New student union leader wants to bring WUJS 'back to its roots'

Translateur: "As a democratic organization, every member union has its own representation. I don't think we're elitist."

wujs chairman 298 88 (photo credit: Isaac Apter)
wujs chairman 298 88
(photo credit: Isaac Apter)
As students prepare to return to university campuses across the globe in the coming weeks, Daniel Translateur is settling into his position as the new chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). Less than a month after his unanimous appointment by the WUJS executive, Translateur, an immigrant from Colombia with extensive experience in Jewish communal service, already has a clear vision of what he would like to accomplish during his term as chairman. "My goal is to bring WUJS back to its roots as an effective political organization that empowers students through its member unions to get involved in fighting for Jewish issues globally," Translateur proudly declared in an interview at the new WUJS office in downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday. As a UN-recognized NGO, the WUJS has been active internationally, protesting the infamous 2001 World Conference against Racism at Durban and the proceedings on Israel's security barrier at the Hague. Translateur is optimistic about his ability to restore the union's credibility, which some say was hurt by last month's sudden dismissal of WUJS chairwoman Viktoria Dolburd four months before the end of her two-year term. He said he intended to accomplish this through "structural changes to the way the union operates" with the intention of "improving the WUJS executive's relationships with our smaller unions." Translateur disagrees strongly with those who criticize the WUJS as being elitist. "As a democratic organization, every member union has its own representation. I don't think we're elitist," he said. "We are working very hard for the elections in December to have very good representation [for] our members. We want to show them that we really care [about] what's going on in their countries and [we want] to work with each of them to develop projects for their communities." "We're working closely with our members to develop a five-year plan for the organization," he said. The WUJS executive is currently made up of representatives of the major Jewish student unions from Europe, Australia, South Africa, Britain, Israel, France and Latin America. Translateur expects that the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students (CFJS) will gain voting status at the 2006 WUJS Congress, which is to be held this December in Beersheba. According to a WUJS press release, the congress will be styled as a "high level think-tank/policy conference... gathering the cr me de la cr me of our generation." Translateur expects the Congress to attract some 300 to 400 Jewish student leaders from across the Jewish world. Since fighting broke out a month ago between Israel and Hizbullah, the WUJS has been active in assisting the global Jewish student community fight anti-Israel sentiment on and off campus. In July, the WUJS with the help of other community organizations developed the internet tool GIYUS - Give Israel Your United Support, whose acronym translates to "recruitment." The tool allows its users to receive instant reports of new internet polls and email campaigns in support of Israel in the language of their choice. The WUJS is also working in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organize "Hasbara Caravans" of pro-Israel activists to travel across European university campuses spreading Israel's message and allowing non-Jewish student leaders to meet with Israelis face-to-face. The union has also diverted some of its resources to assist over 10,000 students from 11 campuses in the North who have been affected by the fighting.