The Importance of StandWithUs’ ‘Israel in Focus Conference’
The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation proudly supports StandWithUs‘ annual Israel in Focus conference, which brings together college students from across North America at a weekend-long conference in Los Angeles. Over three days, participants learn the skills and facts that will help them better discuss Israel on campus and beyond as well as network with other student leaders and discuss programming and strategy ideas. Brett Cohen, Executive Director of Campus Affairs for StandWithUs, shares how the conference gives its participants confidence and knowledge. You can read his post below.
Each year, the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs hosts its Israel in Focus conference, teaching college students how to effectively advocate for Israel. The conference is put on in part by the Adam and Gila Milstein Foundation, making it possible for more than 100 students to learn and become Israel activists on campuses across the country.
“When I started college about three years ago, I was excited to finally begin my college experience,” said Tomer Kornfeld, a third-year student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “But almost as soon as I walked onto campus, I witnessed a ‘die-in’ hosted by none other than Students for Justice in Palestine.” A die-in is one of many anti-Israel smear campaigns in which students lie on the ground and play dead to represent Palestinian deaths.
“It was filled with lies and misinformation,” said Kornfeld. “Even though I knew I had training to deal with this, I wasn’t sure what exact direction I should challenge them from, and with what means. At least not until I attended the Israel In Focus conference.”
At the conference, students participate in debate training, on-campus simulations, and breakout sessions, as well as listen to a variety of pro-Israel speakers. According to Kornfeld, “I left this conference knowing that I was more prepared than ever before.”
University of Michigan student and three-year veteran of the conference Andrew Moss agreed. “At Israel in Focus, I heard from incredible speakers whom I had never heard from, and learned about how to properly network and portray my skill set so that I could make a difference on my own campus,” he said, adding, “more than anything, I learned to be confident in my own abilities as an advocate and to work hard to ensure that my voice was heard. I walked away from the weekend passionate, charged, and ready to face down what would be a year filled with Apartheid Walls, Mock Evictions, and ultimately a divestment hearing.”
When Kornfeld returned to campus, he took over as Israel Engagement Chair for his local Hillel, a position that had never previously existed. He tabled jointly with the LGBTQ club and Republican club, handing out free swag from StandWithUs. His club also hosted speakers and community events, such as the Passover Diversity Seder, inviting all clubs and winning the award for “most outstanding pluralistic event.”
“The tide on our campus has been changing for the better,” concluded Kornfeld. “And all this work couldn’t have been done without finding out what resources were available and gaining the training that I did at the StandWithUs Israel In Focus conference.”
Moss feels the same. “I can honestly say that without Israel In Focus, I would not be anywhere near the advocate and leader that I am today, and that the network I formed at the three conferences that I’ve attended will truly last me a lifetime.”
To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org. Also – check out Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation on Facebook!