More than 150 student leaders convened in Jerusalem this week for the 45th annual World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) Congress, voting to re-elect their chairperson and learning strategies to counter the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Delegates to the five-day conference hailed from a variety of Jewish student unions, including France, Russia, Austria, Germany, Mexico, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.
Students voted on Tuesday to ratify the entry of three new unions from Argentina, Bosnia, and Ethiopia, and re-elected WUJS chairperson Avigayil Benstein to an additional term.
A large majority also endorsed a policy motion committing the WUJC to advocate for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in programming, campaigns, and forums.
Another successful motion called for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been endorsed by 31 countries. Examples of antisemitism shared by the IHRA include advancing “the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
Before the voting, students had attended a session on the Palestinian-led BDS campaign and “its terror links” with an official from the Israeli government, academic affairs director Jacob Dallal-Lefkovits.
The session highlighted the importance of sharing personal experiences and building alliances, the WUJS wrote on social media, as well as distilling the BDS campaign to its essence — one that major Jewish groups worldwide have denounced for rejecting the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
Other sessions have focused on issues like mental health and gender equity, while others featured remarks from former WUJS chairpersons and former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner. Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog is expected to address attendees on Wednesday.
In a letter to delegates attending the conference, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin expressed his “deep appreciation for all you are doing to support and strengthen your fellow Jews as they gain their academic education while often facing difficulties resulting from negative and distorted information disseminated about the Jewish People and our State of Israel.”
“Your efforts to help Jewish students to maintain and strengthen their Jewish identity, to combat and withstand anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments and activities and to move forward as proud and confident Jews are truly worthy of my very sincere praise and commendation,” Rivlin wrote.