The Jewish Inter-University Association of Great Britain and Ireland was founded by eight pioneering societies: Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cambridge, London, Sheffield, Glasgow and Oxford. The Association’s main activities were a Summer School and Winter Conference. The idea was conceived by D. B Stanhill but the main person behind its early success was Harry Dagut, who had founded the Manchester Jewish Students Association two years earlier. He was the first National Chair and held the role till at least 1925. Soon after the Association was founded, its members changed the name to the Inter University Jewish Federation (IUJF).
‘Provincial News’, The Jewish Chronicle, 1 August 1919, p. 24 https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.158996
The IUJF champions the creation of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) in Antwerp, Belgium.
Jewish Chronicle announcement of IUJF Summer School (https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.328973)
The Jewish Chronicle reports that the University of Wales’ Jewish Students Society voted unanimously to join the IUJF (https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.177596)
The IUJF sent 26 delegates on a successful WUJS-organised trip to Palestine for the opening of the Hebrew University.
Jewish students in the UK raised almost £2,000 (almost £80,000 in today’s money) to support the efforts of the World University Service (then the International Students Service) in assisting students seeking refuge outside of Nazi occupied territory. After WW2 IUJF is the only Jewish student’s union in Europe left standing.
‘Incidentally…’, Jewish Chronicle, April 24, 1942 (p. 18) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.343740
‘Points from Letters’, Jewish Chronicle, March 20, 1942 (p. 17)
Vivian (later Chaim) Herzog serves as President of the IUJF, leadership experience which serves him well when he later becomes President of Israel.
Membership had by now risen to include Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dublin, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Oxford, Reading and Sheffield. The IUJF was rapidly expanding:
Jewish Chronicle November 23, 1945 (p. 16) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.361292
Creation of the Bnai Brith Hillel Foundation gave the IUJF a permanent office and professional assistance. Prior to this, they had no assured budget or sabbatical officers; all activities were self funded and run from the bedrooms of the Chair or Secretary.
Jewish Chronicle January 9, 1953 (p. 25) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.307655
IUJF adopted a resolution at Conference, condemning the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union, as did WUJS at its Conference.
The IUJF’s commitment and connection to supporting Jewish communities around the world continued as they moved from passing a resolution to taking action in the struggle to support Soviet Jewry. Mike Hunter, the IUJF Chairman and a future WUJS Chairman, and three other students formed the Universities’ Committee for Soviet Jewry (UCSJ) as part of a WUJS Europe campaign (the European Union of Jewish Students did not yet exist.) They created the "European Action on Behalf of Soviet Jewry": an exhibition mounted on wooden placards and transported across Europe by rail, road and air. In the course of ten weeks it was displayed at campuses in Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Zurich, Fribourg, Geneva, Lyons, Paris, London, Oxford, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Stockholm. Meetings were held on each campus and material distributed explaining the problems of Soviet Jews, with a petition eventually beingsigned by 15,000 students and academics in the UK as well as 15,000 others from across Europe.
The campaign received wide coverage from local newspapers, TV and radio as well as the BBC World Service and Israel Radio. In addition, there were many articles in campus newspapers. Ariel Whine, WUJS’ British-born Foreign Officer, happily reported that the campaign had received 'a degree of publicity far in excess of its newsworthiness.' Most gratifying of all for the students was the intense interest aroused by a message of support from Lord Bertrand Russell.
