Meet the FOUR UJS presidential candidates!

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Meet the FOUR UJS presidential candidates!

Four students have been selected as candidates to be the next president of the Union of Jewish Students, and here we find out what they want to do for Jewish students if elected..

The candidates are:

  • Alex Tansey, the former president of Durham Jewish Society studying History.
  • Jake Berger, the vice-president at Oxford Jewish Society, studying Psychology & Philosophy
  • Joel Salmon, the former president of St Andrews Jewish Society, president and founder of the St Andrews Coexistence Initiative, and studying International relations
  • Josh Seitler, the president of London School of Economics Israel Society, studying Criminology and Social Policy

Voting starts Tuesday 8 December and finishes on 14th December.

After logging in to the Union of Jewish Students website, you can view all four manifestos here. 

Joel, Josh, Jake and Alex

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ALEX TANSEY is former president of Durham Jewish Society, and is studying History at Durham University.

You can see his campaign page on Facebook HERE.  

Alex Tansey
Alex Tansey

Hi everyone! I’m Alex Tansey, and I want to be your next UJS President! I’m in my final year studying History at Durham University. I’m currently leading my Durham college as JCR president, and have been involved in the Jewish community through synagogue, my youth movement and as former president of Durham Jewish Society.

My experience of leadership in both Jewish and non-Jewish environments has allowed me to acquire a love and desire to represent communities, and this has been a very rewarding experience at university. My connection with the Jewish community has been lifelong: from crafting my own Jewish tour of eastern Germany, to leading Durham JSoc last year, I’m keen to continue this involvement past university. At Durham, we introduced more activities based on what students wanted: Genesis, a part-time chaplain, regular lunch and learns with a variety of denominational speakers and held many socials. Working with a great committee, we went on to win the ‘Chaplaincy Developing Jsocs’ prize at the UJS Student Awards and Durham has continued to grow!

In this, a big part was the involvement of the UJS: I was keen to have all the officers come up to Durham, run their own educational sessions or have meetups in town (taking them through the variety of Durham’s antique cafes!). I love meeting people, and through the UJS I have had many opportunities to meet a diverse and interesting range of fellow Jewish students. I was lucky enough to go on Manhigut and I’ve made friends and have had a lot of fun through the UJS. It would be an honour to represent Jewish students at an incredible ever-growing organisation which enhances both Jewish life and student experience.

My manifesto addresses three main points; inter-denomination dialogue, outreach and social action, and democratizing the UJS system.

I grew up in the Movement for Reform Judaism and have been part of the friendly United Hebrew Congregation in Newcastle for the past few years. A part of two communities, my interest in the diversity of the Jewish community has fostered a sense of understanding and respect for its denominations. Past presidents have sought to create an inclusive, welcoming and engaging UJS, and my focus is to further this and to expand on the commitment of UJS to be ‘cross-communal’; I believe there needs to be more inter-denominational dialogue.

 To truly reflect and appreciate Judaism’s diversity, there needs to be an active attempt to understand different backgrounds of the Jewish community. And what better way to start to learn than in the student environment?! By advertising the incredible resources and speaker links that UJS has, Jsocs will be able to create a comprehensive education programme to remind us all about the variety within the Jewish community and dispel any misconceptions. From this, we can branch out to other communities and not only achieve interfaith cooperation on our campuses, but also the real opportunity to commit to social action. I hope to make more use of the charities that the UJS has links with and provide the resources and encouragement for students to embark on their own social action projects. As students, we have the potential to make a real positive impact in our universities and further afield. Focussing on outreach and interfaith will allow for even greater social action projects to flourish!

 I want to continue the already smooth running of the UJS and its fantastic activities of education, campaigns, Israel engagement, and of course the social and fun side of the organisation. I want to ultimately hear what students want and need from their Union; there are 8,500 members, and as many as possible should have their voices heard and have access to the amazing opportunities at UJS. I’ll set up an organised year-long listening and talking campaign, where UJS officers will try to personally reach out to as many students as possible. We’ll hear what students want and how best UJS can help them and advertise what resources are available, individually tailoring them for what Jsocs and students want and hopefully set a plan for the next few years.

Having already experienced leadership and wider involvement in the Jewish community and greatly admiring UJS as an organisation, I would love to be the next President of the UJS- so that the organisation may flourish, develop and continue to enhance the lives of Jewish students for the next year of Jewish student life!

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Jake Berger

JAKE BERGER is the vice-president at Oxford Jewish Society,  and is studying Psychology & Philosophy. 

You can see his campaign page on Facebook HERE

If a person in the British Jewish community were to form their opinions of Jewish student life on the articles they read in the press, they could be forgiven for thinking that Jews on campus are under threat. The media often paint a bleak picture of Jewish student life; from national student paper The Tab declaring that ‘Hundreds of Jews are selecting their unis to avoid anti-Semitism’, to the Jerusalem Post saying Jewish students are ‘bullied’ into censoring any mention of Israel, to Bibi Netanyahu commenting on the National Union of Student’s (NUS) decision to support BDS.

