Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis urges university vice-chancellors to address growing anti-Semitism problem

Comments made amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents among student community, including at Oxford University

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Tuesday 10 May 2016 10:54 BST
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, pictured
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, pictured (PA)

The UK’s Chief Rabbi has warned the vice-chancellors of British universities not to turn away from the growing problem of anti-Semitism on campuses.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis described how Jewish pupils are leaving Jewish schools well-educated and eager to be good citizens, only to be faced with a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred” when they go onto university.

According to the site, the Chief Rabbi said university heads should be “ashamed” that “Zionist-bashing” is happening on their campuses. He told the site: “To vice-chancellors I would say: see what is happening under your noses, what is happening to the reputation of your universities.”

His comments have come amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents among the student community and movement, including at Oxford University, where he is due to address students at The Oxford Union society at the end of May.

In February, the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) - the largest student Labour group in the country - became embroiled in an anti-Semitism row after co-chair, Alex Chalmers, stepped down from his position because, he said, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford “have some kind of problem with Jews.”

An investigation into alleged anti-Semitism within OULU is one of many reportedly being conducted by the Labour Party.

Shortly after Mr Chalmers’ resignation, a former co-chair of OULC, David Klemperer, described how the row reflected a wider problem, and said: “Anti-Semitism is a major problem in Britain, with increasing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents reported.”

Mr Klemperer added how it is a particular challenge on campus where Jewish students often feel “threatened and vulnerable,” and have “insufficient support” from SUs.

More recently, though, NUS’s National Conference in Brighton was steeped in controversy last month, with particular discord being felt over the election of the new national president, Malia Bouattia, who faced allegations of anti-Semitism. Ms Bouattia, though, has strongly denied the claims.

Politicians, too, criticised delegates for presenting arguments against commemorating the Holocaust during a debate.

Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann, described how some comments - and their reception - were “inappropriate, offensive, and point to a disturbing wider ignorance about anti-Semitism” within the NUS.

Malia Bouattia interview

Conservative MP, Sir Eric Pickles, also voiced his concern over some views expressed at the debate, calling it “unbelievable.”

Mr Mann then announced plans to convene a rally in Parliament against racism within NUS with former presidents of the Union.

Students’ unions (SU) from across the UK have since been launching campaigns and confirming referendums on whether to disaffiliate from the national student campaigner.

On Monday, the SU at Lincoln University (ULSU) became the first to announce it will be breaking away from the NUS after an institution-wide vote.

ULSU president, Hayley Jayne Wilkinson, described how, as a group of elected officers, they “no longer felt confident” the NUS represented the views of Lincoln students.

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