Distinguished guests, dear UJS staff, fellow students, a few days ago we lit the last candle of Chanukkah. Probably the most frequently used metaphor during those days is about how a little light is sufficient in order to fill a big room; in order to overcome darkness. Also, it is the motif of light that we refer to when speaking about the main goal of Judaism, “Lihiot Or ben Ha’mim”, to be a light among the nations. Considering the fact that we are so few, our light has to shine brightly in order to have an actual effect, in order to make the world a better place – tikkun olam. Looking into this room makes me believe in a bright future.
Because I look at you and I see Liberal and Conservative, I see Sephardi and Ashkenazi, I see Orthodox, Conservative and Reform sitting next to each other. But mostly I see a movement that has managed to bring all of these people together, united in one cause. All of this is happening in times of post democratic tendencies, that have been polarising our societies.
UJS works very professionally, you have a good foundation of activists who ensure sustainability, and you hold such deliberative assemblies in order to empower students and include them in your political decisions. Your moral compass is progressive and inclusive. You have an office that consists of highly capable activists and a president that will leave your organisation in a better state. You have four amazing candidates, from the best universities of the country, who have given everything in order to shape this movement of yours. They all did amazing campaigns, using vlogs, visiting your campuses, even playing the guitar for you or dressing up as a burger. We were following your campaigns with great excitement and I think you all did an amazing job, you all deserve it – let’s give them a big round of applause. Now, to cut it short, from my point of view it is fair to state that your organisation seems to be in a very strong position, it is on the right track.
When I was campaigning for presidency of EUJS, there was one question I repeatedly had to answer to almost every British delegate.
“Why do we need EUJS then? We run international programmes on our own, our union is in a good state? What do we need EUJS for, what do we need a European umbrella for?“ Now, I am not here in order present or even sell our programme to you. It is on our website and I am not a salesman. I spoke with my mother yesterday and she said, “chas vechalila!” Don’t you even try selling the European idea one year before Brexit, that’s bad timing! Also this I won’t do. I am here, in order to share a different picture of student activism with you.
With us, are Talia, President of the Italian Union, and Jonathan, our Executive Director and a former President of the Dutch Union. The three of us had to revive our respective national movements, that were dying. The three of us never saw an event like this one, and I could personally tell you more about how it was to be the only Jew on campus. Student activism is dying in Europe, and young Jewish voices are not being heard in and outside of the community. Please reach out to them and ask for their narrative, for their picture during Conference.
What I told the British delegates during my campaign was the exact same thing I want to tell you today: “Don’t only ask what Europe, what European Jewry can bring to you, ask what you can bring to European Jewry”. Because your knowledge, your experience, your organisation can inspire so many people! Because you can fill the room with light.
We have new unions growing these days, in Spain, in Hungary, imagine how much they could learn from you! And imagine that the effects of your decisions today, could not only have a national, but an international effect. You could bring them to European institutions, to the OSCE, even to the U.N. Human rights council, where we speak up every year. You can and you should raise your voice, there! If not for yourselves, than for those who can’t, Jewish or not Jewish.
Looking into this room makes me believe in a bright future.
Because I believe that you are willing to open up. Because I see numerous leaders who could easily help spread the light. Please, stay active, stay outspoken and lead as shining examples!
I salute you for your work, I wish you the best of luck for your JSocs and for your motions! I thank you Hannah for your work!