From the archives
Sunderland Total Victory, 1985
One of the highlights past editor Dawn referred to was the establishment of Sunderland Jewish Society in the face of mass opposition, with the threat of a banning campaign from the General Union of Palestinian Students. As Aleph returns to cam puses this year it felt especially fitting to choose an article from the archives that reflects the bravery and supportive nature of the Jewish student community, and the fruitful results this kind of perseverance can have, as well as what can be achieved when we work together.
Soviet Jewry: Time for Action, 1983
Another such highlight was the UJS campaign supporting Soviet Jewry. This was an extended campaign that is documented in numerous Aleph editions, with this piece from November 1983 outlining the “Fighting for Freedom” campaign strategy and country-wide demonstrations on behalf of the Jews living in the USSR. This was a campaign which UJS continued through much of the 1980s.
An interview with Dawn Waterman
When did you start working for Aleph?
I was a student at UCL be tween 1982 and 1985. I was on the UJS executive as its Communications Officer and edited Aleph while I was studying. It was pretty much a sin gle-handed job. UJS then had one staff member and three sabbatical officers.
How was Aleph produced?
There was little in the way of tech nology then. All I had was a typewriter, pa per, glue, letraset, energy and enthusiasm!
How do you feel about Aleph restart ing?
I’m so glad to hear that Aleph is going to be revived - it was a great way to keep in touch with students. Looking at the editions I edited back in the 1980s, I see the names and faces of people who have continued to be actively involved in the
Jewish community in different ways. Be ing so involved in UJS and editing Aleph was fantastic fun; I met people who are still my friends today and it was the train ing ground for my professional career.
What were the highlights of your time editing Aleph?
I’d probably choose our cover age of the Jewish students’ response to the banning by the student union of the Jew ish Society at Sunderland Polytechnic, and our work to support Soviet Jewry.
In The Gates of the Forest Elie Wiesel con cludes that “God made man because he loves stories”. I decided to bring Aleph, the magazine of the Union of Jewish Students, back into print, after a few decades in hi bernation, because a new generation of Jewish students has stories for the rest of us.
Whenever we, as your sabbati cal officers, are on the road, travelling to universities and meeting students, we’re struck by the diversity and intensity of Jew ish student life. No two Jewish students are the same and our community is made up of remarkable people whose experiences sometimes go untold in Jewish communal discourse and in the wider conversations on campus. This publication is an attempt to capture some of that diversity whilst also keeping you up to date on our work.
I’m writing this editorial from a garishly 70s section of the Mitchell Li brary in Glasgow; a friendly stranger has just placed a pile of old books beside me. I’d screenshotted a couple of classmarks of Yiddish works and the kindly librar ian has returned with some treasures from storage. There’s a dark green copy of Sholem Aleichem’s ‘Mayses far Yidishe Kinder’ or ‘Stories for Jewish Children’, an illustrated translation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and some battered works by poets
such as Kadia Molodowsky and Rachel Häring Korn. I trace my hands over the well-worn pages and, though I can’t speak Yiddish, there’s a reassuring familiarity to be found in these works that were read by Jewish immigrants, who fled the pogroms in the Russian Empire and, following the First World War, fascism on the Europe an continent, to build a life in this city.
Whenever I feel lost in a new city, I try to find my bearings in a library or bookshop. I find it affirming to see a part of my story reflected in the writings of others. A couple of years before I start ed at university, I found myself in a library looking into a glass case. I distinctly re member as a teenager exploring Cam bridge, a city whose colleges, streets and very fabric are defined by Christianity, being directed in the University Library towards what the attendant described as ‘your people’s collection’. He was referring to the Cairo Genizah. Some four hundred thousand manuscript fragments were found in the Geniza or storeroom of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Fustat - old Cai ro. Two hundred thousand of these frag ments of parchment, vellum and paper were brought over by Solomon Schechter in the late nineteenth century. They tell the story of an uninterrupted thousand-year-
old continuum of Jewish life, from around 870 to the 19th Century. I saw an alpha bet I understood, a civilisation whose message was universal but inheritance particular and felt at one with the world. My hope with Aleph is that to gether we can assemble a library of sto ries, artwork and opinion pieces so that we can better understand ourselves and one another. Flicking through old edi tions of Aleph, I’m inspired by the ac tivism and ambition of previous genera tions of Jewish students, who campaigned against fascism and for the Soviet Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain. This generation is no less driven and is de fiantly challenging conspiratorial anti semitism whilst building thriving Jew ish communities in spite of the odds. This edition of Aleph showcases some of the best Jewish student thought. Warren King shares his journey from prison to LSE and Mizy Clifton offers a moving meditation on the four sons from a trans perspective. Elsewhere you’ll find pieces on faith and community. Benjy Klauber-Griffiths champions the small er JSoc whilst David Levy considers art, Judaism and Christianity. I hope you enjoy reading this edition of Aleph and that you’ll consider writing for the next.
The Aleph Team
Joel Rosen, Editor-in-chief
Jacob Freedland, Design Editor
The Old New Journal Jack Lubner Guy Dabby-Joory Let’s Mizy J. Clifton Jodie Kippur Which sabb Quickfire Joel Oy gevalt! What a beautiful This is where I COLUMNS
Sarah Wilks, Senior Editor
Guy Dabby-Joory, Senior Editor
Jack Saideman, Deputy Editor
UJS at NUS
On the 28th and 29th March 2022, the Na tional Union of Students held their annual National Conference in Liverpool with student unions from across the country represented. A UJS delegation attended the conference after UJS made representations to NUS about their choice of speakers.
NUS had invited Kareem Den nis, a conspiracy theorist and perform er who uses the stage name Lowkey to perform. Mr Dennis has persistently attacked UJS and spread conspiracies about its work. NUS refused to disinvite Dennis who later pulled out. In a state ment, NUS condemned ‘harassment and misinformation against Lowkey’ neglecting to issue a meaningful re sponse to Jewish students’ concerns.
UJS brought kosher food for Jewish delegates to the conference, offer ing them meals throughout the confer ence, and a refuge from the atmosphere elsewhere in the conference centre. This gave the chance for Jewish representa tives to meet each other and UJS staff, which was useful for all. UJS Sabbatical Officers were also on hand to emotion ally support Jewish delegates through out the trying and testing conference.
In the evening of the first day, Palestine Action scaled the roof of the Liverpool Guild claiming to act in sol idarity with Mr Dennis. The stunt was timed to coincide with NUS’ 100th birthday party. Palestine Action was swiftly removed from the venue and Jewish delegates attended regardless.
UJS also ran a fringe session about Jewish life during the delegates’ lunch break. This was attended by dozens of delegates and allowed attendees to ask questions and discuss the issues facing Jew ish students. In spite of the circumstances, numerous delegates approached the UJS team pledging their support for Jewish students, something the UJS team appre ciated. Whilst it was a trying and testing conference, UJS valued the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Jewish students.
By Guy & Dora
Volunteering in Poland
In March and April, a number of Jew ish students travelled to Poland with University Jewish Chaplaincy to vol unteer with Ukrainian refugees. Many of the students travelled during termtime, putting university on hold to help those affected by Russia’s invasion and the resulting humanitarian crisis. The students primarily worked with the child refugees from the conflict, running activities, playing sports and doing arts and crafts with the children. With Google Translate by their side, the volunteers built friend ships with the refugees during their
Every year UJS Sabbatical Officers travel up and down the country to run antisemitism awareness train ing sessions for student union staff. Since this project started in 2018, over two hundred sessions have been organised, both in person and on line – with thirty this summer alone.
In these two-hour sessions, participants learn a brief history of anti semitic libels, before being taught about the IHRA definition of antisemitism and how it can be used on campus. Next, participants learn about how it mani fests on campus, and how they can spe
time in Poland, caring for them during a difficult time. The volunteers also helped to pack bags and suitcases for the refu gees, and assisted with organising food donations brought in by local businesses. During their time in Warsaw, the delega tions also coordinated logistics of the ref ugees’ travel; this included working with the Jewish Agency to facilitate aliyahs. In total, five delegations of students went to Poland. The work they did made an invaluable contribution towards the hu manitarian effort for those who needed it - a contribution that was recognised at the UJS Student Awards in April.
cifically support Jewish students as an SU. These sessions have expanded in cov erage since they were launched, with hundreds of SU staff and officers now being trained each year. As a result of the trainings, many more SUs are now aware of Jewish practices and festivals, provide kosher food in their canteens, and avoid organising events on Shabbat. Student leaders are now also more con scious of antisemitism on campus, and are able to protect Jewish students more easily and effectively. This allows cam puses to be a far more welcoming and safe space for Jewish students - a key part of developing student life on campus.
