A quarter of Jewish students fear anti-Semitic hate crime, NUS report finds

Two thirds of Jewish students believe they are targeted as a result of their faith, but do not trust NUS to respond appropriately

A quarter of Jewish students in the UK fear anti-Semitic hate crime on campus, a new study has found.

A report released by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 26 per cent of Jewish students were either fairly worried or very worried about being subjected to a physical attack, property damage, verbal abuse or theft as a result of their belief.

Almost two-thirds of Jewish students had not been the victim of crime at their place of study, but two thirds (66 per cent) said they believed they were targeted a result of their faith.

28 per cent of students said they had received personal abuse over social media.

However, the report found that a majority of Jewish students do not believe the NUS would respond appropriately to allegations of anti-Semitism if they arose. The NUS must “regain the trust of Jewish students”, the report concluded.

It comes amid ongoing concerns over allegations of anti-Semitism within the NUS.

The organisation’s president, Malia Bouattia, was recently denounced for “outright racism” by the Home Affairs Select Committee, after describing Birmingham University as a “zionist outpost”.

Bouattia has denied claims of anti-Semitism but apologised for any offence caused.

The report also raised concern that “Jewish students have reported that they do not feel their institution understands their needs.”

42 per cent of students reported there was no kosher food on or near campus, while 59 per cent said their university did not avoid scheduling classes and exams during Sabbath and Jewish religious festivals.

Almost half of students said they did not feel comfortable voicing their opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Oxford University Jewish Society (JSoc) welcomed the report, and urged the University and OUSU to adopt its recommendations.

In a statement to Cherwell, JSoc said: “We are proud that Oxford is one of the best campuses in the country for Jewish students; there is a thriving Jewish life, a fact which has been recognised by both OUSU and the UJS (Union of Jewish Students) in recent years.

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“We are thankful for the positive relationships with the University, the colleges and OUSU, and are hopeful that these will continue.

“However, many of the concerns in the report resonate with the Jewish Society’s members and, alongside recent events, demonstrate that more can be done to improve the Jewish student experience.

“In particular, Jewish students regularly encounter hostility and offensive debate when engaging in discussions around the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jewish students have also faced difficulties regarding the provision of kosher food and the scheduling of exams on religious festivals.

“We call upon OUSU to adopt the report’s recommendations, and to continue their effort to make Oxford more welcoming for Jewish students.”

The report also explored Jewish student representation in university student unions.

It found that a majority of Jewish students feel able to engage with their individual student unions, with 75 per cent saying that they voted in student elections and 69 per cent saying that they always or usually were able to participate in student union societies.

However, 43 per cent said they did not feel their student union understood their needs as Jewish students, and 51 per cent said they did not feel represented by their student union.

Sandy Downs, OUSU VP for Welfare and Equal Opportunities, said: “It’s fantastic to see that Jewish students have high engagement with their students’ unions across the country, and we should be using that relationship to help affect change.

“I look forward to working with JSOC and the NUS to consider how best to interpret and enact the recommendations in the report, and its good to see that lots of the suggestions are things which OUSU is already working on (including Kosher food provision and religious festival considerations in timetabling).”

The report’s author, the NUS VP Rob Young, said: “In a wider context of increasing anti-Semitism across the UK, we know that Jewish students have been feeling increasingly uncomfortable on University campuses and that there is a lot of work to be done to change that.

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“This research has given us a greater understanding of some of the challenges faced by Jewish students in Universities and in the student movement. I hope that the sector will act on the recommendations in this report.

“Everyone should feel able to participate fully in campus life and NUS and I are fully committed to ensuring that that is the case.”

An Oxford University spokesperson said: “We welcome the NUS report and are encouraged to hear that so many Jewish students across the UK are actively engaged in university life, and that Oxford’s JSoc values its positive relationship with the University. We are working with colleges to address specific issues mentioned in the report, such as the provision of kosher food and the scheduling of exams.

“On the subject of hostility and antisemitism, we have always made it clear that no form of harassment or victimisation will be tolerated at Oxford. We expect all members of the University community to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration, including when engaging in political debate.

“We would strongly urge anyone who has experienced harassment or intimidation on the grounds of religion or belief to come forward and report any incident to their college or to the University.”