The Oxford University under 21s rugby team recently caused widespread offence when they planned to hold a social with a ‘bring a fit Jew’ theme.
The team had been told to dress up as orthodox Jews with side-locks and come to the party holding bags of money. It was pointed out to the rugby team that this was highly offensive. They were then urged by the Oxford University Student Union to change the theme of the party to ‘bring a fit girl’ as a compromise even though the original theme of the social still went ahead.
Phil Boon, Captain of the rugby under 21s said that he “didn’t understand what the problem was” and that it “would have been an awesome social.” While Boon failed to see how the theme of the party would have been offensive, NUS President Wes Streeting told The Guardian that “If these students don’t understand why their behaviour is so offensive and inappropriate, then it’s up to the university to teach them a hard lesson.” Oxford University have said that they are conducting an investigation into the social, though at the moment no action has been taken.
The wider Jewish community have said that the theme was offensive, unnecessary and clear that the anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews were still present among supposedly educated people. The Union of Jewish students (UJS) have also commented that the theme was a “worrying example of casual racism from a minority of Oxford students.”
Nationally, the number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents on campuses across the UK is predicted to have risen dramatically since last year when 59 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported. UJS wish to make it clear that more is being done to combat anti-Semitism on campus.
Examples of the ‘casual racism’ that the rugby team displayed by the ‘bring a fit Jew’ party were also mirrored earlier this year when they ‘blacked up’ and dressed in loin cloths for a Safari social, again causing wide offence. Phil Boon commented that “Blacking up for the Safari Bop was just going along with the theme.”
An emphasis is being placed by all on the fact that these actions were carried out by a small minority of students who do not represent the majority of Oxford University. Oxford were keen to stress in their own paper, The Oxford Student that the university has a diverse student body and that their Student Union runs an international student campaign which “hosts a festival every year celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Oxford’s student population.”