On 8 May 1966, the Action climaxed in London with the only demonstration of the campaign (and the first ever in Britain on this issue): a silent march to the Soviet Embassy by over a thousand youth and students, led by the UCSJ. The march attracted further coverage, particularly from British and American television networks, and on arrival at the embassy the four-person committee (including Ariel Whine and Mike Hunter) was received by two Soviet diplomats, Rogov and Pavlov. It was the first time that any representative delegation of British Jews had been granted an interview to discuss the topic. Although their petition was not accepted, the Committee stayed to discuss the issue for over two hours. UCSJ sent a five-page note about the meeting to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, with a request that he ‘draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the deep-felt concern in this country for the welfare of the Jewish minority in the USSR.’ (For more information, see Dave Rich’s article ‘Activist Challenge: Women, Students, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the British Campaign for Soviet Jewry’, Jewish History, June 2015, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 163–185)
Jewish students were also involved in campaigning against apartheid in South Africa:
April 1, 1966, p. 35 https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.188299
IUJF Ball raises £1,000 (around £13,000 today) for the IUJF Hillel Building Fund. In the same week, the IUJF’s External Affairs Officer Gordon Housmann wrote about a WUJS seminar on the Holocaust in Sweden that evoked strong feelings amongst IUJF members:
Both from November 25, 1966, p. 53 https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.276655
IUJF assists the Board of Deputies and Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) in organising a 2,000-person strong march to the Polish embassy to protest an antisemitic campaign begun by the Polish authorities after the Arab- Israeli War of June 1967. ‘In November 1968 WUJS organized ‘an International Protest Day that involved ten student Jewish societies from around the UK, as well as WUJS and IUJF, sending letters and telegrams to the British government, calling on them to support Polish Jews. More impressive, and unprecedented, was the achievement of Jewish students at seven different universities and colleges, including the London School of Economics(LSE), the University of Bradford, and University College London, in persuading their students’ unions to pass motions supporting Polish Jews and send them to the government.’ These actions directly influenced the response of James Callaghan, then Home Secretary, who wrote to Board President Sir Barnett Janner MP to inform him that “I am prepared to ease the path for those Jews in Poland who are suffering hardship at present, who wish to settle or work here, and for whom the United Kingdom is particularly appropriate as the country of settlement.” (He asked Janner not to make “this adjustment of policy” public, however.)
IUJF celebrates its Golden Jubilee with a gala and a lecture given by former Chair and Israeli politician Chaim Herzog. Regional celebrations are also held:
Now in partnership with Hillel for over 10 years, IUJF advertises accommodation at Hillel Houses in Birmingham, Brighton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.
July 3, 1970 (p. 23) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.202417
UJS announces it's first paid Sabbatical worker. Alan Elsner was the first paid Fieldworker of UJS
First Woman Chair of the IUJF - Rosalind Nysenbaum… it’ll be almost 25 years before another is elected though when Susie Simmons was elected in 1996-97.
In October, the JC reports that the IUJF leads on efforts to respond to the Yom Kippur war:
They even postponed the AGM for it:
But this was not without controversy – the same page of the JC also had the following letters:
December 14, 1973 (p. 33) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.419826
Renamed Union of Jewish Students of the UK & Eire (at some point this changed to Ireland).
In March, the JC’s Campus Correspondent, Lionel Simmonds, criticised the apathy of Jewish students running J-Socs and UJS:
However, he seemed to feel differently by October, when Mr Simmonds wrote an article about the crucial role women played in running J-Socs:
October 17, 1975 (p. 26) https://www.thejc.com/archive/1.239453
The UN passed Resolution 3379 Zionism = Racism, which led to the banning of some J-Socs for being Zionist. UJS emerged as a leading force in the fight against the demonisation and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
Simon Caplan becomes first full time UJS Chairman and is joined in the office by Alan Elsner who serves as the first fieldworker.
Former UJS Chair, Mark Dines, helps found the European Union of Jewish Students and becomes its first Secretary General.
The 1970s also saw the rise of the National Front in Britain. As UJS evolved as a campaigning union, it was at the forefront of the wider student movement’s Anti-racism, Anti-Fascism work, which is proudly continued today.
Following the evolving partnership with CST, new capacity and resources were added to support the fight against antisemitism on campus
UJS re-titles its Chairman to Chairperson in an effort to gender neutralise.
UJS gets its first computer during Matthew Kalmans term as Chair
Manchester Polytechnic student - Ian Myers becomes first UJS Chair not to have attended a traditional university.
UJS Regions given full autonomy. Regions were as follows:
● SMUJS - Salford and Manchester UJS
● Yorkshire and Humberside
First Female Chair is celebrated. However, archives show that the First Female Chair was Rosalind in the 1970s.
UJS Conference in Derby attracts 400 students to attend.
Under the leadership of UJS Education Officer, Andrew Shaw (now Rabbi), UJS creates 50 days for 50 years project.
