UK university (illustrative)
UK university (illustrative)ISTOCK

The Union of Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland (UJS) has launched a campaign calling on British and Irish universities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

The student group, which represents over 8,500 Jewish students, called the full adoption of the definition by higher education institutes in the UK and Ireland a “critical step that must be taken to ensure that they support their Jewish students.”

In a letter sent to education ministers in the UK and Ireland, UJS President Nina Freedman wrote that the 500 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK has caused Jewish students to “feel cautious and unnerved” about the situation on campuses this academic year.

She urged universities to support Jewish students and staff by adopted the definition in full as a guiding document when dealing with disciplinary and complaint procedures.

Adopting the definition would be “a sign to Jewish students that their institution is taking anti-Semitism seriously and are willing to take the initial step to combat anti-Semitism on campus.”

“Disappointingly, no higher education institutions in Northern Ireland have adopted the IHRA definition and therefore we need your help,” she wrote. “We are asking on behalf of all Jewish students in Northern Ireland, for your public commitment to the IHRA definition and for you to call on all higher education institutes in Northern Ireland to adopt the definition.”

Citing the fact that only five of 61 Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Northern Irish institutions of higher education have adopted the definition, while 102 institutions in England have adopted the definition, the UJS said that while the definition was not legally binding, using it as a guideline would enable universities to understand and combat anti-Semitism as it exists in a modern context.

“We know Jewish students play the biggest role and therefore we need Jewish students across the country to be putting pressure on their university management,” UJS said. “We thank the students that have worked so hard to get this definition adopted on their campuses and we are continuously working with students on the ground to combat antisemitism.”