Despite all the negative press, I passionately and genuinely believe that now is a great time to be a Jewish student in a UK university. And I should know. I’m actually a Jewish student.

I’ve been involved with a lot of stuff during my time as a student – I’m currently on the committee for Oxford Pink Week, I play football for my college JCR 1st XI (hat trick on my debut), and I’ve even dabbled with a bit of very amateur boxing. My mum was not happy about that last one.

Yet despite the range of extracurricular student activities I’ve been involved with, I can honestly say that my most fulfilling and rewarding experiences on campus have been my engagement with Jewish students, both in an official JSoc capacity during my time as Vice-President and Social Action rep, and when arranging informal events. Whether this has been DJ-ing the annual Chanukah party, starting up my own education discussion group initiative, or organising the Challah for Hunger social action event, my Jewish experience at university has been overwhelmingly positive and enhancing.

Having spoken to many students up and down the country in the run up to the campaign period, this sentiment is recognised elsewhere too. There are fantastic peer-led education initiatives in Cambridge and Leeds called Al Neharot Cam and Lishma. There are wildly fun and successful Booze for Jews events in Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham (amongst others). And there are record numbers in Bristol this year for Friday night dinners.

That said, it would be wrong for me to paint a solely positive picture of everything that happens on campus – we undoubtedly do face challenges. In my time here I have had to deal with anti-Semitism, have spoken out against BDS in my college, and there are struggles with levels of student engagement. These problems are not unique to my time at university – I know others have experienced the same issues on other campuses, too.

Therefore I want to talk about how we can most effectively tackle these challenges head on. And to do that I think I need to explain why I feel my Jewish student experience has been so positive.

My Jewish experience has been so fulfilling because of the other Jewish students I’ve met at university. In particular, it’s the breadth and diversity of these students that has massively enhanced my student experience. From Orthodox to Masorti to Reform, being involved in such a diverse, yet (on the whole) united and engaged group of students has made my own time at university so much greater, and made me so much more aware of my own identity. This is something I’m incredibly proud of.

It is this unity and engagement that I think is key to tackling the challenges we face head on. As a community we are divided, and we don’t understand each other. I believe that in order to effectively tackle anti-Semitism, BDS and other challenges we face, we first need to have unity in our community. This unity comes from being inclusive to all, and actively exploring our differences. Interfaith with other communities is important and should be encouraged, but I think that uniting our community on campus should come first. It is only through exploring and engaging with each other, doing interfaith within our own community, that we will really come to understand each other and be united as one kehila, one community.

A central value of my campaign is ‘fun’, but there is also a serious message in me prancing around in a burger costume that has “100% Kosher” written on it. Jewish pride, together with the unity that comes from meaningfully engaging with other Jewish students, is how I want us to be defined. Let us not be defined by the challenges we face, but rather by the enhanced experiences that come with being open to all and engaging with each other.

It is this value that I want to bring to UJS. I want us to be a united student community, embracing our individual differences and ensuring that these enhance, not detract from, our collective Jewish student experience. All of this, whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Because, ultimately, this is what our student experience should be about too. And that’s why you should vote #TheKosherChoice.
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Joel Salmon
Joel Salmon

JOEL SALMON is the former president of St Andrews Jewish Society, president and founder of the St Andrews Coexistence Initiative,  and is studying International relations. 

You can see his campaign page on Facebook HERE

It’s been said that I’m quite a Jewish-looking chap, with dark curly hair, a full beard and two big caterpillars on my forehead (they are, in fact, eyebrows). I’m also from North London, I really like chopped liver and occasionally listen to my Jewish-themed Spotify playlist when my flatmates are out…

Am I a walking cliché? Sadly, yes.

Yet, one of UJS’ core values is representation. A good president should be able to represent effectively the people they support.

My personal background is in Reform Judaism – I went on RSY and belong to Finchley Reform Synagogue. However, I was also Head Boy of JFS, went on trips with Aish and lived on a religious kibbutz for three months. Within me, there are all these different aspects of Judaism which I both love, and feel incredibly challenged by. But it means that I appreciate what it’s like to be Jewish in different contexts. I may have grown up in the North London Jewish bubble, but for 2.5 years I ran St Andrews J-Soc (which is, literally, in the middle of nowhere!). These different Jewish experiences have, I believe, shaped me into being a genuinely representative candidate.

This is why I want to run for UJS President. I want to lead an organisation that supports all Jewish students no matter their background, that cultivates a culture of community across the UK and Ireland, and that stands up for Jewish students when no one else will.

To fulfil this vision, I have four key policies.

Connecting UJS to the students: Often if you’re not on committee, or sometimes if you’re not the President or the campaigns officer, UJS can seem quite distant. Therefore, I’ll do a full review of UJS’ structure, really examining how it can work best for Jewish students. There has never been a review like this, so it’s about time it happened!

Fighting anti-Semitism: We’re actually quite good as a Jewish community at calling out overt anti-Semitic acts. But we’re less good at dealing with the subtle comments and remarks that people make. It’s partly because the people saying them don’t realise what they’re saying is anti-Semitic. So I’ll work with the CST, student unions, universities and individual J-Socs to launch an educational campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

Making J-Soc accessible to everyone: We all want our J-Socs to be more inclusive, but what does it actually mean? It means giving everyone the opportunity to join in and providing a space where everyone feels comfortable, whatever their denomination, political opinion, sexuality, or sex.