Bagels, FND and bad jokes
What happened at last year’s UJS conference?
On a mild, overcast December week end in 2021, 300+ Jewish students gath ered for UJS’ biggest event of the year, the pinnacle of student democracy, a beacon of cross-communalism, a festi val of peer leadership: UJS Convention.
Characteristically, the week end kicked off with transport difficulties as Jewish students flooded in from all corners of the country. While coach es brought students from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London, students arriving from such places as Coventry, Sheffield, and Norwich found themselves stranded at the station, desperately try ing to phone the local cab company, who apparently had decided to take the day off. No, they did not have Ubers. Fortu nately, the heroic sabbatical team sprang into action and ferried students in their cars, four at a time through heavy traffic.
Once everyone had arrived, they received beautiful lilac hoodies embla zoned with the UJS logo. Then, students filed off to one of four optional Friday night services – the options were Ortho dox, Masorti, Progressive and explanatory. This was an opportunity for both calm re flection and joyful prayer between the cha otic journey and before a huge weekend.
The next order of business was Friday night dinner. A couple of students led kiddush and then we all tucked in.
The atmosphere in the dining hall was electric, as old friends were reunited and new friendships blossomed. Birkat Ham azon (grace after meals), which can only be described as frenzied (in the best pos sible way), was followed by an enthusias tic and soulful tisch (collective singing). The next day started bright and early
with students groggily munching their breakfast cereal and having semi-coher ent conversations. After Shabbat morn ing services (with the same options as Friday night) and a friendly kiddush, we were ready for the day’s sessions.
There were a variety of wonderful peer-led sessions which had been thought fully prepared by students. Among these were sessions about Israel, cross-com munalism, neurodiversity inclusion, and gender and Judaism. They showcased the diverse range of interests among our mem bers, as well as their passion, creativity and talent – a true example of peer leadership! As well as peer-led events, we were joined by a number of exciting speak ers. Among them was Eric Murangwa MBE, a footballer and survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. He spoke to stu dents about his experiences and answered some of their questions. Hearing his tes timony was a powerful and moving ex perience for the students who attended.
For JSoc committee members, there was also a valuable opportunity for some role-specific committee training. Presidents learned about leadership, event planning and delegating, while treasurers learned all about how JSoc finances are run. There were also committee sessions on wellbeing, inclusion, having Israel dialogue on campus, and dealing with challenging situations. That evening, a soulful and slightly chaotic Havdallah (service to end Shabbat) gave way to a very chaotic but very fun silent disco.
Finally, on Sunday it was time for conference. This is the annual event that embodies UJS’ character as a demo cratic representative union. For months
beforehand, students had been work ing hard to write motions concerning an enormous range of topics, includ ing creating regional boards for JSoc representation, participating in Pride, reducing JSoc waste and creating eru vs (Shabbat perimeters) on campus. All of these motions get organised into baskets by topic. The baskets are: ‘UJS and JSocs’, ‘Campus’, and ‘Community’, and the order of voting is also determined by conference. Next, students have the chance to give a speech about their mo tion. If any student wishes to oppose it, they will also have a chance to make a speech. If the topic is particularly com plex, there may be a chance for a second round of speeches. After the speech es, all students have a chance to vote on whether the motion should pass or not. Dozens of students stood be fore their peers to make compelling and passionate arguments for their motions, and every student in attendance had the chance to exercise their democratic right as UJS members to have a say on poli cy. Between motions, we had to listen to Amanda read out the terrible jokes that had been submitted via Twitter. After motions were debated, returning officer Liron Velleman announced the hotly anticipated presidential election results, with over 1000 students having voted. Finally, it was time to say good bye. The hundreds of students who had arrived only 2 days before said their tearful goodbyes and departed slightly more dishevelled, many with hoarse voices, but with much bigger smiles, already excited for next year.
Truth, reconciliation and teshuva Jack Lubner
In 1996, post-apartheid South Africa could have taken a very different turn. At the time, such a turn may have appeared far more reasonable and far less surpris ing than the path that the new Rainbow Nation took. After forty-six years of a brutally racist Apartheid regime, the new, democratically elected government of South Africa faced a near impossible de cision. What should be done to the peo ple who committed unspeakable human rights violations as part of Apartheid?
Nelson Mandela and Archbish op Desmond Tutu were not the first to have grappled with the legal and moral conundrum. A clear precedent exist ed from the Nuremberg Trials, which favoured retributive justice. Could the world have blamed the new South Af rica for punishing the people who just a few years before had tortured and mur dered thousands of black South Africans?
Yet, they rejected this approach entirely. Instead, Mandela and Tutu estab lished what was perhaps the most radical and unprecedented experiment in teshu vah ever created – the Truth and Recon ciliation Commission. It was founded out of the recognition that in order to heal South Africa as a nation, post-apartheid justice would have to prioritise forgive ness and healing over punishment and retribution. The Commission provided a space for victims of the crimes of Apart heid to give their testimony and for the perpetrators to reveal what they had done. Instead of having the power to punish those who had committed human rights violations, it only had the power to grant amnesty. Naturally, this was unacceptable to many people who had suffered ter ribly and were now facing the prospect of watching the perpetrators walk free.
At the heart of the Commis sion’s philosophy were two beliefs – that
the focus of its healing was the nation, not necessarily individuals, and that reconciliation would come through the act of uncovering the truth. But in such circumstances, what can forgive ness and reconciliation truly mean?
Rabbi David Blumenthal identi fies three levels of forgiveness, which he categorises as mechila – ‘forgiving the oth er’s indebtedness’, selicha – ‘achieving an empathy for the troubledness of the other’, and kappara – ‘the total wiping away of all sinfulness’, which can only be delivered by God. In Rabbi Blumenthal’s commentary, he notes that a higher level of forgiveness is not always appropriate. For instance, it would be wrong to expect someone who had suffered abuse to feel empathy for their abuser. In this framework, the Com mission’s powers, such as the granting of amnesty, appear to operate on the level of mechila; annulling the debt that is owed, without making the emotional demands of empathy on those who have suffered.
In this way, it was hoped that the effect of the Commission on the na tion as a whole might have resembled selicha, which Blumenthal notes is ‘not an embracing of the offender’, but the recognition that ‘the offender, too, is hu man, frail, and deserving of sympathy’. It was clear however, that the terrible ness of the crimes committed must nev er be forgotten or concealed, in much the same way that kappara is reserved for God alone and cannot be applied to sins committed from person to person.
Judaism requires the wrongdoer to admit the wrong
However, to be forgiven in Juda ism requires the wrongdoer to admit the wrong they have done and seek forgive ness. The Mishneh Torah describes how sins ‘can never be completely absolved until one returns to one’s friend what one owes, and appeases that person’.
One of the most unnerving parts of the Commission was the lack of contrition expressed by some perpetra tors coolly describing the crimes they had committed. This begs the question: can a system founded on restorative justice and forgiveness withstand perpetrators not seeking forgiveness themselves? In not pressing punishments, the Commission opened itself up to charges of leniency, but in doing so, had created a rare op portunity for the truth to finally emerge.
In Reform Judaism’s funeral liturgy, a Hasidic proverb is sometimes read: ‘What will the judgement be like? Only this! God will take you one by one and tell you what your life was real ly about. Then you will understand the good you did and the bad, and this will be your heaven and hell. But after true knowledge comes forgiveness.’ Whilst true forgiveness between perpetrator and victim may not be possible if the per petrator does not want to seek forgive ness, uncovering the truth may provide the closure that is so vital to the victim.
On these High Holy Days, may we be blessed with the strength to seek reconciliation and start anew, not through forgetfulness, but through uncovering the truth.
