The National Jewish Student Survey was released this week. This was a survey carried out by JPR (Jewish Policy Research) and UJS (Union of Jewish Students) to find out about the experiences of Jewish students in the UK, how they feel about being Jewish on campus, what they are thinking about and worrying about.
What surprised me most about this survey was not its contents, but rather the reaction of the Jewish community to it.
In classic cliched style, the survey shows that Jewish students worry more than the average University student about pretty much everything. (Figure 68). They are more worried about passing their exams, living up to parental expectations, relationship issues, personal health concerns and crime in their area.
Why is it that Jewish students seem to be part of an inbred Jewish consciousness that promotes worry and fear? What is it about being Jewish that seems to automatically make you neurotic? Perhaps the psychologist Eysenck was right that the neurotic personality type is noted in people with an over-functional sympathetic nervous system, who therefore react more sensitively to environmental stress stimuli1 . Perhaps Jews have ‘neurotic’ genes.
Regardless of the answer to these questions, we do know that sometimes worry is good. Worrying can make you perform better, resolve problems and enhance your focus. But too much worry can lead to stress and everyone knows that too much stress is bad. Excessive worry can be a significant problem and should not be taken lightly.
How many students living away from home, without an immediate familial support system, combined with the highly stressful environment of coursework, essays and exams, struggle with health issues at University such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders.
Yet this does not seem to frighten those in our community. The current attitude is that University is a time when students either ‘sink or swim’, that it is normal to feel lonely and depressed and that everyone feels sad once in a while.
This lack of understanding of a growing problem with mental health and wellbeing faced by many of our Jewish students is a frightening concept.
It is not acceptable that 34% of Jewish students surveyed worry about feeling lonely at University. It is not acceptable that 28% are worried about personal health issues. (figure 66).
UJS and other student organisations must look to reassess their priorities this year. Rather than revolving campaigns around issues abroad, steps must be taken to help students struggling at home.
The fact is that 92% of Jewish students feel positive about Israel and only 4% of non-Jewish students feel very negative towards Israel (figure 55). 63% of non-Jewish students have neither positive nor negative feelings towards Israel and quite simply have no opinion about the Middle East conflict (figure 55). In addition, only 4% of Jewish students are very worried about anti-Semitism on campus.
This can only show that there is room for UJS, JSoc’s and other student organisations to focus more on student welfare by creating a support network for those students struggling with day to day life at Uni and ensuring that by the next Jewish student survey, far fewer Jewish students report these distressing worries and fears about their personal health.
In the mean time, have a listen to a great song:
And to those who are fasting for Yom Kippur this weekend, fast well and I hope you all have a worry-free and stress-free Succot!
To read the full report click here:
The Jewish Helpline: