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1st March 2019

Jewish Society launches after antisemitism row

Fears of antisemitism on the Colchester campus have risen after 200 students vote against the creation of a Jewish society and a lecturer posts worrying material on Facebook
Jewish Society launches after antisemitism row
Photo: John Allan @ Geograph

More than 500 people turned out in a show of support this week for a newly formed Jewish Society at the University of Essex.

The group was set up in mid-February, despite 200 students opposing its formation in a vote earlier in the month.

That led to claims of antisemitism at the University, and a computer science lecturer, Dr Maaruf Ali, was suspended after he allegedly posted antisemitic material on Facebook. The University has also launched an investigation.

The posts, since deleted, were believed to allude to Holocaust denial, as well as opposing the creation of the Jewish society.

About 36% of voters objected to the society due to its proposals of wanting to “explore Zionism” and celebrate the Israeli Independence Day. Students who cast a vote against claimed that these aims were rooted in politics, rather than in religious interests.

Society president Amy-Julie Fogiel was among the speakers at this week’s solidarity event. “I’m very proud to be Jewish,” she said. “I can’t wait to establish the society and continue this journey. Light wins over darkness.”

The National Union of Jewish Students (UJS) previously called the situation “shocking” and “deeply disappointing”. It said there are more than 60 Jewish societies at universities across the UK.

A spokesman from the University of Essex Students’ Union said “any form of hate speech” was rejected by the university and that “all reports of antisemitic behaviour” were being taken “extremely seriously”.

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