In memory of Archbishop Des mond Tutu, 1931-2021. With thanks to the writings of Rabbi David Blu menthal and Rabbi Colin Eimer.
Let’s call it antisemitism Guy Dabby-Joory
In recent years, there’s been a growing call to stop talking about antisemitism. Instead, it is claimed by figures includ ing Ronald Lauder – the World Jewish Congress’ President – that we should call it what it supposedly is: Jew-hatred. The argument claims that we should stop beating around the bush. In the words of Lauder, “if you attack Jewish students on campus, you’re a Jew-hat er”. ‘Antisemitism’ sounds clinical and scientific, avoiding the point that the perpetrator has been racist. By contrast, ‘Jew-hatred’ cuts straight to the point; an anti-Jewish racist hates Jews, and we should, of course, be upfront about that. There is, to be fair, an element of truth to this argument. The term ‘an tisemitism’ was popularised by Wilhelm Marr in the late nineteenth century, de rived from proto-Nazi ideas of a racialised and unique ‘Jewish spirit’, which could be proudly and openly criticised. The hy pothesised Semitic race was not limited to just Jews; Semitic languages also include those spoken from Malta to Yemen and from Morocco to Iraq. This facilitates the familiar and nonsensical retort of “Zion ists are the real antisemites because they hate Palestinians, who are themselves Semites.” ‘Jew-hatred’ does not face the same issue – in being more explicit, it does not open itself up to such disingenuity. Despite this, in its explicitness ‘Jew-hatred’ does not, I think, capture the nuances of the prejudice which Jews face. The journalist Ben Cohen distin guished between two forms of anti semitism. While bierkeller (beer-cellar)
antisemitism involves violence, visible oppression and hatred against Jews (as was familiar in Weimar Germany’s beer cellars) bistro antisemitism is qualita tively distinct. This is the antisemitism of those who are ‘just-asking-questions’, who claim to be zealously anti-Zionist but never (Lord forbid!) antisemitic; af ter all, they’re friends with a Jew. This is the antisemitism of the chattering classes gathering for lunch, who share contacts of their Jewish accountant who can be trusted with their money – “and you’ll be able to spot his nose from a mile off!”.
Cohen’s distinction was for mulated over a decade ago, and he him self acknowledges that it may have be come less useful in recent years. This is in no small part due to the increased proliferation and normalisation of bis tro antisemitism throughout society.
In America, Donald Trump’s re peated philosemitism has re-legitimised tropes thought to no longer be accept able, all while he encourages the bierkeller white supremacists who pledge to never let Jews replace them. In Corbyn’s Labour party, a culture of toxicity and hostility to Jews was allowed to thrive, and denialists trumpeted Corbyn’s occasional friendship and support for Jews to trivialise and dis credit Jewish people’s lived experiences.
The people at the core of the Labour party under Corbyn did not hate Jews – how could they when they were
anti-racists? Nor was their antisemitism of the violent and more obvious bierkeller form, for if this were the case, then it would have been far easier to identify, and perhaps it could have been nipped in the bud. This was what many did not un derstand about the allegations that senior figures in the Labour party had histories of antisemitism, since these histories were of antisemitism’s elusive and less striking bistro form. While it is true that the bistro antisemitism of those with power excused and legitimated the bierkeller antisem itism, allowing it to escalate, the party’s elites were able to maintain plausible de niability, distancing themselves from the perpetrators and thus avoiding blame. While many in the Jewish com munity are glad to allege that bistro an tisemites have been antisemites, it is far less believable to label them as guilty of Jew-hatred. Of course Trump did not hate Jews – indeed, his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish – and neither did Corbyn, and his defenders were correct to the extent that he did not hate Jews. ‘Jew-hatred’ seems to overlap consider ably with bierkeller antisemitism, cover ing an important subset and yet not the entirety of the complex and wide-rang ing prejudice that is antisemitism. In trying to get to the point so quickly, the term ‘Jew-hatred’ misses part of the point, namely that antisem itism can be far from immediately ap parent and yet it is normalised in today’s society. Someone can be an antisemite without hating Jews; the terms ‘antisem itism’ and ‘Jew-hatred’ are far from co terminous as the defenders of a shift to ‘Jew-hatred’ would suggest. While the ex tent to which ‘Jew-hatred’ refuses to beat around the bush and avoids prevaricating is admirable, the term is overly reduc tive. Although ‘antisemitism’ is far from perfect, its lack of specificity is in fact a strength, reflecting the unique and dis tinctive nature of anti-Jewish prejudice.
‘Antisemitism’ lacks specificity - this is in fact a strength
Life beyond the bubble
Leeds. Bristol. Brum. London. Many Jewish students study where their peers are. But what does life look like for the students living outside of the Jew-niversity bubble? Benjy Klauber-Griffiths shares his story.
I started life at The University of Manches ter with relative optimism about the pros pect of finding a Jewish, university-based community. As a North Londoner through and through, my teenage years had been spent within a largely secular Jewish com munity. Jewish friends, Jewish school but the type to only go to shul three times a year. Someone who would struggle to lead Ma’ariv on summer camp and is more anxious about the wait for the Kiddush ba gels than the attainment of spiritual bliss. Culturally Jewish then, you may say. What the Jewish community was to me was comfort. Knowledge of a shared set of values, cultural references, and sto ries. The highs, the lows and the absurd were all tied up within a category of Jewishness. And so, when Rosh Hashanah rolled around in my first term at universi ty, it felt only natural to reach out to a community, who - I rather naively thought - would be waiting with expect ant arms.
The reality was very different. A tip off from the JSoc, and I was on my way to the synagogue where they were supposedly meeting en masse.Tallis bag in hand, I wandered over. This would be my time to meet like-minded Jews, I thought;
a slice of home within an alien city. You can imagine the disappoint ment when, arriving at the gates, the shul was locked up, deserted. Where was the crowd of nattering intellec tuals? The familiar waft of smoked salmon? Where was the honey cake? Finally let in by a kind security guard, the initial feeling of confusion quickly ebbed away. And then the door opened. In rushed a hoard of children followed by the Charedi Rabbi and his entourage.
Despite living in similar areas to me (Stamford Hill in London), the Chare di community was a branch of Judaism with whom I had minimal, if any, inter actions with. I also had mixed feelings about this side of Judaism. My grandma in fact had a Charedi upbringing - pi geonholed and limited by the world she was brought up in. She was someone who had eventually ran away from this life, favouring secularism and a denial of her Jewish past. When contact was eventual ly revived nearly seventy years later it was quickly realised that my mother and I had been removed from the family records, denied a place in a centuries old fami ly tree because my mum had committed the crime of ‘marrying out’. In effect, our
Jewishness did not exist. In reaching out, we had been denied a Jewish family past. This was not, then, just a com munity I felt detached from, but one that I had been actively rejected from. And so you can imagine my surprise when the front doors opened, and this ‘side’ of Jewish history rushed through. Expecting a community of Jews like those whom my friends were mingling with in Bristol, I was in stead faced with a strand of my reli gion which I associated with rejection.
But of course, everyone there was incredibly friendly, a little surprised at my presence perhaps, but welcoming and encouraging. And yet throughout the service I felt a constant awkwardness, a discomfort that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. These were Jews, we were in a synagogue, and we were going through the motions of the yearly service. This was the service recommended by my JSoc, the supposed hub of Jewish life and point of access over the course of the year. And yet, in searching for similarity, it felt like I’d stumbled upon something very different. A service all in Hebrew, a level of faith I did not understand and a life style wholly different to that of a fresh
er. Like a fish out of water within your own pond, Rosh Hashanah of 2019 was as intriguing as it was disorientating. The whole experience had left me questioning what had happened to one of the UK’s biggest ‘Jewni’? It’s true, Manchester is an unusual case. The city itself holds one of the UK’s biggest com munities: roughly 25,000 Jews living in the Greater Manchester region. Howev er, this can often mean that local Jewish students return to their existing com munities, leaving these university-based groups depleted. The reform synagogues in Manchester also don’t have the same outreach to students, leaving the Jewish community at university feeling dispa rate unlike the prevalent bubbles of places like Leeds, Birmingham, or Nottingham.
Whereas a few years ago Man chester had been the ‘go to’ place for Jews, it now boasts only a smattering of Jewish students. There are clear explanations. An official pro-Palestine stance from the Students Union may put some Jewish stu dents off. Others see the prevalence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group (BDS) as reason to avoid the university. Or perhaps it’s the famously left-lean ing student body, many of whom are in clined to support such groups, who have scared off prospective Jewish students.
Whatever the explanation, my Rosh Hashanah trip made it apparent that despite the active JSoc, Manches ter was composed of a denomination of Jewry I did not feel at home with. It feels strange, given that we all exist un der the same banner of ‘Jewish’ according to those outside of these communities.
And a situation like this can lead us to begin questioning our Jewishness in relation to others. Seeing friends getting involved in far more active Jewish com munities can be a challenging and surreal experience. Am I a bad Jew for not doing this? What am I missing out on by not be ing involved to such a level? Cambridge, Bristol, and Birmingham seem to offer an experience very different to those at Manchester, York, Edinburgh, or Sussex.
How too, do we deal with parental pres sures? Are we expected to be involved? How might we be seen to our families if our Jewishness becomes a secondary part of our lives? The reality, certain ly at first, can induce a lot of anxiety.
But these smaller JSocs also yield enormous rewards. They offer us a chance to expand our cultural horizons. The echo chamber effect is a real one in larger JSocs. The wide range of students can mean peo ple gravitate to similarly religious (or irre ligious) friends, echoing the same points of view. Smaller JSocs avoid this potential insularity by pushing Jews from varying backgrounds together. Debate about our Jewish identity is fostered far more effec tively in environments where we are chal lenged by differing perspectives. Realisa tions about ‘how Jewish you want to be’ are made far more real through such a range.
A smaller JSoc equally enables one to have a greater level of influence. An Edinburgh student considered the limited size of their JSoc as an over whelmingly positive thing. Closer con nections and the ability to forge your own sense of Judaism without the pres sures of a wider community seem to be the benefits of this experience. A bub ble within the bubble if you will: a bub ble in which your experiences and your faith can be enhanced through diversity.
And then there’s the invaluable independence of having to enter whol ly new friendship groups of non-Jews.
The smaller JSoc performs its function of comfort and familiarity whilst push ing you into the wider world by serving as a safety net but not a comfort blanket. Certainly, within the Jewish world the term ‘community’ comes up a lot. But until that point, I had never felt like it had been sufficiently interro gated. Why do we place such immense value on community? How is our sense of self then connected to these spaces? For many students in a similar position, it is because we seek that famili arity. Feeling a part of something we know intimately, not just something we’ve been told about or educated about, is an enor mous aspect of the university shift. These communities root us to our homes wher ever they may be - our friends, our stories. But this distance can enable more than just comfort. Plunged into a community that I did not recognise, my gut reaction was to shy away, to retreat. But walking out of that service on Rosh Hashanah, I felt more than ever that such an unusual experience had pushed me far more to question the attitudes and values we had grown up with. In fact, I would argue, there is nothing more characteristic of our umbrella community than the ability to question, to discuss and to challenge. In a strangely contradictory way, these feel ings of alienation or confusion unique ly bring us back to our Jewish roots. And so, a moment of Rosh Hashanah clarity dawned on me as I left that day. Yes, I am proudly Jewish in all its diversity and oddity. In using Man chester to escape from the bubble, I re discovered what it meant for me - not for anyone else - to have a community. Yes, Manchester is a case study and an unu sual one at that. But its Jewish presence has fostered an identity which meant moving beyond the circles I grew up in. Whereas students using university to es cape the Leeds, Bristol or London bub bles may be considering the dilemma vocalised in The Clash’s song ‘Should I Stay, or Should I Go’, I would argue the answer does not have to be so binary. I urge those going into a similar ly uncertain situation to see it as a posi tive. A chance not to detach from your home communities, the comfort zone of ‘the bubble’, but to understand that Jewish identity from a different angle. Embrace the small JSoc and relish the different people you’ll inevitably meet, because this might be your best chance to do so.
The youth are the future -- but only if they do what we say Hannah Rose
When I was President of UJS, it was of ten put to me that young people were ap athetic. “Why do young people not care about Judaism?”, I was asked, and “how can we get young people to engage?”
These questions always came as a surprise to me, given that I was con stantly surrounded by communities of interesting, energetic and compas sionate young people pioneering excit ing new initiatives and driving change.
I quickly learned that these questions often had an underlying in ference, which can best be expressed as “why aren’t young people doing what we want them to?”. Young people aren’t seen to be practising Judaism “correct ly” or expressing their identities in a way which is expected of them, so often they are seen as not practising Judaism at all. Perhaps we would do bet ter to ask more challenging questions of ourselves. What barriers to en gagement have been placed in young people’s way? Do we really welcome young people on their terms, not ours?
Often, the community appears to have a clear vision for the future; one that looks a lot like its past. But how ever difficult, a space which promis es progress must be open to change.
A recent example relates to two young people - a Birthright participant and leader - who chose to leave the tour after their accommodation was moved last minute to a small West Bank settle ment. While all may not share their con cern, some people’s choice to paint these
individuals as fringe extremists is at best a troubling misinterpretation of events. Anti-settlement positions are increasing ly commonplace, and will not disappear merely because established community organisations choose to ignore them. The madricha in question is an established, well-respected, and mainstream com munal professional. If the community chooses to alienate her, they do so at the risk of pushing away a whole generation of young Jewish people who have com mitted no sin but political difference.
Young people are no less thoughtful or able than the generations before them. Dismissing all disagree ments as merely a product of naivety or lack of critical thinking patronises those who we are meant to be empowering. It does not change people’s minds, but merely leads them to take their thoughts elsewhere. Criticising young people’s ability in one breath, and then lambast ing them for never participating in the Jewish community rings of hypocrisy.
A striking consequence of this pattern is the lack of empathy shown towards religious or political differ
ence. While schools and institutions promote diversity in their program ming, how often is it translated into how they treat our peers on the other side of the political spectrum? Ironi cally, it is not the so-called “snowflake generation” who struggle with diversity.
If young people’s views are not taken seriously, particularly where they differ from community norms, the community risks alienating in dividuals with significant potential. Many observe a future risk of commu nal polarisation, but few may consid er themselves to be its perpetrators. And so, for the slightest trans gression or political disagreement, young people who have dedicated their lives to the community are met with disenfran chisement, patronisation, and outcast. The consequences are obvious for all to see; we push our allies out of the tent, only serving to harm our future selves.
Reducing communal polarisa tion is not a slogan we can repeat in conver sation and ignore in practice. It is a chal lenging and often tiring process of talking with good faith across political, religious, age, geographical and social divides.
As UJS President, I spoke at AJC Global Forum 2019, urging the ple nary to pursue “partnerships, not pa ternalism”. The consequences of not doing so are apparent for all to see. If we alienate our young people for voic ing the slightest political difference, we will only have ourselves to blame. should paternalismpartnerships,pursuenot
Including patrilineal Jews Dora Hirsh
Cross-communalism is one of UJS’ four core values. The aim is to create a space where every Jewish student is welcomed, affirmed and catered to. But, what hap pens when there is disagreement over whether somebody is Jewish at all?
As early as the 19th century, Reform rabbis in the USA quietly ac cepted the children of patrilineal Jewish descent into their cheders and confirmed them into the Jewish faith alongside their peers. This was fully formalised in 1983 when the Central Conference of Ameri can Rabbis passed a resolution accepting the Jewish identity of children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers under certain circumstances. Meanwhile, in the UK, Liberal Judaism began accepting patrilineal descent in the 1950s, which al lowed children of a single Jewish father to inherit his Jewish status, on the condition that the father had been raised Jewish. The Movement for Reform Judaism fol lowed suit in 2016. Meanwhile, Orthodox and Masorti Jewish communities remain strongly committed to the tradition al rabbinic position that Jewishness is passed on only through the mother.
Because of this divide in opinion about who is Jewish and who is not – which children of Jewish parents are welcomed into our community, and which are cast out – there is a group of people who are Jewish in some sense and not in another; Jewish by some definition and not by another; Jewish in the eyes of some but not in the eyes of others. These are patrilineal27.5%Jews.ofUK synagogue members belong to a Reform or Liberal synagogue, with 20% of all UK Jews iden tifying as Reform or Liberal, and 34% identifying as secular (JPR, 2017). Since the Jewish identity of patrilineal Jews are affirmed within these groups, children with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers can be raised in households
filled with Jewishness, grow up attend ing cheder and Jewish school, celebrate their b’nei mitzvah, and be full and active participants in their Jewish communities. If they are involved in active Jewish com munities, they may have only a vague and abstract understanding that their Jewish identity is not universally affirmed. They might never have had cause to think too deeply about it - until they arrive on campus and, perhaps for the first time, meet other Jews who don’t consider them Jewish.
Patrilineal Jewish students face unique kinds of exclusion on campus, which can be a shock for some students. They are talked to at freshers’ fairs and reassured that they are welcome at their JSoc. But people do not always think about what happens next. In being invit ed to participate in Jewish life on campus, they are also asked to open themselves to the emotional and spiritual harm of exclusion and rejection. For example, there have been a number of patrilineal JSoc members, including committee members, who were barred from living in (non-UJS run) Hillel houses because of their patrilineal status. Patrilineal Jewish students sometimes report being the subject of gossip, and find that their family background is being disclosed without their consent. When Orthodox external organisations run events for students, patrilineal students may find themselves having to choose between being open about their status and risking
Patrilineal students face exclusion on campus
being treated differently from their peers, or feeling as though they are keeping a secret, being dishonest, or having to hide a part of their Equallyidentity.though, we cannot, nor would we want to, ask Orthodox or Masorti students to compromise their own beliefs, for example by including patrilineal Jews as counting for an Or thodox or Masorti minyan. This would also be an abdication of our commitment to cross-communalism. Nor can we fully shield patrilineal Jews from discomfort that might arise - not only would this be impossible, it would also be patronising. The challenge, then, is to facilitate an environment where patrilineal Jews feel warmly welcome and safe to express and live out their Jewish identity on campus, whilst also acknowledging that there will always be spaces that cannot welcome Ithem.donot
have a straightforward answer to this challenge, but it is one that I think all JSoc committees should be think ing carefully about. Important parts of this puzzle will include informing and empowering students to make their own decisions about how, when and to whom they should reveal their Jewish family story; making sure that there are enough alternatives on campus for students who do not feel comfortable with external organisations; and supporting students through the emotional harm of exclusion. There is an interesting conversation to be had about the history and reasons for the matrilineal descent norm, and about how best to respond to mixed faith relation ships and the children of these relation ships. But the fact is that patrilineal Jews exist, they are on our campuses and in our JSocs right now, and not enough thought has been given to how they can be welcomed warmly, rather than people turning a blind eye to the exclusion that they might face.
Gendering the four sons Mizy J. Clifton
My grandmother doesn’t know that I am trans. To be fair, neither did I until fairly recently. Sure, I bristled somewhat four years ago, when she bought me a mug that was pink and emblazoned with the sharp-witted ditty “sweet and nice, love ly too, precious granddaughter, that’s YOU!” - but that’s because I’m a feminist, not because I wasn’t a granddaughter. Nevertheless, I wasn’t particularly good at being one of those - a granddaughter that is, rather than a feminist. My feminist credentials have been largely sound and reliable, though admittedly, my girlfriend has been known to raise a lovingly disap proving eyebrow at me when, on occa sion, I have taken Jewish irony someplace injudicious. As a granddaughter, how ever, I was typically quiet when I visited, my mind either absent or else slyly plot ting how best I could rouse provocation among my conservative grandparents. I resented the weekly Friday Night Din ners for their obligatory cheek-kisses - to refuse was to risk inciting the wrath of the scorned Jewish grandmother, if you’ll forgive me for dealing momentarily in stereotypes. I was the wicked child par ex cellence, if only in my own imagination.
This metaphor works well. In the Haggadah that we read on Passover, there are four sons (I know that it is much more
progressive to make their gender non-ex plicit, referring to them as children in stead, but bear with me): the wicked son, the wise son, the simple son, and the son who does not know how to ask. I think it is only useful to understand the wicked son as wicked in the sense that he appears to be full of scorn, asking - as it tends to be assumed, only rhetorically - “what are all these [Jewish] things to you?”. I have been that son. I am much less scornful now, much more calm; I owe at least some of that transition to my own transition of becoming closer to a son, any son, period.
My grandmother doesn’t know that I am trans. And yet, she knows that I am different. At another occurrence of the infamous Friday Night Dinner a few months ago, in the swelteringly hot cli mate of her practically tropical flat, she noticed that I was sweating considerably
beneath my thick sweatshirt (most cer tainly not the sartorial choice of the wise son). She suggested that I look in my late grandfather’s wardrobe for a shortsleeved shirt to wear; I gratefully obliged, choosing a blue patterned one out of the few remaining items. This did not strike me as at all significant until recently. My grandmother has a wardrobe full of clothes, and I doubt that she withheld them because she simply did not like the thought of me wearing them. Instead, I think that she intuitively grasped that I did not like the thought of me wearing her clothes. Of all the assumptions that I have heard my grandmother make over the years, this one was resolutely correct. It was also full of love. I treasure that shirt. To return to the metaphor. My grandmother does not know that I would much rather be her grandson than her granddaughter, were I to be given such a narrow choice. She would not think me wicked for this, though others might. She might not know what to think - dare I say it, she might become the one who does not know how to ask. But she is wise enough, I think, not to buy me that mug again.
I would rather be her grandson than her granddaughter
On hating galleriesart
Art galleries are boring. But what if there’s something more pernicious at play? David Levy walks through the antisemitic games played by art history.
I hate art galleries. As a place guard ed by pretentiously high entry fees and populated by old men in tortoise-shell glasses, I don’t think they should ever be trusted. Part of this hostility, I am sure, is grounded in jealousy: even my stick men have wonky arms and my child hood paintings always seemed to dis appear from my grandparents’ fridge door. There is, however, a more serious reason why I harbour disapproval for art history. Beyond the tightly pursed lips and arrogant head-nods, art history has helped to systematically erase an impor tant part of my identity - my Jewishness. There is nothing immediately suspicious about the relationship between religion and art. The achievements of Christian architecture, for one, continue to hold the average tourist to ransom, with entry to the Duomo di Milano costing
twenty euros and a sun-stroke inducing queue. Judaism, one would initially think, should boast the same dynamic. Though it paled in political influence to its Christian cousin - and so it would probably have to downsize from the grandeur of Renais sance cathedrals - it would be strange if Judaism had no artistic representation. Despite this, denial of Jew ish art has characterised its history. By the mid-1950s, the ironically named art historian, Erwin Goodenough, was at pains to stress how his Yale and Ox ford colleagues insisted that there was “no such thing as Jewish art”. There is something obviously amiss here. How could a religion, so fundamental to the shaping of modernity, have no art worth the attention of the average historian?
The reason for this erasure part ly stretches back to a misinterpretation of
the Old Testament. What Immanuel Kant insisted was the “most sublime passage in Jewish Law”, requires that one “shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven or on earth…”. This, of course, comes across as an explicit art ban. So, it is unsurprising that the Oxford dons that taught Good enough argued that “a group loyal to the Jewish faith would have nothing to do with art”. The Jew, it was protested, cared for the beauty of holiness, whereas it was the Greeks who cared for the holiness of beauty. If Jewish people ever had artistic endeavours, the argument goes, these en deavours would be a perversion of Jewish tradition and law. At the heart of the tussle between art history and Judaism, then, is a paradox. Any piece of art that seems Jew ish, by dint of seeming Jewish, is un-Jewish. This paradox, importantly, was
not merely a puzzle for Jewish theolo gians to find a solution for. It was weap onised to undermine the Jewish faith. Though much of what he says requires me to watch a 354-episode series explaining what he’s actually talking about, Hegel’s claim that Jews “despise the image [of God] because…they have no inkling of [his] deification” is clearly borne of a sim ilar Old Testament reading. Jews forbade depicting God, for Hegel, because the picture they had of him was incoherent. So, not only is the Old Testament inter pretation an explanation for the contem porary dismissal of Jewish art, but it was also the choice weapon of those intent on undermining the Judaic tradition. Once this link is drawn out ex plicitly, it is obvious how Hegel’s charge evolved into the anti-Semitic projects that came after him. Richard Wagner’s infamous Jewishness in Music [Das Ju denthum in der Musik] (1850), after all, seems to mimic this Hegelian sentiment. His lamentation that “we know nothing of a single Jewish architect or sculptor in our own times…[nor any] painters of Jewish origin that…have created anything real in their art” is a short step from Hegel’s more confusing anti-Jewish tirade. Where Hegel was unclear, Wagner was crystal. There is no Jewish art - and their God forbade it because they are incapable of producing anything proper. The expung ing of Jewish art from the art historical re cord, in other words, contributed to, and shaped, the antisemitism of the future.
