Volunteer: “What can I do to help?”
Me: “How do you want to help?”
Volunteer: “Tell me what the options are, and I’ll tell you where I can fit in”
Me: “I don’t think that’s a good idea, it’ll take me a week”.
This is an abbreviation of a real conversation I have often (including my bluntness).
As the Executive Director of the Milstein Family Foundation, I hear the question “What can I do to help?” all the time. Day after day, I meet dedicated people who want to do SOMETHING to advocate for Israel. Many just aren’t sure where to get started. And I don’t have all the answers myself. But by working for a foundation that collaborates with so many great organizations – I have some ideas.
I decided to take note of the conversations I share with our committed volunteers and streamline them into a three-part series of blogs, which offer advice on how to productively get involved in the Pro-Israel community. You’ll find my first post below.
Part 1: Education
Before anything else, education is key for becoming an effective community activist. How can you defend something you may not fully know about? How can your efforts make headway if nobody else knows what you know? How can you use the tools at your disposal to advance your cause? Here are the first few steps I recommend for success:
- Educate yourself
Get informed. It’s tough to defend Israel without understanding what you’re defending it from, and without being fluent on the facts and talking points.
Take the time to learn the issues. There’s no one place to learn everything, so here is a bevy of suggestions to read with your morning coffee. Most of these sources send weekly newsletters – sign up to learn what’s happening in the world and in your community! You’ll be a far more effective advocate for it. Many of these sources have Facebook and Twitter accounts worth following, as well.
- From the Grapevine
- Honest Reporting
- Israel 21c
- Israel Video Network
- Israel Up Close
- Jewish Insider
- Jewish News Service (JNS)
- MEMRI TV
- The Israel Project
- Educate others
We are all ambassadors for the groups we belong to. Every day, people take my words and actions as representative of women, Jews, Israelis, lawyers, and UCLA Anderson alumni. So like it or not, all Jews are ambassadors for the Jewish State—we all have networks of friends, neighbors, and colleagues who we can and should educate about Israel. There are a variety of ways to inform others:
- Go to http://talkisrael.org/, an app that collects all kinds of pro-Israel news, and sign up to request their beta version.
- Attend synagogue board meetings to ensure Israel is a topic of discussion and a proud item of support.
- Bring Israeli products to work, and share! Most coworkers will love Dead Sea lotions and some good pita and hummus.
- Step Up For Israel is a revolutionary online education platform. It offer courses and other information for all ages.
- Organize a movie screening for films like Crossing the Line 2 and Beneath the Helmet.
- If you’re an Israeli-American, check to see if there is an Israeli-American Council chapter nearby and get your family and friends involved in their activities.
- Organize a speaking event. The Jewish National Fund’s Speaker Bureau is a good starting point for exciting speakers.
- Social Media
Numerous studies show that people are increasingly turning to social media to get their news. It’s our responsibility to counteract all of the lies spewed about Israel with the truth. Whether you have 1 million or 10 followers, it’s important that you follow, share, tweet and pin pro-Israel content.
Likes and comments on social media are undervalued. The more buzz surrounding a post, the more exposure it will get. It can be difficult for some individuals (including non-Jews) to advertise their pro-Israel stance to the world, but having a constant stream of likes and comments gives novice activists the confidence to stay active. No matter how busy life gets, we all have a few seconds each day to like and share posts online.
Here are a few good groups to follow and share from:
- Friends of the IDF
- Jerusalem U
- Milstein Family Foundation (Of course!)
- Prager University – The Milstein Foundation is particularly proud of sponsoring “The Middle East Problem”
- Students Supporting Israel
- The Israel Project
- Adam Milstein on twitter.
Ultimately, education is the best source of meaningful activism. Learning the issues, teaching them to others, and using the right platforms to do so will work wonders for the effectiveness of your efforts. Stay tuned for the next blog on Campus Involvement for more suggestions!