Nearing the end of the semester, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s president Sarah Berry had a lot to say about the success her SSI chapter has had in the past year, and is looking forward to seeing the great things that will be accomplished as the years go on.
Sarah is a nursing major with a minor in psychology, and was the vice president of SSI as well as a member of Hillel in her sophomore year. This is currently her second year as president of the SSI chapter at Milwaukee.
She got involved with SSI after she went on Birthright during her freshman year, “I was friends with the president of SSI at the time, Nicole, who founded the SSI here, and she got me going to the events”.
The motivation behind Sarah’s involvement was her time in Israel, “being able to see how different it is in comparison to what is portrayed as being on the media and being able to explore the area for myself made me really want to educate people around me on the reality of it”. She felt a strong connection to the land, and feels that she had a responsibility to show others the truth behind the conflict instead of the specific parts that they are exposed to.
Growing into Zionism is something that has been a process for Sarah, “I grew up going to a reform temple, I grew up going to a Hebrew school and Sunday school but we never really focused on Israel, so I definitely grew more into [Zionism] over time”.
A campus that used to be quiet and calm dealt with a terrifying situation when a man with a swastika painted on a flag began flying it in front of a recent SSI tabling, “it was definitely frustrating and disappointing because as soon as we were finished setting up, he was there flying his flag. We called UWMPD (police) and they didn’t really do anything, they pretty much stood there watching the guy the whole time. Since that’s happened, we’ve definitely got a lot of support from the University and the students especially, which was nice. I had a meeting with the administration recently, and we’re working on passing new legislation at the university level about protesting in the future”.
Dealing with the “protests” in the moment wasn’t very difficult, considering all the exciting things the SSI chapter had planned, “we kept encouraging people to walk by and ignore him, and brought them to our event instead. We had Artists4Israel there, and were handing out T-shirts and giving out food. Everyone was able to enjoy themselves regardless”.
Sarah describes Milwaukee as pretty quiet in regards to the difficulties that their chapter has faced, and she would like to see her campus become more involved, “a lot of people just go to class and go home. It would be nice to see people get more involved with the organizations on campus because there are definitely some pretty cool ones, like SSI”.
Pro-Israel activism has allowed Sarah to step out of her shell and become more of a leader throughout the years, “before I came to college I was pretty shy, so I never thought that I would be the leader of any organization. Just being able to advocate for and stand up for what I believe in is really cool”.
For their Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, they had 250-300 people present, celebrating with them, “we were right next to the Golda Meir Library, which was amazing. We were playing music, dancing, we had a barbecue going, and a lot of volunteers that helped us make it a very successful event”.
When I asked Sarah where she sees herself in 10 years, she had it all figured out, “I definitely see myself doing nursing, probably having a position somewhere around Milwaukee. I hope to be involved with the Jewish community and volunteering a lot, continuing my Israel advocacy.
Sarah had a short but meaningful message to give to members of SSI across the country, “Don’t get discouraged by people that may not agree with you, just keep on fighting”.