More than 120 students, from a host of different university delegations, faith groups and political persuasions chose to attend the UJS fringe to hear the Chief Rabbi speak for the first time ever at NUS Conference.
Liam Burns, the current NUS President, introduced the event, stating that he was 'glad to work alongside UJS' as they represent a 'diverse and active membership of over 8,500 Jewish students across the UK.
The Chief Rabbi spoke about faith relations in a university context and traced the historical trajectory of the modern university emerging as an antidote to the wars of religion. The Chief Rabbi said that 'university is the most important institution of the free society, where the conversation can take place.'
He emphatically stated that 'university is the school for justice and justice means giving a fair hearing to all. That is the precondition of justice. No group should feel intimidated at university.'
The Chief Rabbi concluded his inspiring talk with his twin imperatives of faith: 'Be true to your faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.' The messages that the Chief Rabbi imparted during his presentation and question and answer session clearly had an impact on the student body that were present.
One student said, 'Chief Rabbi, sincerely - thank you - for integrating faith into the intellectual framework of university.' Nizam Uddin tweeted at the event one of the chief rabbi's comments that, 'universities are a sacred secular place to pursue truth' and the President of Edinburgh University Students' Association tweeted the Chief Rabbi's comment that, 'university is the place where our differences come together in our shared collaborative search for truth. The event was clearly engaging and resonated with many students present.
UJS President Dan Grabiner said, 'Hosting the Chief Rabbi this evening was truly inspiring. His message of gaining inspiration from all those that surround us, I know, is something that will strike a lasting chord with all those present this evening.'
The Chief Rabbi said afterwards that, 'the Union of Jewish Students and their members are at the forefront of the challenges we face as a community, particularly regarding antisemitism and Israel. At NUS Conference, these challenges are magnified, and that is why I was honoured to be asked to be the speaker at this year's UJS fringe event and delighted to see such a diverse audience. University campuses should be places where all students from all faiths and of all beliefs should feel comfortable and safe in expressing mainstream opinion. The future leaders of our society are on campus. That is why it is so important that they learn there the spirit of collaboration, a dignity of difference, and a sense of mutual respect for that is how we create a better society for all.'