There is a part of me which feels bad for deriding art history in this way. Jewish art from antiquity was relative ly scarce until the discovery of the Du ras-Europos synagogue murals in the ear ly 20th century . And, more importantly, if the interpretation of the Old Testament they’ve wielded is legitimate, then it seems unfair to direct criticism their way for Wagner’s polemic. In much the same way as Nietzche might not be responsible for the way Nazis misappropriated his phi losophy, art history cannot be to blame if people misused their reading of the Bible. So, the judgement of the discipline rests on whether it was a fair interpretation of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, it was not. The reason for this illegitimacy is a simple string of 10-letters: literalism.
Of course, when understood lit erally, the second commandment of the Old Testament reads as Kant and Hegel suggest. However, it misunderstands the
context of the passage. When the com mandments were given to the Israelites, they had been roaming the desert - guid ed by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. They were nomads. So, the second commandment needs to be un derstood in this context: the function of the law prohibiting images “...was to as sure loyalty to the invisible [God] and to keep the [Israelites] from adopting the idols of the many sedentary cultures they came in contact [with]”. So, when they leave the desert, the nomadic function of the commandment no longer applies.
This context shift can be under stood by reflecting on later stories told in the Old Testament. If the second com mandment was understood in the literalist way Hegel proposes, the construction of the Solomonic temple - and the Cherubim that guard its entrance - would have been heresy. After all, if anything, the angels marking the entrance of the temple rep
resented “a graven image…a likeness of any thing that is in heaven or on earth…”. At this juncture, it seems obvious why the Old Testament interpretation He gel suggests is wrong. If the Jews of antiq uity really took the Old Testament as se riously as Hegel claims - hence, their lack of art - then the Solomonic temple would have been heretical. In fact, it would nev er have been built. Instead, however, the Jewish tradition is replete with nostalgic impulses to the Temple period. So, the Old Testament shouldn’t be read in the Hegeli an spirit; to do so would be not only to em brace centuries of structural antisemitism, but to be complicit in its enduring legacy. So, if I ever get invited to an art gallery by a relentless first-date - or want to avoid a trip with a friend who can’t take a hint - I should let them know that my re fusal is not personal. Rather, it is ground ed in the anti-Jewish sentiment that art museums helped propogate for millenia.
Yom Kippur connections Jodie Franks
My favourite part of this time of year (apart from going to loads of fresher’s fairs!) is attending Selichot services. ‘Seli chot’ are communal prayers in which we ask for Divine forgiveness. They are recited at night, from before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. They are emotive, tuneful and heartfelt prayers to which I feel especially connected.
Even with the most inspir ing tunes, Hebrew prayers are of ten hard to connect to. So, this year, I have made an effort to read the Eng lish translation of some of the selichot.
One of the prayers for the fifth day of Selichot paints a pitiful pic ture of our Jewish ancestors. We were once a downtrodden people, with en emies on all sides and no allies on this earth. Distractions and temptations were around every corner, and hope was slim. The prayer continues with the promise that the Jews would be comfort ed by “the book of Your consolations”.
At a time when our people clear ly needed some cheering up, the ‘book of consolations’ came along at a perfect opportunity! However, the text itself does not go into any detail about what could be found in this ‘book of conso lations’, or indeed if it was a book at all.
The author of this section of Seli chot, Rav Shlomo ben Yehuda Habavli, added some addenda to the prayer, ex plaining that the ‘book of consolations’ could be referring to the divine promise stating that the Jewish people will pre vail through any hardship, or maybe even to the exodus from Egypt, where God once again proved to the Jewish people that we could prevail over our enemies. Both of these events would be consol ing to our people in a time of great need.
Rav Shlomo is therefore sug gesting that the consolation came in the form of remembering an event, rather than a physical book. Rabbi Avraham
Rosenfeld, the translator of the only full copy of Selichot in English, had a dif ferent idea. Rabbi Rosenfeld pairs the ‘book of God’s consolations’ with vers es found in the Torah. In the last book of the Torah, Moses is deep into his fi nal speech to the Jewish people. After rebuking the people and warning them against sinning, we read, in my opinion, the most inspiring verses in all of Torah.
The verses (Deuteronomy 30:11;14) read: “For this commandment that I command you today is not hid den from you, nor is it distant from you. The matter is in fact very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to fulfil it.”
Cryptically, what “this com mandment” is referring to is not clear. Luckily for us, biblical commentators through the centuries have brought various interpretations. Nachmanides, a 13th century leading Jewish schol ar, gives two possible answers. The first and better-known answer is that Moses is talking about the Torah as a whole –it is accessible to anybody at any time.
However, Nachmanides’ sec ond answer is the one I find fascinating. He explains that “this commandment” actually refers to teshuvah – repent ance. Apologising to others and com mitting to be a better version of our selves is a central part of Selichot, and many of the festivals at this time of year. However, it is not enough to give a token apology and tick the box that we have ‘done the Yom Kippur thing’. True repentance, according to Nachmanides, must be done with both the mouth and
the heart. If we do not mean what we say and have the right intentions in our repentance, then we are entirely missing the point – we must do “this command ment” with both our mouths and hearts. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest Jewish concepts to internalise. Personally, I take comfort in the verses from Deuteronomy. Moses tells the people that this mitzvah of repentance is not in the heavens, nor across the seas – it is very much within our capabilities to do. As one may feel further and further away from Judaism, especially at university when distractions are everywhere, it seems to me that tradition and Jewish connection is always there, accessible and reachable.
To go back to the original prayer we were looking at, it can now be perceived completely differently. Rereading “the book of Your consolations” as ‘the possi bility to repent and return to Judaism,’ we now see that the only comfort to the Jew ish people in their hour of need was that it is always possible to come back. The de scribed enemies, both those surrounding us and those within us, are pulling us in all different directions. Yet, whichever way we go, Judaism can go with us. It is wait ing just around the corner for us, and if we are able to truly repent, to really feel it and mean it, we will only get closer and closer to the Judaism we choose for ourselves.
True repentance is done with the mouth and heart
From prison to LSE
Warren King served time in prison for dealing drugs after a difficult childhood. He shares his journey from jail to JSoc.
My name is Warren King, and this is my story. I am Jewish, Reform and not par ticularly religious. I do not keep kosher and have not been to a synagogue for years, but I am a member of LSE’s Jewish Society, and Judaism is a part of my iden tity that I am very proud of. I am 30 years old, although only now am I embarking on my journey of higher education - I am about to begin my second year of my un dergraduate degree in Sociology at LSE! Yet, just over two years ago, things for me were very different; I was a prisoner at HMP Brixton, approaching release af ter having been sentenced on 19th Jan uary 2019 to 3 years and 4 months of imprisonment for drug offences. In the UK, one normally does half of their sen tence in prison and the other half released on probation. I finished probation only about a month ago. You really do not know how much the little things mean until your liberty has been taken away. I come from a home where my father left before I can remember, and I grew up around plenty of anger and vio lence, which often included fighting with my step-dad and brother. I did not have
a good relationship with my family, and the poor relationships with those around me bled into my school life too. I was not great socially when I was younger. A few people repeatedly used to mock me and call me “Jew”, and I had no confidence or self-esteem. I got into fights, which even tually led to the school asking me to leave before they would have to expel me. I did so, and transferred to King Solomon High School, which had only a Jewish cohort at the time. Within a couple of weeks, I was beaten up for being gay - I am bisexual, but nobody knew that at the time, and I pre sume that it was a common slur for people who might have been easy targets. I was quite isolated, but I had a couple of close friends who smoked weed; for the want of having and keeping friends, I quickly and readily engaged with drug-use as well.
