UJS passes motion ‘ensuring representation’ for ‘40% of UK Jews who aren’t Zionists’

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UJS passes motion ‘ensuring representation’ for ‘40% of UK Jews who aren’t Zionists’

EXCLUSIVE: Union of Jewish Students motion passed by a narrow margin following vote among one thousand delegates at annual conference.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Israeli and British flags
Israeli and British flags

A motion calling for the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) to “ensure representations on panels and events” for “40 percent of Jews who do not identify themselves as Zionist” has been passed at the organisation’s annual conference.

The motion, proposed by Noam UK’s Board of Deputies representative Toby Kunin, demanded Jewish organisations became more welcoming to students not identifying as Zionist.

The  UJS For ALL Jewish Students motion is understood to have passed at Sunday’s conference by a handful of votes, after some debate.

Kunin, from president of the Warwick University JSoc, told Jewish News: “I was really glad to see a majority of Jewish students supporting the idea that our JSocs are for all Jewish students, not just those who choose to define in a certain way.

“I only hope that other communal organisations will follow suit in explicitly opening their doors to the significant number of Jews who have often felt excluded from communal spaces.”

Kunin pointed to a paper published by City University’s sociology department on the attitudes of British Jews to Israel for his claim that 40 percent of Jews do not identify themselves as Zionist – and research by the JPR that the figure at around 70-30 in favour of Zionism.

But he insisted this estimate of how many Jews were non-Zionist was not the central point of the motion, with the overall aim to make “all welcome” in communal organisations.

His motion suggested “in many cases” those not holding “a certain set of political beliefs” had been subjected to “patterns of exclusion and abuse”.

It called for a Code of Conduct clause to be introduced by the union “to implicitly recognise exclusion based on Zionism or lack of” as a serious offence in line with any other breach.

Urging UJS to actively “reach out” to “non-Zionist Jewish students” the motion called on the union to “ensure representation on panels and at events for the 40 percent of Jews in the UK, including many Jewish students, who do not identify themselves as Zionist.”

Jewish News understands that a bloc, described by those within it, as “soft left” outnumbered support for more traditional student political groupings under the wing of organisations such as Stand By Us.

One former UJS official said there had been other motions recommending appointing specific officers to look after non-Zionist Jews which had also passed at conference in recent years.

A UJS spokesperson said:”Israel engagement remains and will continue to be one of UJS’ four core values.

Whether a student identifies as a Zionist or not, UJS is committed to ensuring that every Jewish student can engage with Israel in a way that will be appropriate for them and to live out our constitutional aim of creating meaningful Jewish campus experiences.”

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