World Union of Jewish Students conference
World Union of Jewish Students conferenceYoni Kempinski

Avigayil Benstein was elected president of the World Union of Jewish Students during its 44th World Congress of Jewish student leaders held in Jerusalem.

Some 157 Jewish college students from 36 countries served as delegates at the five-day Congress which ended on Monday. The students came from Eastern, Central and Western Europe, North and South America, Australasia, South Africa, India, Turkey and Israel.

Benstein, 24, was elected the new president of WUJS during the organization’s General Assembly, held as part of the Congress. Benstein is the daughter of WUJS alumni from the United States and the United Kingdom. Born and raised in Israel, she served as a foreign press liaison in the European desk of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, and currently is completing her undergraduate degree in International Relations and Middle East Studies at Hebrew University. She succeeds outgoing president, Yosef Tarshish, 26.

The American Union of Jewish Students voted in this election for the first time, after being promoted from observer status to partial member status.

WUJS also passed a number of binding policy motions during its General Assembly, including a declaration against the normalization of right-wing extremism in light of the formation of the new government in Austria that includes the populist Austrian Freedom Party, or FPO. In the motion, WUJS condemns the FPO and its inclusion in the Austrian government in the strongest possible terms, and commits to not work with members or affiliates of the FPÖ and to boycott their government officials.

WUJS resolved to remember the Armenian Genocide, and to condemn and reject any attempt to deny, distort, or ignore the historical reality of the genocide. Another resolution called to raise consciousness and encourage public discourse on matters of Jewish pluralism in the State of Israel.

The group also declared March “Anti-Semitism Awareness Month,” and laid the groundwork to coordinate and launch an international anti-Semitism aware campaign on campuses worldwide.

WUJS is the international umbrella organization supporting independent Jewish student associations all over the world. It was established in 1924 by Hersch Lauterpacht, and previous WUJS leaders include Albert Einstein, Chaim Bialik, Sigmund Freud and Chaim Weizmann, as well as David Ben Gurion, and AB Yehoshua.