Aside from talking about it, we need to think about specific strategies. It’s up to individual J-Socs to take the lead in encouraging inclusivity. But one thing UJS can definitely do is to provide a cross-communal and diverse speaker database that J-Socs can use, which will really enrich the content and diversity of J-Soc events. It will also cultivate a more varied and accessible J-Soc and promote a more interesting conversation.

Doing interfaith effectively: A few years ago, our charity ball was protested, and this experience taught me that often we live in a vacuum, and when there is no positive interaction between diverse groups of people, that vacuum can be filled with something poisonous. Therefore, I set up my own interfaith society based on the principle that interfaith should not be awkward, tokenistic or simplistic. We should engage – appropriately – with other communities and not be afraid to talk about the difficult issues. Therefore, if elected I’ll launch a national interfaith conference, bringing together diverse communities from across the UK. I’ll also run an international interfaith trip with student leaders from across the UK to really get this positive conversation going on campus.

I hope you can see that I have a powerful vision for UJS and the Jewish student community. It is a vision of making sure we are connecting UJS with all Jewish students, fighting anti-Semitism, pushing for greater inclusivity, and including interfaith as a key part of our Jewish experience.

If you elect me to be your next President, it would genuinely be the greatest privilege of my life. Well let me rephrase- my mother’s life! So if anything you’ll be making a nice Jewish lady very happy.

Do get in touch if you have any questions about me or my campaign. I’d love to hear from you on how we can together create a strong and progressive Jewish movement for the future.

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Josh headshot
Josh Seitler

JOSH SEITLER is the president of London School of Economics Israel Society, and is studying Criminology and Social Policy. 

You can see his campaign page on Facebook HERE.  

I’m Manchester born and bred, growing up in Broughton Park, Salford and attending Broughton Jewish Primary School, Manchester Mesivta and King David High School. I spent a gap year studying at Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel, before beginning my degree in Social Policy and Criminology at the London School of Economics; I’m now in my final year.

At LSE I became very involved with student politics. I’ll never forget my Fresher’s Fair, in which I was asked to justify Israel’s policy in the Middle East – and I thought Fresher’s Week was all about drinking! Here I developed a passion for representing the religion I am so proud to be part of, and ensuring that Jewish students at LSE were not ignored, regardless of religious level, political views or cultural associations. For example, I recently represented Judaism proudly on an interfaith panel discussing British values in religion. Empowering students to represent whatever they stand for Jewishly is a key point in my manifesto.

I’m also committed to campaigns development. UJS supported me hugely when I wanted to challenge an event at my Student Union that glorified terrorism: I needed help writing speeches and preparing resources, and without UJS I would have just been that guy who sits at the back, tutting and having a tantrum, unable to properly articulate himself. Instead I received physical supplies as well as the confidence to stand up for what I believe in. If elected, I will establish a quick response unit in UJS so that students across the UK can access similar resources as quickly as they are required.

Additionally, through UJS I have been included in some of the most incredible opportunities and projects: I was invited to meet Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, and Universities Minster Greg Clarke, to talk about the problems Jewish students face. I was also invited to meet senior Israeli politicians, including Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni. I was also fortunate to go on the UJS Manhigut trip to Israel – prepare for unsponsored product placement – I would highly recommend this trip to everyone! I formulated my own opinion about the Arab- Israeli conflict based on personal experiences, instead of what I heard or read. This hugely increased my confidence defending Israel on campus: saying, “I was there, I’ve seen it” is much more powerful than saying “So and so says this is what it’s like.”

This is a cornerstone of my vision: to offer exciting opportunities to every Jewish student in the UK. My interest is UK and Israel politics (can you tell?) but whether you’re looking for career mentoring, study sessions with Rabbis and teachers across the religious spectrum, or the opportunity to collaborate with an artist, UJS must strive to offer these inspiring, career-enhancing and life-changing encounters to us all. My vision is for every Jewish student to be able to say ‘during my degree, UJS introduced me to that person and it inspired my career’ or ‘not only have I met this musician, but I had the chance to play in front of them.’ UJS should be about the students: it is our union and it must work for us.

I feel strongly that this message is true in multiple senses. Our campus is our home. Some of us have been there for a few months and others for a few years, but as recent events at Kings JSoc have shown, we know our universities better than anyone else. UJS must use that intimate knowledge to enhance representation of Jewish students. We must incorporate as many students as possible in decisions that affect them directly, and ensure that we are doing as much as possible for them. Whether you consider yourself Orthodox or Progressive, political or cultural, arty or scientific, UJS should be enhancing your time at university. 

You can check out my full manifesto on the UJS website (log in first), and look out for me flooding your social media in the coming weeks. My policies will ensure that your student’s union works for you, so I hope you’ll vote for me, Josh Seitler, #1 for UJS President 2016-2017.


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