Israel Advocacy: Your Network Is Your Networth

I arrived in Boston Massachusetts on August 10th to attend The David Project Relationship Building Institute conference. At this conference were student attendees from all across the United States as well as Canada. Throughout the four-day conference, we discussed what it means to be a student leader on college campuses, trends in Israel advocacy and as the title of the conference suggests – the importance of building relationships when conducting advocacy work.

On the first day of the conference my eyes were opened to the idea of enriching another persons perspective on Israel through building relationships. Phillip Brodsky the Executive Director of the David Project put the idea into the conference room that if we as students leaders on campus want to engage in conversation with other student leaders on campus than we should be prepared to add something new to someone else’s perspective.

This idea stuck with me throughout the conference. I began to think back to my hundreds of conversations I had prior to the conference, discussing Israel with people who may or may not have known anything about the place. I began to think to myself and wonder, how did I affect this person’s view of Israel? Did that person leave our conversation enriched with something new and something they may have never heard before? Upon further reflection I came to realize that I’m not here to change someone’s mind, I’m not here to sensor what anyone else says or hears about Israel, the only thing I can do is share my story and the reason for my connection with the state of Israel.

Humans of New York is the perfect example of the power that ones own story holds, a photoblog gone viral, Humans of New York contains thousands of portraits of people all over New York City with captions of an array set of personal interview questions and individuals responses to these questions. Based on my own observations of the “likes”, “comments”, and “shares” of these photos that come up in my news feed on Facebook, the most popular photographs are the ones that people can relate to, the photos that tell a story of a culture, a history and a present that the reader can empathize with.

On the last day of the conference, Bella Ben-Shach, Campus Director of The David Project stated how from the perspective of student leaders and Israel advocates from college campuses all over, it may seem obvious and a given that 50 plus student leaders were all in Boston for a four-day conference on Israel advocacy. She stated however that this reality is in fact not at all obvious and definitely not a given. The fact that so many students have the desire and the drive to take the time out of their summers to attend a conference dedicated to building relationships that will foster Israel advocacy on campus in an incredible achievement.

Leaving the conference I realize that now more than ever it is my responsibility and my duty to share with others the information that I have. I don’t have all the answers to all of the hard questions that people ask when it comes to Israel and the conflict at large, but what I do have is my story, and for now that is enough.

About the Author
Shayna Friedman is the Social Media Manager at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey. A recent graduate from Penn State University where she grew the Student Supporting Israel chapter, she works towards navigating the Social Media realm, exploring what it means to be Jewish and to support Israel in America.