Progressively Speaking! Why I’m glad pro-BDS Eran Cohen ran in the UJS election

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Progressively Speaking! Why I’m glad pro-BDS Eran Cohen ran in the UJS election

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner explains why the acceptance of challenging and different views is a positive thing

Eran Cohen in shul.
Eran Cohen in shul.

I love being Jewish and want Jewish students to feel the same.

At a recent UJS leadership training summit, I witnessed the very opposite of the mistreatment of students that I constantly see reported on media, posted mostly by non-students.

At the event students listened to each other, accepted others hold different views and learnt from them.

By fulfilling the value of machloket l’shem shemayim that disagreement should be for the sake of heaven, they put aggressive non-students to shame. They embraced that disagreement must be motivated by wanting to better ourselves and understand others, and not to score short-term political points.

As a rabbi I’ve seen, to my deep sorrow, tension on campus become so acute that BDS has moved from the political sphere to the pastoral.

As part of the UJS presidential election, they debated the candidacy of pro-BDS supporter Eran Cohen.

I am glad Eran had the courage to stand in this election, which I’m sure he knew he would lose. He enabled the 89 students who voted for him to have their views represented. This shows us that some Jewish students who support BDS do want to be involved in Jewish student life and need to be listened to – however hard that may be.

There are an increasing number of students telling me they are turning away from involvement in JSocs, which they regard only as debating chambers and campaigning organisations.

If people who are not students continue to attack Jewish students online and in person, then they will not want to be involved at all.

This has to stop.

We are driving our students away from mainstream Jewish activities.

I’m glad Josh Holt will be the next UJS president and look forward to working closely with him.

We should learn from Israel’s vibrant democracy, where views that many find unacceptable are represented and we should learn from our students here. It’s time to let Jewish students be Jewish students.

Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi to Reform Judaism

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