Students Staff
University of Essex

February 28, 2019

Support and Solidarity with our Jewish students and staff

Our community joined together in a public show of support and solidarity for our Jewish students and staff.  Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, addressed a crowd of some 500 people. You can read his speech, and a statement from our Chancellor, The Rt Hon John Bercow, here. 

Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster.

At the University of Essex we have a tradition of coming together to show the strength of our feeling about an issue, to demonstrate our support for each other and to stand shoulder to shoulder as individuals and as a community, on issues that matter to us.

We are a University that must live by our values and the events of last week have called into question our commitment to these values.

It is right that the Jewish Society has now been formed, and I know that the University and the Students’ Union will do all in our power to enable it to flourish alongside our other societies.

This is however only one step. On behalf of our community, I want to speak out against all forms of antisemitism. Today we have come together to show that antisemitism is completely antithetical to the values of the University of Essex – and it has absolutely no place on our campuses and in our relationships with each other.

The President of our Students’ Union, Tancrede Chartier.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition and associated examples are our guide.  “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Antisemitism will not end simply because we stood together on this day at this time to oppose it. What coming together achieves is a public show of solidarity and support, making clear what we stand for. It is another step in demonstrating our values and our support for all our Jewish students and staff. Each and every one of our community needs to ensure that by our actions, the lived experience of Jewish people at our University is one of which we can be proud.

Our Chancellor the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons cannot be with us today, but John has sent me a statement of solidarity which expresses so much better than I can, my utter dismay at what has happened and how we must now go forward.

Amy-Julie Fogiel, the President of our Jewish Society, also addressed the assembled crowds.

I want to share his statement with you:

I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person today. My duty as Speaker is to chair proceedings in the House of Commons. Yet I am with you in spirit and I ask for your attention for just two minutes.

Graduating from the University of Essex nearly 34 years ago is one of the happiest memories of my life. Serving as your Chancellor is amongst my greatest privileges. Why? Because a belief in equality, human rights and non-discrimination is as deep-rooted in the University’s veins as it is in mine. That is why I was mortified last week that the University laid itself open to the charge of antisemitism. That too is why I support the Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, and his colleagues, unequivocally and passionately, in acting to cleanse the University of that ugly and damaging stain.

Let me be clear. The right of free association within the law is one of the most fundamental and precious rights. Jewish students and staff enjoy that right with, equal to and no different from, anyone else. The right to meet, to be themselves, and to assert their Jewish identity is inalienable. It is unconditional. It is non-negotiable. It does not depend upon what such students and staff think of the government of Israel, the state of the Middle East peace process, or any particular policy – be it national, international or global.

Our community gathered to show our support for our Jewish students and staff.

Freedom under the law. Mutual respect. Celebrating the rights of others, not merely our own. These are my core values, your core values, the core values of the Essex University we know and love. Let us reassert these core values today.

I would like to invite everyone present to give a round of applause as a sign of our solidarity with our Jewish students and staff – thank you.

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