04 January 2011
The Jerusalem Post
By Stephanie Hodes
Assimilation, hate speech on campus and the delegitimization of Israel are the top issues new World Union of Jewish Students Chairman Oliver Worth plans to tackle during his two-year tenure.
“I believe in the importance of strong proud Jewish communities and the continuity of Jewish Diaspora life,” said Worth, addressing the issue of assimilation. “Jewish students have the right to study in a safe and tolerant environment and by preventing the delegitimization of Israel on campus we can shape the leaders of the next generation's attitudes towards Israel.”
Worth was elected chairman at the annual WUJS congress in Jerusalem last week. Delegates from 25 countries voted at the General Assembly on Wednesday, where they gave Worth 119 of 177 votes. Past presidents have included Albert Einstein and Chaim Herzog.
Worth pledged to transform WUJS into an organization that exists to “connect, consult and create opportunities for every Jewish student through strong and enduring partnerships between WUJS and its national Jewish unions.
“My manifesto for WUJS 2010-12 is focused on building the foundations for a relevant, dynamic World Union of Jewish Students and my ambition is to lead the development of a WUJS that truly represents and connects Jewish students globally in practical, meaningful ways,” Worth told the congress.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Worth said he intended to change the way the organization is run.
“My aim is to make WUJS more national-union-led. Our 48 member unions are doing amazing work every day. I want to make sure that WUJS supports them by offering programming that no single union can do alone, and providing services to coordinate and connect their efforts. As Jewish students we are one body, sharing common opportunities and challenges, and our strength lies in our ability to approach these with unity,” he said.
Worth said Jewish students have a moral obligation to help tackle the biggest social issues affecting Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
“Issues such as social justice, education and the broadening of Jewish experiences are at the heart of my agenda,” he said. “When Zvi Lauterpacht founded WUJS in 1924, and invited Albert Einstein to become the union’s first president, they shared a belief that Jewish students, when united and coordinated, could achieve so much more, whether in defending themselves against threats against the Jewish people or finding opportunities for Jewish students to act as a power for positive change.”
Worth made aliya in June and lives in Tel Aviv. He is studying for a master’s degree in international law through the University of London.
He completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Manchester, where he sat on the Student’s Union’s Executive Committee and acted as the Jewish, pro-Israel voice in the Union. He helped to block anti-Israel resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel. He was also the campaigns director for his campus for the Union of Jewish Students of Great Britain and Ireland.
Since 2005, Worth held positions with the UK’s Federation of Zionist Youth. Starting off as publicity director for his local federation in Glasgow, he became chairman, before progressing to the National Board of Directors with the advocacy portfolio.
In 2009, he spent four months with UN Watch in Geneva. As well as working on research projects, carrying out administrative work and liaising with UN staff, he addressed the Human Rights Council on rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. He also reported on the Goldstone Report during this time.
Alex Dwek, chairman of the Union of Jewish Students of Great Britain and Ireland (UJS), said he was delighted to have a British student serving as the representative of Jewish students from across the world.
“Oliver has contributed so much to UJS and Jewish campus life in the UK and was extremely involved in student politics throughout his studies at Manchester University,” Dwek said.
“This is a victory for Europe,” said Deborah Abisror, director of the European Union of Jewish Students. “As an umbrella organization, WUJS represents not only Israeli Jewish students but Diaspora Jews as well, and I am confident that Oliver will bring with him a greater understanding of the issues facing European Jews and those outside of Israel.”