The Israeli American Council’s Mishelanu program (IAC Mishelanu) provides a unique venue for Israeli-American students to explore their distinct identity and build community among others with the same background. The program has experienced 100% growth since last year — doubling its number of participants and establishing a presence on 94 college campuses in 14 states. In honor of the 2nd Annual IAC Mishelanu National Conference, taking place at the end of this month, my February blogs will focus on this program. Below, I share some words from an IAC Mishelanu student leader, Noa Shneorson.

Growing up between two cultures was challenging, interesting, and confusing. Being Israeli at home and American at school and with friends made my childhood complicated. My family relocated to Boston when I was five years old, and my parents raised me speaking Hebrew, eating Israeli foods, celebrating Jewish holidays, and Skyping with family back in Israel. To Americans I was always Israeli, and to Israelis I was often American.

As a teen I went through an identity crisis: Israeli first, or American first? Do I have to choose between one and the other? In an effort to fit in during the awkward middle school years, it was hard for me to stay proud of my Israeli background. But my involvement in Hebrew school programs, my lessons in reading and writing in Hebrew, and my family in Israel helped me realize what an incredible culture and background I was born into. Over the years, I have found that the best way to appreciate being Israeli and American is by connecting with people who understand where I’m coming from and the perplexities of living what can feel like a double life.

In college, though, the challenge deepened, as controversies about Israel swirled around campus. I tried my best to stay informed, and be connected with the people that would support me. IAC Mishelanu was that haven for me — something that I had been looking for growing up, to meet people like myself and to share in our experiences as Israeli-Americans. I was excited to be involved last semester and I’m looking forward to spending more time with everyone, as well as meeting hundreds of others, at the upcoming national conference. It is going to be an incredible experience to connect with and gain knowledge from people I can relate to in such a profound way. After years of consideration and much thought, I am proud to say that I am both Israeli and American.

To learn more about IAC Mishelanu please visit www.IAC Mishelanu.org. To learn more about its National Conference, taking place this year from Feb. 26-28 in Los Angeles, please visit http://IAC Mishelanu.org/national-conference.