Image: Archie Clarke / The Boar

Rising antisemitism on campus: in conversation with Warwick Jewish Society

Amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza, reports of antisemitism have risen drastically in the UK. During the month following the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, 1124 antisemitic incidents were reported to the Community Security Trust (CST): a charity that campaigns against and monitors antisemitism in Britain. This figure marks a 514% increase compared to the same period last year, which is the largest number the charity has seen since it began keeping records in 1984.

There has recently been a wave of pro-Palestine protests on Warwick’s campus which have left many of Warwick’s Jewish students feeling “nervous” and “intimidated”.

Following a statement released by Warwick Jewish Society (JSoc) on November 30, The Boar News spoke to Jacob Lederman, the Society’s Treasurer, to discuss rising antisemitism on campus.

Warwick Jewish Society recently released a statement about rising antisemitism in the UK. How much of a rise has there been at Warwick, and how many reports of antisemitism have been made to you?

“Ever since October 7, straight away we had a number of different reports. There are reports that members of the Society see, and there are reports we see as exec members, which is around a 10:1 ratio. A lot of them we can’t fully define as antisemitism – however, they include lecturers telling students to go to a particular protest and making slight comments here and there.

“Obviously our WhatsApp group was infiltrated, which isn’t a Warwick student issue per se. There have also been isolated issues with certain individuals at some pro-Palestinian protests which have crossed the line into antisemitism. For example, there was a sign at the protest last Wednesday comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.”

You mentioned the group chat there, am I correct in saying they (the infiltrators) were not students?

“The evidence we have at the moment suggests that they weren’t, although from our perspective, Warwick Jewish Society is not a well-known Jewish society. Yes, we’ve been on Newsnight, but that was after the incident. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the messages that were sent. It was quite a targeted attack. I have no evidence to suggest that they were Warwick students, but I find it quite easy to say that they weren’t, because there’s no particular reason why you’d target the Warwick Jewish Society.

“The police are dealing with it. There wasn’t any link between the phone numbers of those who perpetrated the attack and those on the University’s database. They were +44 British phone numbers, with no association with the University, from the evidence we have.”

The barriers are there for good reason, and the security safety team has been amazing. We can’t describe how grateful we are

Jacob Lederman, Warwick Jewish Society, Treasurer

The group chat that was targeted was a freshers’ group chat. What impact has this had on your willingness and ability to publicly disclose your faith, and how has this impacted the number of freshers engaging with the society?

“It hasn’t destroyed anything – it’s just made life a pain. We now have to go through security perimeters and risk assessments, [alongside other safety arrangements]. We have two structural events a week: bagels on a Wednesday and our Friday night dinners, which security attends. We’re running an event today where we’re selling doughnuts. Campus Security isn’t there, but we’ve been given procedures that we can follow.

“It hasn’t prevented us from doing stuff – it’s just made life more difficult. The barriers are there for good reason, and the security safety team has been amazing. We can’t describe how grateful we are.

“On the second point about the freshers, after October 7, initially turnouts stayed the same. Maybe a week or so after, we saw a drop-off with freshers. It followed an accumulation of events: The fresher’s WhatsApp group, the protest on October 9, and the big one on October 25. That’s where we started to see people not come as much. I think it was because people were nervous, and the intimidation of it all.”

Jacob added that an important thing to note was that a lot of Warwick’s Jewish cohort don’t come from big Jewish communities. That, he said, made the drop-off “multifaceted”, as there was an “awkwardness” around the fact that Jewish people are a minority at Warwick.

He then stressed: “Ever since we released our statement on November 30, we’ve seen a big increase in numbers. There was a drop for sure, but it has recovered quite well since our statement.”

I’m not calling for her to resign, but her job is to look after ethnic minorities. Jews are an ethnic minority. It’s in her remit to look after us, and she hasn’t

Jacob Lederman, Warwick Jewish Society, Treasurer

You’ve mentioned the role of Campus Security and praised them. How do you feel the Students’ Union (SU) have dealt with everything? Your statement specifically mentioned that the Ethnic Minorities Officer had not reached out to Warwick Jewish Society. Could you elaborate on that?

