Students Commit to Reimagine Israel Education on their College Campuses

Created by Elie Codron (Northeastern University, 2023), Jordana Schiff (McGill University, 2021), Jeremy Kohler (JTS-Columbia University, 2023), and Deborah Coopersmith (Yeshiva University, 2021)

Many Zionist students on college campuses face unique and yet, related challenges. Therefore, we aspire to continue educating ourselves about Israel and grapple with its modern day dilemmas to best lead the Israel conversation on campus. While there are incredible pro-Israel organizations present on college campuses, we believe there needs to be a new movement within the current space. We envision a different way to educate students across the Zionist spectrum. While we each came to this conclusion separately, we know that differences of opinion are not unique in the Zionist world. Our Zionist forefathers came from different ideological strands, and yet, they achieved a shared goal of a Jewish state. Part of the novelty of our movement is our encouragement in diverse thinking. We are Zionists, with diverse political and religious beliefs, seeking to reimagine Israel education on college campuses together.

 Jeremy Kohler just finished his first year at Columbia University and realized that amongst the different Israel organizations on his campus, there is no space for many students to be Zionists without adhering to the political ideologies of any one group. He finds that the prevailing, tense environment veers all Israel discussions into two camps: Zionist or anti-Zionist. Yet, in reality, there is much more diversity within the Zionist camp than meets the eye. 

Jordana Schiff is entering her final year at McGill University and is the president of her  Israel on Campus club. On her campus, she constantly has to contend with anti-Semititic acts that are often masqueraded as anti-Zionism. Jordana wants to create an outlet to help educate her campus about the complexities of the conflict and Israel’s true reality.

 Elie Codron has just completed his second year at Northeastern University. As an active member of his Jewish community, Elie is worried about the future of pro-Israel communities on campus. He finds that Jewish students on campus are less involved because of a lack of sincere connection to Israel. Through education, Elie  believes that we can create a  community that will empower students to develop their own relationships to the State of Israel.

Deborah Coopersmith is a senior at Yeshiva University. While she has luckily been part of a student body that does not promote the BDS Movement, she has faced antisemitism for being a Zionist Jew on the streets of New York. As a fervent Zionist, Deborah recognizes that in order for change to occur there must be open, honest conversations about Israeli policy and Palestinian actions. She believes that if there was more education about Israel on both sides of the spectrum it will lead to deeper, valuable conversations.

The four of us have had different Zionist experiences and yet, have come to the same conclusion. We need a space where a diverse group of  Zionists can come together to learn and create. By joining together, we can further our knowledge about Zionism and the conflict by engaging in the complexities of Israel, discussing Zionism’s fundamental tenets and how these ideals impact the current makeup of the Middle East. We want to grow our passion for and understanding of Israel not only for ourselves, but for our communities as well. We teamed up to start a new student-led movement, Rimon. 

We plan to introduce many exciting original educational initiatives on our campuses to educate our communities. We hope to foster diverse, complex and individualistic approaches to Zionism and the conflict. We have partnered with Benji Davis, who directs Makom’s Gap-Year Initiative that three of us had the privilege to have participated in during our gap year in Israel, to reimagine Israel education on college campuses. This summer, we are launching our first educational cohort where students will be empowered to delve into the complexities of Zionism for themselves. We then hope to begin more cohorts on college campuses who will follow this curriculum of engaging and learning. We have many other exciting initiatives planned, including online educational resources and current event updates. 

It is at this moment of our lives where we are deciding our core values and life aspirations. Still, we acknowledge that we are living in a polarized world that does not leave room for complex opinions and individual beliefs. We are not confined to any box and can have an open, honest conversation about Zionism and the aims that Israel should achieve. By creating a cohort of people who understand and allow opposing ideas, we can foster rich dialogue and discover core values of ourselves and the State of Israel. We are excited to engage with students from different campuses to discuss and grapple with the nuances of our beliefs about Israel. Education is power and through it we can foster understanding and empowerment. We hope to create a richer, more complex conversation around Israel on our campuses based on education and our love of Israel and the Jewish people.

Want to learn more about our movement?

About the Author
Elie Codron was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. After 9th grade, he moved to South Florida with his family to live the American dream. After two months struggling with English, Elie decided to start getting more involved in the Jewish and pro-Israel community by joining NCSY and later AIPAC. Thanks to the trust of his peers, he got many different leadership positions in diverse organizations that allowed him to achieve a lot for the pro-Israel and Jewish community, especially in South Florida. He then decided to spend a year in Israel at Yeshiva Orayta in Jerusalem before starting college. This year allowed him to learn more about Judaism, himself, and the State of Israel. Today, Elie is a student at Northeastern University studying International Affairs, Entrepreneurship, and Data Sciences. He was the president of the pro-Israel club, Huskies for Israel, this past year, and just finished interning for the Israeli mission at the United Nations.
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