freedman who wrote in an online article how “Islamophobia has a dangerously strong grip in parts of our community.”

In the article, published on the UJS website, Freedman added:”Let me put it in very simple terms: we are not doing enough to counter the scourge of Islamophobia within our community.

“For too long, people have turned a blind eye to the obvious prejudice of some of our peers.

“It is truly disappointing that it has taken a senior community figure’s hurtful comments for this conversation to come to the fore, but now that it has, it will not go away, and we should use this as an opportunity for education, for self-reflection, and most importantly for making real and long-lasting change within our community.

“Racism of course must have no place in our Jewish student community. As UJS President, I pledge to continue to call out racism, bigotry and hatred wherever I see it, and to take an active stance against such prejudice.”

A further short statement from one of the creators of the letter, Jack Lubner, a member of the UJS National Council and a Cambridge J-Soc committee member added: “As Jews, we are sadly all too familiar with the incendiary danger of prejudice, conspiracy theories and racial hatred. When we have been attacked, we have rightfully appealed to those outside our communities to stand with us and be our allies.

“We expect support from other parts of society because we hope they see the bigger picture: that racism that starts with one minority never ends with one minority. This holds true for Jews and Muslims – we have a responsibility to each other.

“That’s why a group of us wrote this open letter calling for the resignation of Samuel Hayek from his position as Chairman of the JNF UK.

“It has been signed by people across the political and religious spectrum, including past and present Jewish student leaders.

“Whether we grew up in LJY-Netzer or spent our summers with B’nei Akiva, all of us recognise our shared responsibility to take concrete action on racism wherever we find it – and that includes our own community.”

You can view the letter here.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: