University of California, Riverside: Ofri Avgil
Originally from Israel is Ofri Avgil, the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) president at University of California, Riverside (UC-Riverside). At age seven, Avgil and her family moved from Israel to San Diego. At UC-Riverside, Avgil is a second year student studying biology, hoping to go into the medical field later on in her life.
On her campus, there used to be an Israel club that was called Highlanders for Israel (HFI), which died out, until a student named Leeor Habot brought it back up. “Leeor gave the responsibility of HFI to me and my friend David Kaziyez because she became president of the Hillel on campus.” After HFI was brought back up, Avgil and Kaziyez wanted to change the message of the club, so they learned about SSI and all it has to offer, and started their very own chapter.
At UC-Riverside, their campus is lacking a unified pro-Israel community. Yes, there is a Hillel, Chabad, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity, and an SSI but, “I want to see a stronger Jewish community. I see a great community in San Diego, but not at UC-Riverside.” All in all, Avgil would like it for Jews and Zionists to be comfortable on her campus and make it feel like a home with a larger, more involved Jewish community.
Something that has been hard to deal with on campus is not having enough Jewish students, which makes it very difficult to stand up for themselves. An instance where Avgil wishes there were more Jews to stand up for themselves was when the Students for Justice of Palestine (SJP) club tried to ban an Israeli brand of hummus on campus, “There was not enough Jewish students to defend our case as to why we should keep the hummus on our campus.” Thankfully, SJP did not win the case and the Israeli brand of hummus is still served on campus.
Overall working together as a club with SSI has created good relationships all around: “All the members of SSI always hangout and we bond on a different level. The connections we made with each other make running SSI a lot easier.”
Although SSI of UC-Riverside is a fairly new chapter, they have a base ground to have meaningful conversations with each other and make themselves heard, “It is like having a safe space for all the pro-Israel students in one room and no one feels alone.”
In the future, Avgil sees herself either finishing medical school, or beginning her residency, while also being close to her Jewish roots and still being involved in an Israeli community.
To the rest of the SSI’ers out there Avgil says to, “look at the SSI as more than just a chapter on campus, but look at it as friends for life, connection with other jews and people who love Israel because they are your closest friends on campus.You are with people who care about you and your beliefs.”