“We’ve had no contact with her (the Ethnic Minorities Officer) at all ever since October 7, and even before that. The fact that she knew what was going on – Jewish students needed support – and she didn’t care, or was incompetent, or both, shows that she wasn’t doing her job. I’m not calling for her to resign, but her job is to look after ethnic minorities. Jews are an ethnic minority. It’s in her remit to look after us, and she hasn’t. We have tried to contact her; we had meetings with the SU President, and we were told they would speak to her.

“It’s not that she’s not trying to engage in the issue, because she’s posted images of herself at pro-Palestinian protests on her SU account. We’re not saying that she can’t have a political opinion because of her position, but we feel it’s unacceptable to be posting that on her SU account. It’s crazy to think how that contrasts with the lack of interest she’s given us.

“The only form of contact we had with her was a message we received after we released our statement, which we felt was passive-aggressive. She then unsent the message within a couple of days, which obviously we’re unhappy about.”

The message read as follows:

“Hello […] I read the statement you produced and saw your comment on my lack of support for your community. Did you want to have a conversation? An SU statement?”

How do you think the SU have dealt with it more generally?

“With the SU votes, the Holocaust motion passed, which is a good thing. The fact that nearly 100 people thought it was necessary to vote against that I think is really poor. The SU was very slow. We’ve met with the SU multiple times which is good, but everything always feels like a reaction to what’s happened, whilst the University leadership has been quite proactive. Initially they (the University) were quite slow too, but after our Newsnight interview, we met the Vice-Chancellor of the University. We really appreciate the time and effort he’s put in after that interview, which allows us to forgive everything before.

“Guidance was released after we requested it. We’re very happy with how they followed through. The SU, however, a number of Officers liked the statement released by Warwick Action for Palestine on October 8. We felt the way the statement was worded was pretty bad and unnecessary. It talked about the intifada and called the Hamas attacks a “resistance movement”, which we find distasteful and frankly verging into antisemitism.

“I think it’s a culmination of a lack of action, an Ethnic Minorities Officer that’s really not doing her job, and a lack of communication, which I think is an issue.”

Jacob agreed he felt “let down” by the SU, particularly by the Ethnic Minorities Officer.

These people who are trying to push us, they need to understand that we’re not stupid, and we will deal with it. I’m not threatening them; they just need to understand the need to behave themselves

Jacob Lederman, Warwick Jewish Society, Treasurer

What would you like to see put in place to better support Warwick’s Jewish students?

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s already happening. The security is already on it, which has been good. It’s precautions from security and being on it, and constant communication from the University about what is acceptable and what isn’t. We believe in freedom of speech. We don’t have a problem with people protesting, but there are limits with everything. We want them to enforce these limits, which they have done well, but we want them to keep doing that. We want the Ethnic Minorities Officer to do her job and take action.

“We just want the SU to do their job, the University to do their job, and for societies to be restrained with what they say. For example, we don’t have an issue with Warwick Action for Palestine, per se – we just want them to be sensitive and to understand their use of certain words, such as ‘intifada’. Their use of that word, in our opinion, is incitement of violence. Our way of doing things is very pragmatic – they, we feel, are appealing to people’s emotions. I’m not telling them not to do it, I’m just telling them to be careful.

“These people who are trying to push us – they need to understand that we’re not stupid, and we will deal with it. I’m not threatening them; they just need to understand the need to behave themselves.”

Have you been in contact with any other authorities outside of the University (e.g. the Police)? If so, what was reported and what was the outcome?

“The intifada comment was reported to the Police, as was a comment made at a vigil held on October 9 which mentioned supporting ‘martyrs’. Reports were also made to Campus Security. We don’t know what all of the lines are; however, we take issue with the use of ‘intifada’ during protests.

“The banner on Wednesday that compared Israel to Nazi Germany has also been reported.

