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Mr. Alan Senitt, Former Chairman of the Union of Jewish Students of the UK and Ireland

“From the Campus to the Community: The Parents and Politicians of Tomorrow”

Ladies and gentlemen, today's students are tomorrow's parents and politicians. At university young people make life decisions, they decide who they are, what they believe in, what path they wish to take. On this basis if we want to ensure the future of our community and the state of Israel we have to invest in our students.

If a student graduates from university unconnected to the Jewish community and uninterested in the state of Israel, they are unlikely to support the Jewish people and the Jewish state in the long term. We have an obvious responsibility: we must offer every Jewish student a personal connection to the Jewish world and the state of Israel, which depends on two significant factors: firstly, can we overcome the challenge of anti-Semitism.

Secondly – do we recognize the changing nature of society and its impact of our students. The Jewish students are on the frontline in the battle against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Every day, a Jewish student, somewhere in Europe is confronted by anti-Semitism. The challenge for the community however goes beyond providing the resources for Jewish students to proactively and reactively respond to such a task. On many campuses there has been an upsurge in activism in response to Islamic extremism, academic boycott and the equation of Zionism with racism.

But if this is the only Jewish thing that students do during their time on campus, what will the long term impact be? If we want today's Jewish students to be tomorrow's Jewish community leaders we can not allow their greatest memory of Jewish life on campus to be an encounter with anti- Semitism. If we want today's Jewish students to be tomorrow's champions of Israel, we must not allow their foremost memory of Israel on campus to be a protest against an anti-Zionist campaign. If we want to ensure their commitment we must ensure they develop a strong Jewish identity through positive engagement with Judaism and Zionism. The second challenge, as I said, is recognizing the changing nature of society. Young people are increasingly independent individuals. They are caught up in their own needs and concerns. It is no longer obvious why they should live their lives within the bounds of Judaism and Zionism. Modern day society allows young people to explore new cultures and practices and to find fulfillment in any one of those cultures. It is essential to use a Hillel phrase that we engage students where they, are at. That we lean towards them, we listen to them and carefully demonstrate how their interests can be accommodated in their local Jewish community and in the state of Israel. We have to find a way to genuinely connect them with the Jewish community and Eretz Yisrael. But there is also one other lesson with regards to students, which I wish to offer.

The future of the state of Israel and the Jewish community around the world is not only reliant on today's Jewish students, but on today's non-Jewish students. It is vital that we have a positive impact on them as well, so they too continue to support the rights of the Jewish community and the state of Israel for the rest of their lives.

Over the last 12 years in Britain we have successfully identified future non- Jewish leaders, whilst they are on campus and brought them here to Israel. Today many of these young people have gone on to become politicians and journalists and they continue to stand up to support Israel and the Jewish community, all because of the links we forged with them while they were on campus.

Before I finish I feel I have to refer to the comments made yesterday by the German Foreign Minister. In response to an excellent question from Professor Dershowitz, Mr. Fischer claims that anti-Semitism is not a problem on German campuses and that Professor Dershowitz, need not be worried about it tainting the leaders of tomorrow. To Mr. Fischer I say this, with all due respect, obviously: Please Sir, open your eyes. Anti-Semitism is rife on campuses across Europe, and whilst the politicians and academics continue to deny, this is the case. The disease that is anti-Semitism is infecting the hearts and minds of more and more students.

So from this platform today I wish to remind the politicians and academics in Europe and around the world that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Your hesitation has allowed the anti-Semites to blur the line between legitimate criticism at a democratic state and blatant anti-Semitism. Legitimate discussion, regarding Israeli policy ends when Israel's leaders are referred to as Nazis. Legitimate debate about the future of the state of Israel ends when someone claims it is a shame that Hitler didn’t finish the job. Legitimate public support for the Palestinian cause ends when a student is stabbed 23 times on a bus in London just because he is Jewish, looks Jewish and is therefore assumed to support Israel. It is time that our leaders and our teachers recognize that line. But in addition, I use this platform to say to the leaders of the state of Israel and Jewish communities around the world that for too long we have done nothing other than react. When a problem arises we have too often waited for someone else to act on our behalf. We have created a culture where our young people do not understand the importance of being proactive.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I and my fellow student leaders are concerned the time for talking is over, the time for action has begun. The students are our future and every student matters. Thank you.

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