Coming into the Israel advocacy world with little professional experience in the field, I had no idea what to expect and some questions floating in the back of my mind. Would I gel with my peers? Do I know everything I need to know? Will the students connect well with me? I quickly learned that all of these concerns were non-existent, and since the distressing part of starting a new job is over, I’d like to talk about a couple highlights from my first year as an Israel advocacy professional.
One of the first projects we did at SSI National was our West Coast Van Campaign. This past November, we traveled from Seattle all the way down to Los Angeles visiting six anti-Israel campuses to see how they reacted to a pro-Israel table, and it went about as you would expect. People would yell, shove snacks off our table, we were even called “racists” and “f***ing Zionist pigs” – this was not the actual highlight. The highlight was that this really opened my eyes to another perspective I’ve never witnessed in-person before, but it also reaffirmed how proud I am of the work we’re doing. Asides from the Van Campaign, SSI’s fourth national conference took place in San Diego this just a month later in December and it was unbelievable. On top of that, over the past year I’ve visited many chapters on campuses, working with students on the ground. I can’t favor any specific campus visits, but I really enjoyed every trip we made and appreciate all the students being so welcoming to the SSI National team.
Everyone I’ve had the opportunity to work with and meet along the way on campuses and at conferences have been the most dedicated people. All of the students involved with SSI are the most passionate and knowledgeable activists I’ve ever seen. They take Israel advocacy to another level. It not only makes me proud, it also shows me that even with all the recent tragedies here and the negativity surrounding Israel that our younger generations are strong and will never give up fighting for Israel on the campus – and even after they leave campus.
Since I joined the SSI team in August, I got to witness many trends. One of the biggest problems campuses and SSI chapters seem to experience is that students are apathetic to the topic. I know it firsthand, my campus had nearly 40,000 students on it, and nearly 8,000 of them were Jewish. However, getting 100 of those 8,000 students engaged to do anything Israel related was a challenge. I thus get it when students message us and say they have a hard time getting their peers into events, or getting people to join their club because it takes time and effort to overcome this issue, but most chapters surpass this problem. Another, and possibly the biggest trend I’ve noticed is how most campuses have a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) and/or an IfNotNow (INN) club that continue to deepen the discord by spreading lies and propaganda about Israel, Zionism and then refusing to come to the table for discussion. How can you expect to make positive change and learn from the other side, if they won’t even talk to you because of your perspective? It worries me to some extent, but I’m always relieved knowing the SSI students are out there on the frontlines every day trying to challenge these biased hate groups.
To the SSI family reading this, thank you for a great year! I can’t wait to see what we all accomplish next year. And to anyone reading this who’s graduating this year or next year, learn from my story –when you search for a job, look around for something that really interests you. Hey you never know, you might end up working in the pro-Israel world.