UJS conference also voted to continue the decentralisation of the union.
The ‘Every Student Matters.’ report is written by Sir Victor Blank who became a trustee and is now (2019) the Chair of the Advisory Board.
Alan Senitt z’l revolutionises UJS with the motto - ‘More Jewish Students Doing More Jewish Things’. Alan raised the number of fieldworkers living on campus from 4 to 5. Some, based full time in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Cambridge.
Shimon Peres, Former Israeli Premier, attends NUS Conference in 2003. His message is optimistic and hopeful as he points towards the students and the future in his address, "Students are the future ... They are crucial more than ever before ... because students will have to face an entirely new age and environment. We must teach the young people to imagine and not to remember."
Final week-long UJS residential conference - Hadag Nahash played concert. Both candidates for UJS Chair lose to RON and Wallace Rosenberg runs for UJS President.
Adam Pike is elected. He takes up the role in Summer 2008 and begins a restructure of UJS. Scraps the eight UJS regions that had previously existed – previously there were regional committees with their own chair i.e. South Coast, Scotland and the North East, London. He reduced the number of fieldworkers, living on campus to three, in favour of more specialised roles in the UJS London office. Hillel in Euston (Endsleigh Street) shuts down after more than 50 years as the UJS Office and the office moves to Camden. Adam created a number of the events that defined UJS over the next decade including, Careers Masterclasses, UJS Summit, Student Awards, JAMS Program (Ur Uni Life) and JUEFA. UJS and Hillel begin merger by becoming UJS-Hillel. UJS produces a professional video as an overview for prospective students.
UJS National Council reinstituted by Alex Dwek at the Winter Campaigns Summit. Alex also introduces the TrainE-TraidE Networking event and internship program.
UJS/Jewish students mobilised in response to the increase in tuition fees. Jewish students marched with NUS and UCU in central London; Channel 4 broadcast a live interview with Jon Snow and Jewish NUS NEC member Rachel Wenstone (later NUS Vice President for Higher Education); BBC interviewed Rachel alongside the 1994 Group.
UJS National Conference held for the first time since 2005 under the leadership of Dan Grabiner. Dan also held the first online UJS Presidential elections where Alex Green was elected.
Alex Green institutes new events including Jewniversity Challenge and the Succah in the City Law Networking event with BLP while Judith Flacks created UJS Liberation Networks.
Israel Engagement joined peer leadership, cross communalism and representation as a core value.
Under Joe Tarsh (Yos Tarshish), UJS and Hillel officially merged. Yos and Maggie Suissa created Leadership and Political Training Summit (now Time To Lead) - over 27 J-Socs present making it largest gathering of J-Socs in 5 years. Tripled number attending UJS Student Awards and created new award for Liberation activism. Moved into new UJS Office at JW3. Eight new J-Socs founded at University of Arts, London; Courtauld Institute of Art; Aberdeen; Stirling; Greenwich, Birkbeck, University of Law and somewhere else I can’t recall. Jewish Experience Week now a flagship UJS Campaign.
In 2016 UJS launched Reclaim, our first ever mental health awareness campaign, with support from mental health charities Jami and Nightline. Reclaim events come in many forms, from lunch and learns, to Mental Health FNDs and from speakers to self-care events. Luciana Berger MP, President of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health and former Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said: ‘For too long, mental illness has been treated as a taboo subject and there is no exception within the Jewish community. We all have a part to play to bring mental health out of the shadows. I am incredibly proud that UJS is at the forefront of this fight against stigma. The positive impact of this hard work will be felt not only by students, but by families and friends as well. I look forward to seeing the campaign’s success continue.’
UJS hit the headlines surrounding NUS President Malia. UJS continues to be active in representing and defending Jewish students’ interests.
UJS announces that we're substantially expanding our educational programme combatting campus antisemitism, in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust. This has been made possible thanks to a £144,000+ grant from the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government.
After a thrilling election period which saw 3 women candidates running against each other for the first time in 99 years, Esther Offenberg was elected as UJS president 2019-2020.
UJS Celebrates it’s centenary since it’s establishment in 1919 and continues to lead, defend and enrich Jewish life on campus.