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October 12, 2021 3:10 pm

UK Jewish Student Group Launches IHRA Campaign, Issues Call to Education Ministers

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

An empty classroom. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) has announced a new campaign to advance the leading definition of antisemitism at British and Irish universities, finding that less than ten percent of schools in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have done so.

“This is a critical step that must be taken to ensure that they support their Jewish students,” UJS said Tuesday, noting that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism has been adopted by just five of 61 Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Northern Irish higher education institutions.

According to the IHRA definition, “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Today, at least 100 universities have adopted the IHRA definition, the UJS said, up from 29 in July 2020. All but five of those institutions are found in England.

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UJS President Nina Freedman wrote Monday to education ministers in the UK and Ireland, urging them to advance “this basic standard for supporting and protecting” Jewish communities.

“The 500% increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK, both on campus and in the wider community, has led many Jewish students to feel cautious and unnerved about how campus will be this academic year,” she said. “Universities need to take the first step to support Jewish students and staff, by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism in full.”

She noted that adopting the definition was not legally binding, and can be used to help communities understand how antisemitism arises in a modern context.

“It also is a sign to Jewish students that their institution is taking antisemitism seriously and is willing to take the initial step to combat antisemitism on campus,” Freedman said.

The student group says it serves 8,500 Jewish students over 65 Jewish societies on campuses across the UK and Ireland.

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