Poor relationships with my teach ers became even poorer, and I disengaged with school entirely. I became stoned every day and was always trying to use the drug to “feel better”. I was not necessarily a truant that was absent all the time - I was there physically, just not mentally. I took all of my GCSE exams, but I did not pass
any of them except for drama, for which I achieved a C. However, I did not give up. I managed to get onto a BTEC Diploma in Technical Theatre, as I used to go to a drama school for a couple of years, and I had some interest and experience. Never theless, my drug addiction and need for a community got the better of me. I engaged further in drug culture, and started to use MDMA, pills, LSD, ketamine, cocaine etc. I did not do well on that course either! Eventually, I found myself hav ing to move out and rent a flat, yet I had no job, no education, and no prospects, aside from a raging drug addiction and a desperate need to be a part of a communi ty and a small circle of friends that were in similar positions. It got to the point where I did not have any friends that did not also do drugs. In my circumstances, I thought that it was a great idea to start selling weed to them - I would have as many drugs as I could take, my rent would be paid for, and I would be the centre of attention. Suddenly, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be my friend. However, this life did not last long. I knew that what I was doing was wrong - it is not exactly some
thing I could proudly tell my grandmoth er. Eventually, reality caught up with me. My girlfriend had just left the flat to go to the shop. It was a Friday afternoon. I was 19 at the time, and had been dealing for about 5 months. I got a knock on the door. It was two young stocky guys who I had never seen before. They asked for £10 worth of weed and said that a mutu al friend had told them that I could sort them with a good deal. Naively, I obliged. I went upstairs to get their order. Sud denly, they came to my flat door, barged in and shouted “get him!”. They man aged to beat me up a bit, and they stole about an ounce of weed (£200s worth). I had at least £1000s worth in my flat, so I thought that it was no big deal; I told a few friends, and a couple of them came over in case the same thing happened again. Two days later, with a couple of my friends still there, I had another knock on my door at about 10pm. I was expect ing another friend - who I now believe set me up - but I had a bad feeling. I figured that I was just being paranoid. Still, I took the first knife that I saw in the kitchen, which was from a multicoloured set that I had bought from Asda. The blade was about 4 inches long and purple. I held it in my pocket whilst walking alone down the stairs, and opened the door tentatively. It was not the friend that I had expected. Standing in front of me was a well-dressed young man. I cannot remember exactly what he was wearing, but I know that he had short dark hair and he was skinny. He asked for a ‘bennerz’ (£10 of weed), and apologised because he did not have money for more. I said that I had stopped dealing and went to close the door.
He put his foot in the gap, and I saw the two boys from the days before come from either side of the porch and force the door open. The skinny boy pulled out a Lucozade bottle and squeezed. I can not remember the exact smell, but it was not Lucozade - it was strong, like bleach. It went in both of my eyes and all over my face. I felt it dripping off my chin. Burn ing. The pain was immense. I fell back onto the stairs. I panicked, blindly waving the knife around in front of me, hoping to slash at least one of them. One of the boys grabbed the blade from my hand and I felt him pressing it into my stom ach. A friend of mine heard the commo tion and came out. I heard the skinny boy, who was still holding the bottle, shout, “do you want to get sprayed as well?”. My
friend managed to chase the boys off, but not without getting himself a dose of whatever liquid was in the bottle. My girlfriend called 999, and the street lit up with blue flashing lights. I was complete ly blind. I remember hugging her before I went into the ambulance, saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore”. I didn’t. Yet, I felt as though I did not have any other op tions and I did not believe that I would be good at anything other than selling drugs. It took around 3 months for my sight to recover, though I still have problems to this day. Many more attacks like that hap pened: guns in my face, attempts on my life with a hammer and a machete, and a suitcase full of tools intended for torture.
I was first arrested for dealing drugs in 2016, but kept on getting released on bail and then arrested again. Eventu ally, I was sentenced in 2019. I was lost, and none of those “friends” that I made from dealing came to visit or picked up the phone. I had let my family down. I never intended on being a career criminal. I guess it is easy to fall into that lifestyle when you do not have a plan. I had two kids with the same girlfriend, but social services got involved after I had been ar rested and attacked too many times, and I was told that I could not see them anymore or take them out. I had essentially left like my own father did. I wanted to be better.
I actually re-engaged with Juda ism when I was in prison, but I found that there are not many facilities in prison for Jews, except for a Rabbi who would come and meet me every 2 or 3 months. I also faced quite a bit of antisemitism in prison, including from officers and kitchen staff, especially when I was on a kosher diet. It is not economically viable to prepare ko sher meals in custody, so the meals were from an outside source and were nicer - this seemed to excuse staff for making antisemitic comments to me. However,
even in the most remote and dark plac es, I was still able to connect with a com munity that had an understanding of my religious background and upbringing, which gave me a sense of comfort and be longing. Moreover, I realised that I could make this prison sentence an opportuni ty for change. I did not want my life to feel like I was stuck in a revolving door. I chose the former and started educating myself. First, I studied carpen try, but I did not enjoy it. Nonetheless, I worked hard and got a distinction, and realised that if I can get a distinction in a subject that I do not like, what can I do when I find something that I do like? I tried tiling and personal training, but then I was introduced to Sociology, and I quickly developed a passion for it. I found my calling. Since my release on 5th May 2020, I have completed an access course in Sociology and Psychology, with a distinc tion in every module. I study Sociology at LSE and achieved the highest grade in my year group for one of the exams (91!). I have just returned from Uganda, where I was working with Justice Defenders (for merly known as African Prisons Project), delivering workshops to those impris oned. Being an ex-prisoner and a mature student on an undergraduate degree gave me a sense of being an outsider at LSE, but having the opportunity to contact JSoc means I can get a sense of belonging and acceptance again. It has allowed me to in tegrate better with those around me, and for me to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I am writing this in the hope that whoever reads this knows that however bad you mess up, however far you fall, you can still get up and achieve. Change is possible, but never happens in comfort. is possible, but never happens in comfort.
Light in darknessthe
How do people keep their faith in the toughest of times? Sarah Wilks looks at the Jews who found their faith in the wake of the Holocaust.
The period between the liberation of con centration camps and a reversion to “nor mality” is an often-forgotten part of Jewish history. This period was a key turning point in the revitalisation of Jewish religious practice across Europe. This topic seems especially fitting as we move towards Rosh Hashana; nothing quite encapsulates the idea of renewal much more than photo graphs of Holocaust survivors celebrating festivals whilst still in displaced persons (DP) camps. Jewish experiences in dis placed persons camps are an often-over looked facet of Holocaust history, but in reality they are essential to understand ing how Jewish people rebuilt their lives.
