University of Pennsylvania: Deena Kopyto
Born in Canada and raised in Long Island, New York, Deena Kopyto is a second year student at the University of Pennsylvania where she is double majoring in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. She is the president of the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at University of Pennsylvania. Kopyto has been to Israel quite a few times, including going with “Hasbara” and becoming a fellow on her campus with them – even spending a gap year in Israel with Midreshet Lindenbaum. In fact, after attending Midreshet Lindenbaum, Kopyto’s love for Israel only grew more.
Growing up in an Orthodox community, Kopyto has always had a love for Israel from a religious perspective for the land of the Jewish people. However, Kopyto highlights that “as I got older, I realized how Israel was important for cultural and historical reasons as well.” When she joined Hasbara in Israel during her freshman year of college, Kopyto learned more about the Israeli-Palestine conflict and decided to join SSI in order to continue her pro-Israel activism on the university campus.
With seven pro-Israel clubs on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Kopyto says that “I want to see more unity between the clubs and see all the pro-Israel students become more involved.” With a lack of presence from Students for Justice of Palestine (SJP) and other anti-Israel voices, pro-Israel students do not feel the need to become involved because SJP has not been an issue. Kopyto feels that “if the different Israel groups work together, we could attract a lot more students.”
A type of event that has been most successful for SSI at the University of Pennsylvania are their tabling events. These events allow the leaders of SSI to be more engaging with students, and vice versa.
Kopyto states that being a part of SSI has allowed her to learn more about Israel, and also made her realize why she loves Israel from a non-religious perspective. She also gets asked a lot of questions about Israel from not only pro-Israel students – but also many non-Jewish students. “I enjoy talking to people about how Israel is important along with all the benefits Israel has to anyone who has questions.”
For the rest of the SSI’ers out there, Kopyto says “do not be discouraged by people who are not interested. Keep fighting for Israel, and own your narrative!”
Within five to ten years from now, Kopyto sees herself going into the public health field or attending law school, still advocating for Israel – hopefully even living there one day.