Jewish Religious Guidance Association for British Universities requires pro-Israel recruitment Jewish Religious Guidance Association for British Universities requires pro-Israel recruitment

Jewish Religious Guidance Association for British Universities requires pro-Israel recruitment

Jewish Religious Guidance Association for British Universities requires pro-Israel recruitment

London - The Middle East Eye website published a report prepared by Aribullah and Simon Hooper in which they said that Jewish religious advisors at British universities are chosen based on their support for Israel.

The University Jewish Rabbinate Association is a registered charitable organization that works in a number of British universities. Pastoral religious service is provided “to all Jewish students of all backgrounds and affiliations.”

The association is also working with government ministers on the government's promised guiding standards to address anti-Semitism in higher education institutions. However, the job description on its website for appointments to vacant positions at the universities of Brighton, Bristol and Glasgow listed “active advocacy for Israel” among the requirements that applicants must have. The organization apparently deleted the “Job Opportunities” page on its website after being contacted by Middle East Eye. The organization did not respond to repeated requests from the news site regarding asking religious guides to be supporters of Israel.

University professor: In these job advertisements there is confusion between being Jewish and supporting Israel, and this does not reflect the position of all Jews in British universities.

In addition to religious care and guidance for university students, the organization works with university departments and guidance institutions for other religions, and participates in religious dialogue activities in universities.

The University Jewish Rabbinate says it exists to support Jewish student associations, “represent Jewish students,” defend their interests at the university, and protect Jewish life, such as canceling invitations from hostile lecturers and acts of aggression against Jews.

In a description of an advertisement for a vacant position for religious guidance, it was stated: “You will be a source of strength and support for Jewish students and act as a representative of universities in your area.” However, Professor Nev Gordon, Professor of Human Rights at Queen Mary University, and Vice-President of the British Association for Middle Eastern Studies, wondered how the religious leader would be supportive of Israel and, at the same time, provide religious pastoral service to all Jewish students at universities. He commented: “In these job advertisements there is confusion between being Jewish and being pro-Israel, and this in no way reflects the position of all Jews in British universities.”

Gordon said that he met some time ago with a group of Jewish students at another university, who support Palestinian rights and feel that the Jewish Student Association at their university does not take their positions into consideration. Gordon added: “If the religious leader views his role as advocacy for Israel, he will not be able to represent Jewish students and workers on British university campuses, and will even adopt a position that weakens core values.”

The Jewish university rabbinate came under scrutiny after it was revealed that one of its mentors, Zachariah Deutsch, who works at the University of Leeds and other universities, took leave last year to serve in the Israeli army at the beginning of the war in Gaza. Deutsch, who has Israeli citizenship, sent a series of video clips to a religious guidance group on WhatsApp in which he defended his decision to return to Israel and serve in the army. This led a number of students to protest and demand his resignation. Deutsch did not respond to several requests from the site for comment.

The protests increased after he returned last month to the University of Leeds, where pro-Palestine graffiti was placed on a building used by the Jewish Students Association. The university denounced the slogans as anti-Semitic, and said it was working with Yorkshire Police and the University Jewish Guidance Association to ensure that Deutsch continues to serve Jewish students at the University of Leeds and other universities in the region. Deutsch and his family were said to have gone into hiding after receiving death threats.

On February 26, the rabbi returned to the university to participate in an anti-Semitic demonstration organized by the Jewish Students Association and the Jewish Students Union. The incident led to government action, with Education Minister Robert Halfon meeting with Deutsch and the interim Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and accusing universities of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism . He said the government should issue new guidance on anti-Semitism and after consulting organizations such as the Jewish University Rabbinate, promised to create a position of advisor on anti-Semitism in higher education.

Gordon: All energy and resources have been invested in silencing pro-Palestine activity and stifling any criticism of Israel

 In a speech last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave the Social Service Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism, he said university leaders had a personal responsibility to protect Jewish students. He added: “I want you to know that we will be inviting vice-chancellors of British universities to Downing Street to discuss exactly how this will work.” But the University of Leeds is facing demands to remove Deutsch from his position. Last month, pro-Palestine groups in northern England demanded that the university “immediately suspend” Deutsch’s work, and sever ties with the university’s Jewish rabbinate. The group said, “Linking the movement in solidarity with Palestine and legitimate concerns about Deutch to incidents of anti-Semitism while simultaneously failing to mention his recent behavior is deliberate deception and misinformation.”

Last week, Imam Farha Yacoub resigned, saying that the factor that prompted her to resign was the climate on the university campus since the Hamas attack and the war on Gaza. She said, in a statement, provided by the Islamic Society at the University of Leeds: “I have witnessed that social justice is an integral part of the duty of care that falls on everyone’s shoulders, that is, doing what is right, saying what is right, and supporting the right causes, whatever they may be.” “Based on the current climate, and since international events, at the beginning of October 2023, I have struggled to find core values ​​on campus in a way that is consistent with me.”

 The University of Leeds did not respond to requests for comment, while Gordon said that confusing the role of religious guidance at the university with advocacy for Israel risks undermining the “real fight” against anti-Semitism on campuses. “We must keep in mind that anti-Semitism in Britain is alive and active because the approach adopted by the Jewish university rabbinate and the government is dangerous, because it distorts and undermines the real struggle against hate speech directed at Jews.” “Instead, all energy and resources were invested to silence pro-Palestine activity and stifle any criticism of Israel.” In addition to Leeds, Deutsch works as a mentor at the University of Hull, Huddersfield, Bradford, Sheffield and Leeds Beckett. The website contacted her, but none of them responded with the publication of the report, except for the University of Bradford, which said that religious and pastoral guidance is not linked to the university’s Jewish rabbinate, and asked the latter to remove its name from its website.

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