About 25 Jewish student leaders from around the world drafted the document. (Courtesy of Andrea Gergely)
Two weeks ago, I left Chaniotis, Greece, with a bus full of other young travelers — but about 25 Jewish student leaders from around the world stuck around to draft a "statement of principles" for the World Union of Jewish Students.
The first-of-its-kind document outlines the main priority for the group, which oversees 48 student unions around the world: building a communicative, value-based organization dedicated to training the next generation of Jewish leaders.
The statement was developed using the World Cafe brainstorming method, which involves small groups building off of each other’s ideas.
Gergely said the goals are not binding, but they do represent a "framework for unification" and a "toolkit for leadership."
"I hope that we will be able to establish strong ties between different member union and … involve more countries and individuals in the dialogue," she said. "It’s not a binding document, but it’s a framework, something which unites the student unions around the world."
Godik said student unions occasionally have trouble seeing eye to eye — due to quirks of history and the different mentality of Western and Eastern Europe, for example — but the goals are something everyone can agree on.
"This document will help give more structure and give a common vision," she said. "Every union will go at these goals and objectives in their own way, but in the same time we will feel that we’re doing a common thing altogether."
In a press release, WUJS Chairman Oliver Worth, a Scotsman who now lives in Israel, said the statement of principles represents an important step forward.
"I’m delighted that we had the opportunity to sit down with the brightest leaders in the global Jewish youth community for the presidents’ conference," he wrote. "I’m absolutely positive that from this will come greater collaboration to the enormous benefit of Jewish students everywhere."
The WUJS’s full statement is printed below:
The following document lays out the principles agreed upon at the World Union of Jewish Students Presidents Conference 2011. These principles form the basis of what we, as Jewish student leaders from across the world, believe the global Jewish student community should be.
A Global Jewish Student Community
We believe in a community based on constant communication and regular meetings. A community in which every union is responsible for one another, where a success for one is a success for all, where an attack on one is an attack on all and where we commit to supporting each other.
We believe in a global network of unions that can form the basis for a united voice across the world, for Jewish student days of action, for Jewish student campaigns, for tailored networks of interest for Jewish students from across the globe and for joint initiatives across our unions whilst always recognizing the inherent diversity based on national contexts.
We believe in personal relationships and personal connections that should be built across our unions, which can lead to stronger relationships between our unions and a stronger global movement.
Jewish Values for a Jewish Community
We believe in a global Jewish community that will be based on our shared history, heritage and values. A network of unions that will base its action on Jewish values of social justice, a commitment to human rights, a commitment to the Jewish people and a commitment to the State of Israel. Our shared values should lead us to work to make the world a better place for Jews and non-Jews alike. We should actively seek to engage in interfaith activity to ensure we play an active role in the world around.
We believe that learning and educating about our values and heritage should be an integral part of who we are as a community and a critical tool for making us a stronger network of unions. We can learn not only from our past but also from each other, by taking inspiration and inspiring others around us.
We believe that these Jewish values commit us to protecting each other and defending the rights of Jewish students across the world as well as building the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Jewish Leaders for the Future and Today
We believe that as young leaders we have a responsibility to critically consider the future of the Jewish people, to input into the decision-making process, to fight the threats that exist today including antisemitism, assimilation and the delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
We believe that our role is to inspire, facilitate and support Jewish students in their search for their Jewish identity by providing the tools, education and framework through increased engagement in Jewish activities. As Jewish student unions we should be open, tolerant and accepting by providing an open, pluralist and democratic environment for our students.
We believe that Israel is central to the future of the Jewish people and we have a responsibility to engage with it and provide that opportunity for all Jewish students. Our relationship with Israel is personal but its role for the Jewish people is central.