European Union of Jewish Students
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The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) is an umbrella organization for 34 national Jewish student unions in Europe and the FSU, representing over 200,000 Jewish students. Cognizant of the religious, linguistic and cultural diversity that make up the European Jewish community, EUJS strives to present a variety of perspectives through its leadership training programs, educational seminars, and international conferences, all tailor-made to the needs of its students. Throughout its history, EUJS has placed itself at the cutting edge of inter-cultural and inter-religious programming, as well as programming related to genocide education, advocacy, and Jewish continuity in Europe.
In contrast to the view that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, EUJS operates on the basis that the students which it serves and represents have a duty to act as leaders today, paving the way for a future infused with a strong Jewish identity and a commitment to the humanistic ideals embraced by Judaism.
Since its founding in 1978 the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) has been at the forefront of ensuring a Jewish future in Europe. Its vibrant student community has been paving the way for democracy, pluralism and inclusiveness throughout the continent – traveling to the FSU before the fall of the Berlin Wall, demonstrating in Durban, bringing the first international Jewish conference to Turkey, reinvigorating student Jewish life in Serbia immediately after the fall of Milosevic. EUJS has been at the forefront of mobilizing Jewish student and youth leaders in Eastern Europe, and has been among the first organizations to do so after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the belief that a strong European Jewish community must incorporate these neglected communities. Today EUJS students and young adults serve the civic society in Europe with a strong and persistent voice, instilling the values embedded in Judaism into the broader society on the continent.
EUJS is a constituent member of the European Youth Forum, the leading platform for more than 90 national youth councils and international NGOs, and is the only Jewish organization represented at that level. It is supported by the Council of Europe, the European Commission, all recognized Jewish organizations, and is a member of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). EUJS is one of the largest international student organizations worldwide and the first Jewish Youth NGO to obtain the special Consultative Status to the ECOSOC of the United Nations. Its annual programming includes the largest annual event for Jewish youth in Europe Summer University, as well as international, inter-religious, inter-generational seminars, study sessions at the European Youth Centre, and cutting edge work that puts it at the forefront of the European context.
History of EUJS
In February 1978 around a cold table in Grenoble, France, one hundred and fifty European Jewish Students developed and approved a constitution and created a plan of action meant to cover all aspects of modern European Jewish student life and so the European Union of Jewish Students was formed.
Moving to Brussels in 1978, EUJS first opened an office ( near Porte de Namur ) and later in 1980 to its current premises at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Over time, our Brussels secretariat became the paradigm through which student activism took on new meaning. Through the mandate of seventeen Chairpersons, each having moved to Brussels to take up office, hundreds of European leaders began their careers by walking through the doors of avenue Antoine Depage 3.
EUJS’ vitality has come from its ability to multi-task its role as a role model for Jewish activism, and a standard bearer for the European Youth Sector. Its determination to remain focused on parallel fronts—whether they be challenges facing our community, obstacles shared with our counterparts, or success achieved through crosscultural and inter-religious partnership—has weaved a fabric of activism that remains as true as it is strong.
Our twenty-eight years has seen its share of milestones. In fact, some would say that our very birth was a milestone in itself, preceding the founding of almost all of Europe’s largest youth organizations, including the powerful European Youth Forum.
Many European countries were pioneers in supporting and developing strong youth sectors, and the European Union is known for the voice, the influence and the power that it has traditionally given young people. This tradition has a long history. Beginning with Albert Einstein’s election as the first President of the World Union of Jewish Students in 1925, European Jewish youth have long understood the importance of organized existence. The trials of war and a continent torn apart by hate have long promulgated a simmering force among those emerging as future political, social and cultural leaders.
Today, EUJS is proud to stand tall as it continues the tradition of activism embraced by Jewish communities across the world through its work with the European Youth Forum, the pre-eminent pan European body representing and advocating for young people. As the sole Jewish member, EUJS stands together with its faith based counterparts in entrenching the rights of minorities in a continental mindset, and in ensuring that the voice of Jewish youth is heard on issues encompassing the protection
As Sir Isaac Newton so aptly put it: if we have been able to see farther than others, it is because we have stood on the shoulders of giants. It is with this voice that we have come to be known: demonstrating against injustice; defending those around whom voices have fell silent; standing up for what we know is right; as a group and as individuals, we are multipliers of change— we are here.
The following are but a few of the many excerpts from EUJS’ history of political activism. These traces of history form part of a living record of European development and remain pivotal to our strength as a union.
In December 1982, in cooperation with the World Union of Jewish Students, Joel Kotek and Yoram Hess organized a visit to Budapest, where the delegates met with representatives of the Jewish community in Hungary. It was the first time that European delegates of a Jewish student organization visited an Eastern European country. For the Jewish students it was a milestone in the East-West dialogue, and for EUJS it was a critical step as it fought for the rights of Eastern European Jews. This visit would take on increased significance, as our infusion into Eastern Europe led many of our Warsaw Pact counterparts to lobby for our exclusion from mainstream European youth umbrella groups.
Reaching behind the Iron-Curtain
The struggle for participation in the World Youth Festival in Moscow was the beginning of a series of activities of efforts for Soviet Jewry. On November 17, 1985 Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Geneva, and around 75 Jewish students, amongst them students from the UK and the Netherlands, demonstrated in solidarity with the Soviet Jewry. Subsequently, in April 1986, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) took place in Bern, Switzerland. EUJS used this occasion to organize—in cooperation with the Swiss Union of Jewish Students (SUJS)—a special Seder in honor of the Jews of the Soviet Union in the Bern Synagogue. This special Seder, held on the evening of Sunday 27 April, was a huge success and an important milestone. The student representatives from Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland were joined by several national delegates to the CSCE meeting. In addition to the activities staged in Bern, the EUJS encouraged its national member unions to lobby their respective foreign ministries throughout the CSCE meeting so as to raise the case of Soviet Jewry.
Crisis at Durban
A delegation of EUJS students, led by then President Joelle Fiss, joined the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) and the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban from August 26 until September 7 2001. The EUJS delegates were present at the Youth Summit, the NGO Forum and the Governmental Conference. As the EUJS delegation arrived, they realized to what extent their role as young Jews would counterbalance the accusations imposed on the Jewish people. The event—in addition to spurring EUJS delegates to action on site—led to EUJS signing a common declaration with the Roma student delegation, setting forth the possibility of a partnership to promote Holocaust education, and subsequently resulting in an EUJS-led seminar in Budapest in November 2003. During the Youth Summit at Durban, EUJS, together with WUJS and SAUJS put forward a proposal calling for an end of the violence on both sides of the Middle East conflict. The proposal condemned the use of violence and called for students to take an active role in advocating peace in the region. A group led by a delegation of Palestinians students voted down this proposal. During the governmental conference, EUJS met with political leaders such as Louis Michel, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Walter Schwimmer, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
The Austrian Far Right
In February 2000, the ultra-right Freedom Party FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs), entered into a coalition government in Austria. Led by Jörg Haider, the party, praising Hitler’s employment policy, was well known for his numerous anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements. EUJS organized a large demonstration in parallel to a leadership seminar that it was conducting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The students walked in front of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe to the Austrian embassy where they lit candles and threw toothbrushes in the mailbox in order to remind Austrians how Jews had to clean the sidewalk with toothbrushes during the Anschluss.
Speaking out in Europe's capital
During one of the most violent periods of the second Intifada, Jews in Europe were under threat: synagogues were burning again, and Jews were feeling insecure and worried. Many Jewish organizations and communities came together and organized demonstrations against this dramatic rise in anti-Semitism. One of the most visible demonstrations was held in Brussels in April 2002. EUJS sent a delegation of students to represent the 180’000 young European Jews who were at the forefront of this fight in their universities, towns and countries.
|Belgium||Union des Étudiants Juifs de Belgique||UEJB|
|France||Union des étudiants juifs de France||UEJF|
|Switzerland||Swiss Union of Jewish Students||SUJS|
|United Kingdom||Union of Jewish Students||UJS|
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