Israel advocacy is comprised of two important tracks- one focusing on organizing pro-Israel events and campus media, and the other is focusing on cultivating important and empowering political relationships to safeguard our livelihoods and institutional influences.
In a world rapidly changing- both socially and politically- standing up and protecting the upcoming generation of Jewish and pro-Israel students at universities across the world require more than just speakers, fun events, Israeli dancing, cultural festivals, and writing pro-Israel articles in newspapers. Each campus has a different, unique campus climate that is united by a single fact: Jewish communities in universities around the globe are under ideological siege of intimidation and delegitimization.
My connection to Israel was initially ‘lackadaisical’ at the University of California, Santa Cruz – instead of joining my local pro-Israel student group- I entered politics via student government and campus leadership. After working tirelessly on reforming voter registration at UCSC with my fellow peers (meeting lifelong friends in the process) in 2011-2012 (winning a University of California Student Association undergraduate campaign at UC Riverside’s 2011 Congress), my heart and mind reconnected my passion to the Jewish people on a summer 2012 Hasbara Fellowships trip to Israel. In fall quarter 2012, I was subsequently appointed as chief of staff in the Office of Internal Affairs in UCSC’s Student Union Assembly- catalyzing a new movement of acceptance, influence, and proactive interaction between the Jewish community and campus leaders via hard work, merit, personal dedication, and a refusal to give up. My efforts of sustaining and fostering organic friendships with important campus leaders directly translated into the defeat of a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolution (19 opposed, 14 in favor, 3 abstentions) introduced into UCSC’s student government in June, 2013.
Building community and empowering Jewish students through event programming is important for success, however it fails to counteract the widespread influence of anti-Israel sentiment growing amongst various campus leadership communities. As student supporters of Israel, we’ve far neglected establishing fundamental organic friendships, based on shared interests and commonalities, with campus administrators and student leaders in our respective communities. In some cases, we’ve unintentionally overlooked the true sources for political change, influence, and support for proactively reforming our academic institutions.
Through the support and guidance of Hasbara Fellowships, a new generation of empowered Jewish and pro-Israel students are taking initiative by engaging student governments across North America. Institutionalizing a proactive voice in campus politics can be achieved by shedding our fear of exposure and socialization with non-Jewish and Jewish campus leaders alike. Let’s begin encouraging one and other to empower Israel advocacy on the platform of being interactive, contributing, and empowering resources for the overall welfare of our campus communities.
Politics is power, and in our case, the Jewish community possesses the ability and capacity to positively change the world for the benefit of all communities. The time has arrived to centralize our efforts on building proactive and empowering political friendships through direct participatory engagement with campus leadership institutions. The overall effort of being a contributing, meritorious, and participatory member of campus leadership align with a general pursuit of protecting the well-being and safety of the Jewish community. Similarly to the case of UCSC, let’s all begin the process of institutionalizing our voices and concerns into the consciousness of campus decision-makers whom help determine our futures.