Interview with Justin Feldman: Students Supporting Israel of UCLA

Justin Feldman, who was born and raised in Tarzana, California, is the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) President at UCLA, where he is double majoring in political science and middle eastern studies. Before transferring to UCLA, Feldman attended Santa Monica College (SMC). Feldman has traveled to Israel thirteen times, mainly to visit his family there, but he has also been there on trips with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), and Onward Israel.

When Feldman was in his senior year of high school, he took part in the StandWithUs MZ teens internship program at Cleveland Charter High School. The summer before Feldman began college, he spent an entire summer in Israel with Onward Israel Video Activism creating short films. While advocating for Israel in the summer of 2016 with Onward, Feldman aspired to do more and learned about Students Supporting Israel at SMC. His three friends, Daniel Dayan, Isaac Dayan, and Natan Benchimol were apart of SSI of SMC and Feldman decided to join and help them create bigger events to advocate for Israel, ultimately making SSI of SMC more recognized. He joined SSI because he wanted to create more Israel advocacy on a college campus. After leaving SMC, Feldman transferred to UCLA and became the president of SSI at UCLA.

Feldman emphasized that he would “love to see UCLA turn into a space where Jews and Zionists can become equal partners for positive social change with other marginalized communities.”

One of the biggest challenges Feldman has faced on his campus is dealing with the student government and cultural groups that normalize anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. On November 18, 2018, the National Students for Justice of Palestine (SJP) group had their conference on the UCLA campus shortly after the Pittsburgh massacre occurred. SJP has featured anti-semites who are popularized among social media as well as being financially linked with Hamas. The conference being held was a concern towards members of SSI, especially after their event, “Indigenous Peoples Unite,” was shut down by SJP on May 17, 2018. According to Feldman, “student government would not take our concerns seriously when it came to student safety and freedom of expression for our community.”

Although this is Feldman’s first year at UCLA, he feels that being able to address topics with an open mind and engaging with new sounds allies around the conversation of Israel is a very effective way in making your voice heard.

Having a strong pro-Israel activism group on campus has allowed Feldman to mature intellectually and socially, while also being able to delve into his Jewish and Israeli identity. He stated that he wants to help others achieve the same for a stronger and more united Jewish future as well.

For all the SSI’ers across the country, Feldman expresses to educate yourselves beyond what you already know and be willing to take the steps that people may not agree with in order to further your peers engagement with Zionism. Lastly, Feldman says to “ use your mistakes and achievements to advance the impact of people leading after you to maximize your chances of positively changing campus dynamics.”

In addition to advocating Israel with SSI, Feldman is the youngest part-time employee at StandWithUs in North America, working in the high school department to help other teens advocate for Israel on their own campuses. He is also a Camera fellow this year at UCLA, where he writes articles debunking media bias against israel and also works in social media to educate others on facts on the ground in the arab-israeli conflict. This helps with SSI because it points other people to recognize media bias, and to give them alternative sources for information about Israel.

In the future, Feldman envisions himself doing more scholarly work for Israel activism in California, and to aid incoming college students to make brave choices in order to educate their own communities.


About the Author
Leor Saghian is a first year student at Santa Monica College majoring in Psychology and is part of the local Students Supporting Israel chapter. Currently, Leor serves as an intern for the national SSI Movement as a publisher and blogger. Leor's family is originally from Iran and following the revolution, immigrated to the United States and Israel.
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