“We had a seminar tutor who advised students to go to one of the protests, which is not acceptable at all. The lecturer was since told not to do that, and further guidance has been released, which has set the line.

“In terms of the Police, I think there’s such a backlog with acts of violence. I think we’ve faced more acts of antisemitism than violence per se, which I think is the Police’s priority at the moment.”

Have you been in contact with any other Jewish societies outside of Warwick?

“Our statement has garnered over 500 likes now, and we’ve never had anything like that before. It was reposted by Birmingham Jewish Society, the biggest Jewish society in the UK. Some friends of friends studying at Cambridge reposted it too, solely because they had seen it propping up. We’ve received loads of messages from other Jewish societies around the UK, which is the effect that we wanted to have.

“I think a lot of university students took a step back after we released that statement, and sort of understood what we have been going through. I think they understand that we do not want to be in this situation, but we are doing our best to deal with it.”

What is your stance on the SU’s reaffiliation with the National Union of Students (NUS)?

“To be honest, our stance is that we don’t really care. Obviously, the whole reason why we left the NUS was because of antisemitism, and the President was kicked out, which in our opinion was the right decision. We’re an apolitical society. We’re indifferent to what happens; we just want action to take place.”

What would you advise students to do if they have received or do receive antisemitic abuse moving forward?

“They need to, first of all, contact us. We can’t deal with it if you don’t mention it to us. We’ve got experience of this in the past, and there are 13 members of the exec who can offer you support. Please contact us and we will deal with it – it’s as easy as that.”


Following this interview, Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart Croft, told The Boar:

“We have been working in close partnership with the Jewish Society and the multi-faith chaplaincy to listen to concerns and to provide specialist support and reassurance through a range of different measures over recent months.

“I’d like to thank the Jewish Society for their constructive approach, for being so open and honest with me in our meetings, and for working together with us to find practical solutions to help people feel safe. We will continue to meet with and engage with faith groups on campus to break down any perceived barriers and ensure our community continues to be a warm, welcoming place for everyone.

“Whilst freedom of speech is a vital component of university life, we urge everyone to show respect, kindness and empathy to each other during these difficult times.

“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination or abuse towards any individual or group. We have also highlighted to our community that Hamas is proscribed terrorist organisation and that is illegal to support them.

“Any incidents or concerns should be reported through our online Report and Support service. It’s vital that our staff and students know there is help available to them. Anyone who has been impacted by these traumatic events, can access a range of specialist emotional support and practical help from us.”

The Boar approached Warwick Students’ Union and the Ethnic Minorities Officer for comment. The SU then issued The Boar a collective statement:

“The SU is committed to supporting all our members, and the past term has highlighted our need to review and evolve how we can best support our diverse student body. JSoc’s input, and the input of other student leaders, has been pivotal in guiding how we develop our interaction with different student groups in times of distress and crisis, and helped highlight areas where we as a Full-Time Officer and staff team can be pushing to do better- including how we support our Part-Time Officers and volunteer leaders.

“All of our PTOs are full-time students who offer their time in a voluntary capacity to developing campaigns through the Union. As with all volunteer roles in the SU, we encourage our PTOs to engage with their roles as much as they are able to manage alongside their degree – however, as discussed with representatives from JSoc, it would be unfair of the SU to place expectations around student wellbeing on volunteer positions. The responsibility for supporting our members sits with the staff and Full-Time Officer teams – we welcome the constructive feedback and will continue to engage with student groups such as JSoc to tailor our support.”

Warwick Action for Palestine told The Boar in a statement:

“Through our commitment to anti-zionism, we recognise that the systems of imperialism and fascism that are responsible for the genocide that Palestinians face also have underpinned the oppression and expulsion of Jewish people. Crucially, we also recognise that the origins of Zionism and policies of Israel have harmed Jewish people too as they are rooted in antisemitism as well as anti-Palestinian racism. We will continue to be guided by our Palestinian and Jewish voices in our joint struggle for liberation.”


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