14th November 2019
For Brampton’s first JSoc (Jewish Society), guest speaker Bradley Langer addressed students questions and concerns towards Jewish societies in university. Mr Langer was president of the Jewish Society in his university and represented his Student union. Now he helps organise Jewish students around campuses.
Mr Langer works as a Student Sabbatical Officer. He discussed some of the larger universities’ Jewish Societies such as in Birmingham, Nottingham and Bristol which provide Friday night dinners as well as welcoming social events.
The main concern coming from the students was the potential of antisemitism in university life and how to address it. Mr Langer stated that although there is of course the potential of facing antisemitism as a Jewish student, around 90% of Jewish students do not experience any antisemitism throughout their time at university.
As for handling direct antisemitism, Mr Langer suggested it should be reported to CST or to the university itself. He mentioned the importance of distinguishing between antisemitism and anti-Israel comments. Firstly, he expressed that it needs to be considered whether they are questioning the actions of Israeli government or the existence of Israel itself. If it is just a comment towards the concern of the activities of the Israeli government then it is fair, as Israel should not be held above any other democratic nation. The comment becomes more problematic when it is against the existence of the state of Israel and denying the self-determination of Jewish people or purely just an attempt to provoke a student due to their Jewish identity. For dealing with this form of antisemitism, Mr Langer advised to stay calm and go back to what you know and your personal experience.
Mr Langer also touched upon how if you choose to put yourself out there and publicly promote pro-Israel ideas or play a prominent role in a Jewish Society or similar club then you may need to expect to receive criticism and antisemitism. For this he recommended knowing your facts and to also consider the emotion and language being used and remain truthful. He also brought up how many universities such as Oxford have an Israel Society in addition to a Jewish Society so that political views over Israel are separated from Jewish Society. This should help encourage Jewish students to take part in Jewish Society regardless of their political views.
Finally, students also asked for advice for when publicly antisemitic speakers come to speak at their future universities. Mr Langer expressed that the best way to make an impact was to attend their talks and ask many questions regarding their antisemitic views. He said he did this himself recently with Jewish students when Jackie Walker, a former Labour Party member who was removed due to her antisemitism, came to speak at UCL. By asking many questions on the topic of her views towards Jewish people, the students were able to emphasize to the audience her antisemitism and even generate some press. Most importantly, Mr Langer noted that Jewish students should not fear going to university as it is an exciting and enjoyable experience.
So if you’re interested in Jewish life and learning or just want a free bagel, come to JSoc in room 27 on Thursdays at 11:45. Everyone is welcome!
By Shani Boyd
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