A message to Jewish students: Don’t be deterred from studying at LSE

I am appalled and disgusted by the incidents that ensued during a university event with Richard Falk on Monday 20 March, especially after I had, as President of the London School of Economics SU Jewish Society, raised severe alarms through official university channels prior to the event.

To know that at my own university, physical threats were made to Jewish students, they were encouraged by members of the audience to read work by the Holocaust denier David Irving, and told that they told that were ‘being chucked out for causing trouble; just like you lot were in Germany’ is deplorable and absolutely disgraceful.

It is completely unacceptable that Jewish students were subjected to these comments, and the Jewish Society has been actively working to ensure the university take strong action to safeguard the welfare and safety of Jewish students at LSE.

However, to hear the Board of Deputies president has ‘strongly advised Jewish students to study elsewhere’ without speaking to current students is both insulting to the ongoing work of the Jewish Society and undeniably ignores the active contribution of Jewish students to student life at LSE.

The Board of Deputies president's tweet, suggesting Jewish students shouldn't study at LSE
The Board of Deputies president’s tweet, suggesting Jewish students shouldn’t study at LSE

We are proud to be one of the most active and diverse Jewish societies around, and a truly welcoming environment for Jewish students of a wide range of denominations and nationalities.

Throughout this year, we have frequently hosted up to three events a week, including exciting evening socials, stimulating lunch and learn sessions, and numerous largescale interfaith events.

We are immensely proud of our strong visible presence on campus, including though frequent joint endeavours with other societies; our continuous celebration of Jewish traditions, from Friday night dinners to hosting a Sukkah in the centre of campus; and the strong legacy of prominent Jewish student involvement in the Student Union.

For people to suggest that Jewish students should back down in the face of antisemitism, wrongly assumes that we as students should retreat and hide our Jewish identity.

It further disregards the intense work that we, as the Jewish society, have done to actively fight against anti-Semitism.

This year, we have worked hard in collaborating with the Student’s Union to establish the first Antisemitism Awareness Week on UK campuses, and have proactively worked to combat concerns and educate the student community on this issue.

The president of the Union of Jewish Students' response to the BoD chief's suggestion.
The president of the Union of Jewish Students’ response to the BoD chief’s suggestion.

The fact that throughout this week we have received considerable support and assistance from the Student Union, as well as the wider student body, is a clear indication of the degree of progress we have made through our proactive efforts on this issue.

In no way am I underplaying the severity of the incident that took place on Monday at LSE.

However, we refuse to believe that the appropriate response is to simply run away, but rather to actively continue in building on our work in fighting anti-Semitism.

It is vital that our universities take action against individuals and groups who spout hate on our campuses, and it is unacceptable that we have to wait until Jewish students have been subjected to anti-Semitic abuse for our institutions to respond.

While we must strive to protect freedom of speech, it is critical that this should not be the expense of students’ safety and welfare.

We are proud to continue embracing our Jewish identity and stand up against all forms of intolerance and prejudice on campus, and I strongly urge prospective students not to be deterred from joining the LSE community.


About the Author
Hannah is the president of London School of Economics Jewish Society
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