Sydney Siegel
StandWithUs High School Alumni

10 things We Want Jewish High Schoolers to Know

We are Sydney Siegel and Danielle Pinto: two proud Jewish students at Florida State University. Our passion for the future of Israel and the Jewish people initially brought us together 2 years ago, and since then we have worked with our peers to fight antisemitism in our respective communities. We are fortunate to have been given leadership opportunities such as working with StandWithUs- a non-profit organization focused around Israel education and combating the rise in antisemitism. Today, we write to inspire younger students to find an organization and mission they are passionate about before encountering diverse views of students on college campuses. 

1. Just like you, we heard about the hardships of being openly-Jewish on campus and felt scared. 

    • It is difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone going through this type of hatred.
    • But, when it happened to us, it felt almost instinctual on what to do. This immediate reaction was a direct result of our involvement in high school. As you read through this article, you will find out why.

2. Take a look at all of the perspectives and keep an open-mind.

    • The American college campus will expose you to many people with even more beliefs. It’s important to enter with an open mind and treat others respectfully and peacefully.

3. You’re never too young to take in important life lessons.

  • From professional development and leadership training to lessons on how to respect the beliefs of others, we owe our early lessons to SWU. 
  • Find the person, place, or thing that will teach you what you want to learn.

4. You are not expected to know everything.

  • You may ask yourself how you got this far or feel as though you are so “behind” on your education or advocacy compared to your peers. We are here to tell you: “don’t.”
  • The history of Israel and antisemitism is thousands of years long. If it were simple, there probably would be no conflict.
  • It is not until life forces you to face a certain situation that you truly know if you have been prepared for it. We even surprised ourselves when antisemitism struck at FSU and we knew exactly how to handle it.

5. Facts are important, but they are not the only way to create change or meaningful conversations.

  • Training and community involvement are irreplaceable aspects of any skillset.
  • Even though we may not know every fact, we were able to facilitate conversations and use our resources to make a real impact.

6. You’re never alone in being Jewish, fighting antisemitism, or your views on Israel even though it may feel like it sometimes.

  • There are many organizations you can get involved with to help build your confidence, skills, and resume. 
  • We’ve been incredibly grateful for the support we have received thus far. We are lucky today that there is a plentiful amount of organizations; you just need to find them and make your mark on the world.

7. Education really is the road to peace.

  • While this is StandWithUs’ mission statement, this quote is relevant and true in almost every situation you can think of.
  • Education is proven to help end poverty, unemployment, conflicts, and so much more.
  • Educating your peers on topics you care about can be one of the most rewarding and special ways to make a mark on your community.

8. It only takes one person to change the world.

  • Like you, we always looked up to the college students writing articles, giving speeches, and creating change on their campus.
  • A few years later we are walking in their footsteps and so can you with the right determination and support.

9. Different does NOT automatically= worse.

  • Whatever your interests are- find them and embrace them because you never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn, but don’t get discouraged if it’s not what you expected. 
  • 2020 presents many challenges, especially among college students who are used to going to football games, participating in social events, etc.
  • Instead of large gatherings- form a strong connection with a professor you admire, work on an advocacy project you’ve always wanted to create, research organizations that are positively impacting the world and find out how you can be involved.

10. Turn sour lemons into sweet lemonade’ like the Jewish people have been doing for thousands of years.

  • The whole world is at a loss right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean your desire to be a well-rounded person and leader has to come to a halt
  • Join conferences and zoom calls you wouldn’t normally be able to since they are now online
      • Email mentors you admire, read educational books about topics you care about, and research opportunities for the future.
  • Although we are still new to FSU, we’ve learned and been involved with the fight against antisemitism, specifically in our current Student Government Association.

We have learned, grown, and developed as student leaders through our various roles. We are grateful for the guidance and support we have encountered so far as Jewish students. Although we were initially taken back by the antisemitism we saw and heard of, we always knew there were people ready to encourage and support us through our efforts of making our campus a place for less hate. Our early on experiences with StandWithUs and other organizations gave us the confidence to stand up for what we believe in and be ourselves on campus. We are immensely grateful for the guidance and support from StandWithUs, Israel Coalition on Campus, and Hillel we received while using our voices to create change on FSU’s campus. We will continue to work to educate our communities and ensure a more inclusive and less hate-filled campus for all. We encourage you to get involved however you find most meaningful. 

Some last words: find your passion, make the most of every opportunity, and strive for greatness. 

About the Author
Sydney is a student at Florida State University studying Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences. Danielle is a student at Florida State University studying Public Relations. Both women are passionate about Israel, Judaism, fighting Antisemitism, and spreading light onto this world.
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