As a religion that at its centre believes in an omniscient G-d, it is un derstandable how Jewish survivors’ faith in Judaism would have been diminished. As such, there are numerous examples of Jewish survivors abandoning their faith following the Holocaust, for both reli gious and practical reasons. Based on this complexity the question arises of how and why such a revival of the Jewish re ligion took place in DP camps, especial ly amongst Jews with such varying levels of religiosity prior to the Holocaust. The intricacies of such a question can’t be ex plored completely in this article, but hope fully some light will be shed on the topic as we move towards the holiday season. Images such as these illustrate
how Jewish people rebuilt Jewish life in DP camps. The photograph above shows a group of Jewish men in a DP camp, walk ing in a procession to the unveiling of a gravestone. Such an unveiling typically takes place around nine months following a person’s death. This kind of event taking place is unsurprising given the context, but is extremely useful when considering how Jewish practices were redeveloped. Photos such as this highlight how religious
practice and Judaism were used as ways to cope with the trauma that survivors were dealing with: we see here how the unveil ing of a gravestone, commemorating by name, was a key element of the Jewish mourning process. This would have aided in the recovery process, with its provision of closure being a step towards rebuilding one’s life after the Holocaust. A sense of community is also important here, as this commonality of mourning one’s loss was
shared by all, allowing people to recover and rebuild such Jewish practices together. Examples of this can be seen in numerous archival photographs showing groups of Jewish DPs attending a Seder. The fact that these photos are taken from the celebration of Passover is especially important as Passover is the most explic itly relatable festival to the Jewish peo ple’s recent history of persecution. Here we can see how in a very powerful way
Jewish survivors were able to use their previous experiences of persecution to rebuild their relationship with Judaism, connecting to their own histories in a very real way. The small details in such pho tos including matzah and glasses of wine on tables highlight the efforts made even further, again showing a desire amongst Jewish survivors to rekindle such reli gious traditions. What is even more sur prising about events such as these is the
efforts made by the US government to aid the endeavours. The office of the US Military Government “granted to release to the Jewish Welfare Agency… 105,000 pounds of flour from CA/MG stocks for the preparation of matzos to be distribut ed to Jewish DPs for Passover”, and during this period “the normal issue of bread or flour to Jewish DPs [was] suspended”. The fact that action was taken at a governmen tal level is an often overlooked element, but is extremely significant nonetheless. These photos are extremely pow erful and reflect the often-overlooked actions of Jewish survivors in displaced persons camps. They make clear that de spite many Jews previously practising Judaism at various levels, their shared experiences brought them together in the DP camps. This ability to rekindle Jewish traditions that are so key to the lives of so many Jewish people today is something that must be remembered, especially as we enter the new year peri od. I hope that these images and the ac tions of these people provide you with hope and inspiration for the year ahead.
What’s the losh?
A JSoc asks you to run a session for their members at the last minute. Which session do you deliver?
a) A session about humour in the Holo b)caust‘A queer reading of medieval Jewish c)poetry’‘What I love about Shabbat’ d) ‘History of Antisemitism in France’ e) Obviously pres – I’m a fresher at heart! f) An Israeli dance class
g) ‘How to plan ahead’ h) ‘My favourite Jewish foods’
When you get home after a long day, how do you unwind?
a) Watch Netflix to try and rot my brain b) Hot chocolate and a gritty crime c)dramaWatch rom-coms
d) Look at Israeli election polls e) Take a bath and do a face mask f) Go for brunch (yes, at 5pm) g) Fall asleep on the sofa h) Sit.
You’ve just landed in Israel for a holi day. Where are you going first?
a) Aroma for an iced coffee on the beach (and a cookie, and a boureka, and a sab ich sandwich…)
b) Rabin Square for a protest c) The Kotel d) Mitzpe Ramon
e) Kuli Alma, Tel Aviv baby f) Ein Gedi (if there’s still water left) g) Passport control h) Food.
What time do you arrive at work in the morning?
a) Preferably before everyone else so I can set the air conditioner at 18°C and close the blinds
c) 8:30 on the dot no matter what.
d) Late enough that everyone is waiting for me
e) About a month late f) 9:20
Which sab are you?
g) 9:00 – gives me half an hour to calm down after the drive h) 9:00 on average, but I’m not fussed
What was your favourite extra-curricu lar activity at school?
a) Hanging out in the Jewish Education office and gossiping with the teachers b) Cultivating an academic interest in sport and pretending to like it c) Organising a fashion show d) Badminton and DT e) Dance f) Jew-do
g) Debating club h) Sport (actually participating)
What is your favourite Shabbat activ ity?
a) Watching the Arsenal
b) Playing Snatch
c) Making a mental list of reasons why I love Shabbat
d) Going on a walk on Hamstead Heath e) Sleeping and eating good food
f) Braiding challah before Shabbat g) Jungle Speed h) Food.
What was the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done at school or camp?
a) Barricaded my statistics teacher out of the classroom b) Ran through a field of wheat
c) Invented Jewish fast days so I could skip d)PEInnocently mixed hand sanitizer in a bottle of Sprite. A teacher accidentally end ed up drinking it and had to go hospital e) I stole loads of merch from camp f) I was annoyingly well behaved g) Even more annoying and even more well behaved than (f) h) Always in trouble for chatting
What was the last book you read?
a) Maybe You Should Talk to Someone –Lori Gotleib b) Young Mungo – Douglas Stuart c) What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? - Michal Oshman
d) The Last Shah – Ray Takeyh
e) It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover
f) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo –Taylor Jenkins Reid g) The Cambridge Companion to Antisem
h)itismThe Racketeer – John Grisham
What was your most listened to track this month?
a) Could Have Been Me – The Stuts b) TV – Billie Eilish c) Barcelona – Ed Sheeran
d) Virtual Insanity – Jamiroquai
e) Chatzi Dafuk – Omer Adam
f) She’s Electric - Oasis
g) Shake it Out – Florence and the Machine h) I’m a Little Teapot
‘I pace up and down when I think’
Oy gevalt! What a beautiful simcha!
This playlist created by Bir mingham student Charlotte Cobb is perfect for everyone looking for some Jewish mu sic to add to their repertoire. As per Charlotte’s top songs of the playlist, it’s clear there’s something for everyone. For the sing-alongers out there, there’s classics like Gad El baz’ Hava Nagila, Moshiach
Quickfire with Joel
Best moment so far at UJS? Launching this magazine
Best JSoc memory? Purim party in first year in the Clare cellars
Most inspirational Jewish historical figure?
Gad Beck, Hannah Szenes, Judah Halevi, Viktor Frankl
If you had to pick a sport, what would it be? All of them
What is the best quality in a friend?
Care. Being Caring.
What is your worst habit? I pace up and down when I think.
What quality do you admire most in others, but you don’t have yourself?
What is your dream Friday night dinner menu?
Sushi, pasta, crème brûlée, mint tea to end
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Gritty TV dramas or reading a novel
Favourite Jewish festival? Pesach. I like stories.
What’s your favourite thing about your least favourite person?
They think about me a lot.
Film Review: This is Where I Leave You (2014)
(essential for any singalong) and Mahapecha Shel Simcha (Omer Adam and Lior Narkis).
For those who prefer a more chilled vibe, there’s Hineh Ma Tov (Joshua Aaron), and the award-winning Chai (Ofra Haza). For more music like this, the playlist can be found at https://spoti.fi/3QpnmMx or by using the QR code above.
Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda and Tina Fey star in this Jew-ish film, which de spite its unoriginal and formulaic plot, of fers plenty of laughs for those in the know.
Four siblings return to their childhood home in small town USA when their mother, a therapist who made a career oversharing every embarrassing detail of her children’s development in her parenting books, in sists that they sit shiva for their father. The relationship between the siblings is well written and fun to watch. The youngest is off the rails, immature and still treated like a baby, while the middle son is serious, hardworking and humourless (of course they all love each other really).
For me, the highlight of the film is the character of the young Reform Rabbi - an erst while teased cheder classmate turned self-seri ous, self-righteous and irritable community leader.
Overall verdict: Deeply predictable, but heart-warm ing and easy to watch. Recommended watching for a duvet day.
Like Wales, but hotter (6) on love and respect (10) you for your time as ____(9) it in (7) do it over lunch (5) UJS core value of Israel ____ (10) night dinner’s starter (4) name on ____ (6) mum, came here to study! this right will follow you (10)
How we keep in touch (8) Raising awareness and making change happen (11) Can be big or small and do everything for all (9) The events that help us unwind (7) Our chevra (7) When we fight antisemitism bravely, we are ____ (10) We hang out at his house (6) First word is a synonym for angry, second word us together (13) Red sea pedestrians (4) We do it three times a day (4)
With thanks to our contributors:
Mizy J. Clifton | Oxford JSoc
Guy Dabby-Joory | Oxford JSoc (UJS Sab)
Jodie Franks | Leeds JSoc (UJS Sab)
Dora Hirsh | Sheffield JSoc (UJS Sab)
Warren King | LSE JSoc
Benjy Klauber-Griffiths | Manchester JSoc
David Levy | Cambridge JSoc
Jack Lubner | Cambridge JSoc
Hannah Rose | KCL JSoc
Sarah Wilks | Birmingham JSoc (UJS Sab)
Answers to the crossword can be found at represent of the contributors and do not necessarily re flect those of the Union of Jewish Students.