Changing of the AUJS guard

THE Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) has elected its leadership team for 2015, with 21-year-old political enthusiast Dean Sherr set to sit at the helm as national chairperson.

Sherr, who is studying Arts/Law at Monash University, is a graduate of AUJS’ leadership development program, current Victorian president of AUJS, and a former AUJS political affairs director.

He told The AJN he was “very excited” to be elected to the role at AUJS’ annual general meeting in Melbourne late last month. The position was uncontested.

“It’s a great opportunity to head up AUJS, which has been around since 1948. It’s got so much history, and so many people have come through it and come out on the other side, leading the Jewish community and the Australian community,” he said.

AUJS has had an impressive year, running 12 campaigns, and staging four conferences including its annual Political Training Seminar in Canberra.

Notably, its activity in tackling anti-Semitism on campus has attracted mainstream media attention.

“We’ve got a lot to be proud of over the last 12 months,” enthused Sherr, a King David School alumnus.

Recently, AUJS played a key role in deregistering the Socialist Alternative at Monash University, and has seen that students responsible for inciting hatred against a Jewish student at La Trobe University are undergoing disciplinary hearings.

“Any time that Israel is involved in a conflict we see that there’s obviously a lot of tension on campus; particular groups get very worked up and start agitating against Israel,” Sherr noted.

“While it’s a difficult time, I think we’re really prepared to fight these things,” Sherr said.

He listed reaching the smaller campuses and regions more effectively, as well as following up with returnees of AUJS’ Israel programs as important items on the new executive’s agenda.

“Another major goal is ensuring AUJS is an organisation all Jewish students feel represents them and can be proud of, and ensuring our events, conferences and campaigns are tailored to Jewish students from all backgrounds – politically, socially, religiously or culturally,” he said.

Sherr will take the reins on January 1 from current chairperson Nicola Kobilski, who said Sherr “has a keen vision and the motivation to strengthen our organisation”.

University of Sydney law student Elenore Levi was elected as national vice-chairperson. Other key roles went to Julian Kowal from Melbourne, who will take over as political affairs director, and Ashleigh Werner from Sydney, who was elected campaigns officer.

Sherr spoke highly of the fresh executive, though commented that “it’s not all about the national executive”, but about who is on the ground.

“I think that everyone who gets involved with AUJS gets a lot out of it … the things that we do, they’re unique. They’re unrivalled opportunities.”

PHOEBE ROTH

Dean Sherr has been elected as AUJS’ national chairperson for 2015. Photo: Peter Haskin