SCoJeC joined Scottish Jewish Student Chaplaincy this week in a delegation to Edinburgh University to protest at their failure to take adequate steps to protect the rights of Jewish students.
Last year Edinburgh Jewish Student Society hosted a meeting with Ishmail Khaldi, a Bedouin Israeli diplomat, after the Politics and International Relations Society pulled out. That meeting was then prevented from going ahead after it was severely disrupted by demonstrators. Many of the Jewish students were visibly distressed, and the then Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Garry Wayland was verbally abused. University security staff were in the room but did not intervene, nor did they call in the police who were present immediately outside in anticipation of trouble. At that time the Jewish Chronicle reported that the University pledged to put measures in place to avoid future disturbances”. This has clearly not happened, since similar disruption occurred in October when the Israeli Ambassador spoke to the EU Politics and International Relations Society. Once again Jewish students, and others, were reduced to tears, as observed by the official EUSA observer, and once again the university security stood by and did nothing. The meeting was supposedly by ticket only, but protesters who had not registered were allowed in, although the new Jewish student Chaplain was not!
This week Nicola Livingston, Chair of the Chaplaincy Board, Paul Morron, a former Chair of UK Jewish Chaplaincy, both of whom are members of the SCoJeC Executive, and Ephraim Borowski, Director of SCoJeC, met Vice Principal Lorraine Waterhouse, University Secretary Kim Waldron, University Chaplain Harriet Harris, and Associate Chaplain Ali Newell, who is responsible for interfaith chaplaincy.
The meeting was entirely unsatisfactory. It was characterised by a complete failure even to acknowledge that there is a problem to be addressed or any concern for the welfare, never mind the rights, of the students who had been abused and harassed. It began with the statements that “The Principal has said that University security should not get involved”, and separately that “The Principal has instructed that the police should not be called in unless there is physical violence”; it ended with repeated assurances that “we note what you say” – but no recognition that there was a problem to address far less any adequate proposals to solve it.
Virtually the only point to which there was an animated response was when we reported that the pattern of enquiries to SCoJeC from students, parents, and academics considering study in Scotland has completely changed: from being only about religious facilities such as availability of kosher food or proximity of synagogues in 2007 to almost entirely relating to antisemitism and security last year (see graph). This tallies with what our Being Jewish in Scotland survey discovered, and the finding of the last year’s JPR survey of Jewish students that