At Essex inclusion matters. We go the extra mile to make sure all our communities feel included, their voices listened to, and their specific needs addressed – this is one of the main reasons why I like working at Essex.
One of the key vehicles we have to ensure both public visibility and practical support is our Inclusion Champion programme, where members of the University Steering Group act as Inclusion Champions for groups with specific protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, as well as other groups beyond those specifically mentioned in the Act.
I have proudly stepped into the role of Inclusion Champion for Jewish students and staff this summer. I was able to attend the launch of the Report of the Parliamentary Taskforce on Antisemitism in Higher Education at the House of Commons, and was immensely proud to hear Essex commended for its decisiveness and leadership in tackling antisemitism.
I know that everyday experience of being a Jewish student or member of staff at a UK university is not always easy. I do hope to go that extra mile to provide support to our Jewish students and staff and enhance understanding of the lived experiences of our diverse Jewish community, while also enabling a direct link into the highest-level decision-making and swift resolution of any challenges or needs that the community might have. To do so, I have a lot to learn. I’d invite members of our Jewish community to approach me directly with ideas and suggestions on how to create an even more inclusive and engaging environment for our Jewish students and staff, but also to share their own experience and help me enrich my own knowledge of the community, its history, its traditions, and its past and present challenges.
As part of my role, I also serve on the Holocaust Memorial Week Planning Group. Since 2001, the UK has held Holocaust Memorial Day each year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp by the Soviet troops. At Essex, we mark this important anniversary with a series of events and activities unfolding across a whole week to allow for multiplicity of voices to be heard and enable reflection and meaningful commemoration.
We are now planning the events for the next Holocaust Memorial Week, and I would like to invite our Jewish students and staff to contribute with ideas and suggestions for events and community engagement, including those that they may already be leading or are interested in leading on. Please feel free to reach out to me directly and I will put you in touch with our group.
I am delighted that this first of my communications as Inclusion Champion for Jewish students and staff appears just as our Jewish community prepares for Yom Kippur. This ‘Day of Atonement’ is the holiest of the year. For over 24 hours, Jews fast without eating or drinking, and instead spend the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness. It is a solemn and self-reflective time for Jewish faith believers, and I would like to wish our Jewish community well over the fast and this important part of the year.
Learn more about Jewish holidays.
Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities) , University of Essex
Sanja Bahun's area of expertise is international modernism, and her research interests include theory of comparative arts, world literature, psychoanalysis, and women's and gender studies. She is also Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities).