Students Supporting Israel (SSI) is a grassroots movement that has grown over the years, and San Jose State has become home to one of the latest SSI chapters. The current president, Spencer Brodie, is a business student and owner of a catering company called Neshamah Food, which is, “a way of sharing the Israeli food that I’ve grown to love with people who have never experienced it before”. He plans on making aliyah after graduation, and has a strong love towards Israel.
Spencer got involved with pro-Israel advocacy through Hillel, and was a part of a club called ‘Spartans for Israel”. Soon after, he decided with a few friends that it was time to bring SSI to the bay area, and went to the national conference which only convinced them further that it was time to start an SSI in their school. Since SSI started at San Jose State, they have paved the way for 5 other chapters to start up in campuses all over Silicon Valley, “Being an Israeli voice on campus isn’t new, but having a national, unified voice, that is new”.
Spencer has always been raised with Zionism in his life, and has always had great feelings towards the only democracy in the Middle East, “I saw this huge lack of knowledge, and people just didn’t know where to begin in terms of the conflict. So making a place that’s fun and welcoming and exciting allows us to draw in students and educate them about what’s really going on.”.
The climate at San Jose University can be best described by Spencer as apathetic, “it’s tough because people are confused by the conflict, but they don’t care enough to really gain the knowledge needed behind it”. People come to SSI in waves, and there are people willing to have conversations at times even where tensions are high.
Spencer would like to see his campus grow into a place where Jewish students are taken seriously. There is a Mosaic Cross-Cultural center that has made Jewish students feel as though they are being discriminated against. It’s become heartbreaking to see so many people on campus that are anti-Semitic and see nothing be done about it, “We need allies; all these other groups are getting everything they need, which I’m very happy about, but there is nothing for the Jewish students”.
SSI of San Jose State has had great social action events that have been monumental in the growth of the chapter, “We had an event called ‘Make a Sandwich, Give a Sandwich’ where we set up a couple of tables on campus and did a sandwich drive. People would come and make a sandwich for homeless people, and would be able to grab one for themselves as well. It was an awesome way for us to give back to the community, and we were able to hand-deliver over 50 bagged lunches with notes of encouragements for them to read”.
In addition to the Make a Sandwich, Give a Sandwich event, they have had many more events that highlighted important causes and topics, “This year was our second annual fundraiser for Save a Child’s Heart, and were able to raie $600 for them on Valentine’s day. We had over 100 people stop by and see what we were fundraising for, and it was a huge success”.
Spencer was quick to respond when I asked him what advice he would give to the SSI members across the country; “Know that you have a team across America that it supporting you. It can be really scary to stand up as a Zionist, but knowing that there are people across the country that are there for us is a really important thing to remember – never give up the fight”.