Everyone wants to belong. Growing up, I never felt like I did.

As an Israeli-American, I was bilingual, ate intensely spicy ethnic food, and was definitely more headstrong than most of my peers. This feeling of being different and unsure of who I was stayed with me up until high school and even through the majority of my time in college, but this past year everything changed. This dual identity of mine was brought to life.

For the first time I found a place that channeled both my American and Israeli sides and brought out both in the best ways. I became part of a powerful movement – I became Mishelanu.

As part of the Israeli-American Council, IAC Mishelanu’s program provides a home for Israeli-American students in order to strengthen and maintain their identity through culture, language, heritage, and a strong connection to Israel.

For hundreds of students, on over 90 campuses, the program has created a tight-knit family of warmth, support, and connection outside of Israel. The five regional coordinators work diligently with the students to ensure that the programming on campus is fun yet meaningful. IAC Mishelanu events are very connected to Israeli life and culture, and have ranged from shakshuka lunches, film screenings, and volunteering events to a regional Zionism retreat for all students.

This past semester, many events off-campus, such as Ehud Banai’s concert in NYC, a unique luncheon with Boaz Bismuth, Hadag Nachash’s incredible performance, and the Maccabi Tel Aviv game in Madison Square Garden, gave students opportunities to partake – outside of the family unit – in their culture through food, sports, and music. Hunter College in New York City, which has experienced immense levels of anti-Semitism in the past months, successfully opened a IAC Mishelanu club on campus this past month with the guidance of the Northeast regional coordinator Kobi Cohen. We have grown a lot.

Kicking off the new semester is our upcoming annual IAC Mishelanu Conference in Los Angeles, from February 26-28. Last year, 150 students from 10 U.S. states and Canada experienced a plethora of informative sessions in both English and Hebrew on everything from storytelling and discussing Tel Aviv as Israel’s melting pot to combating the demonization of Israel on campus. They also enjoyed mixers and musical performances from Israeli artists and DJs. They made friends. They made family.

I myself was not privileged to attend last year’s conference, so this one is personally very exciting for me. As this is my last semester in college, I believe this will be particularly meaningful to help me leave a lasting legacy on my campus. As of now, there are over 250 registered students, and the list grows daily. The staff and coordinators are preparing tirelessly to ensure this year’s conference is an even greater success and memorable for all. I can’t wait to see what the conference has in store to help me feel even more proud and connected to my Israeli-American identity. Now I know that I belong.

T minus 2 weeks!

For more information on IAC Mishelanu’s mission, programs, and national conference please visit: http://mishelanu.org/