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Students: The Key to Success on Campus

Students: The Key to Success on Campus

Students themselves are by far the most effective representatives to communicate Israel's message on campus.

by

Minister Natan Sharansky should be commended for his recent article discussing the imperative for the State of Israel to focus greater attention and resources on a major issue facing North American Jewry: Israel's image on university campuses. As students across North America are working hard to promote Israel on campus, they are not only battling against sophisticated anti-Israel propaganda, but also against an even larger obstacle of apathy amongst fellow Jewish students.

While Minister Sharansky's call for government support is important, Jewish students realize that they don't have the luxury to wait for the State of Israel to act. Israel is a country today in crisis. It must devote an incongruent amount of time and resources to the various crises it faces -- namely the two-front battle against terrorism and a failing economy. Under pressures and constraints that few other countries in the world face, it is understandable that Israel's resources are not always allocated to public relations.

Who has greater insight on how to reach out to students on campus today -- an Israeli government official or a fellow student?

In addition, it is a false assumption that officials of the State of Israel will be the most effective representatives. Who has greater insight on how to reach out to students on campus today -- an Israeli government official or a fellow student? What will be more effective in engaging students on campus -- another speaker that students have little time or interest to hear or conversations between students at lunch, in the classroom and in the quad? In addition, even if speakers were an effective method of engaging students, they mainly consist of a one-time event. This pales in comparison to the daily activism that students on campuses can employ. The answer is clear -- students themselves are by far the most effective representatives on campuses, communicating Israel's message in an powerful and convincing manner.

Because students are the most effective spokespeople for Israel's public relations on campus, the Hasbara Fellowships of Aish HaTorah has been training students for the last two years in Israeli activism on campus. Hasbara Fellowships has brought over 450 top Jewish university students to Israel for extensive education and activism training, making it the largest, and most in-depth, activism training program of its kind.

Since students are the key to Israel's image on campus, the pro-Israel community must provide them with the tools and confidence to succeed. On Hasbara Fellowships, participants hear from top experts in Jewish and Israeli history, learn about current issues and how to deconstruct common misconceptions and claims against Israel. They learn how to effectively communicate for Israel in a pro-active manner -- concentrating on the messages the pro-Israel community wants to communicate instead of being sidetracked by the messages and efforts of anti-Israel activists on campus. Students learn to communicate Israel's longstanding willingness to compromise for peace. They learn to communicate Israel's unique status as a Middle Eastern nation that protects human rights and encourages democracy. They learn to convincingly communicate Israel's lack of a current partner for peace. Most importantly, Hasbara Fellows learn how to communicate these messages through programming, campaigns, articles in campus newspapers and through simple everyday conversations.

A prime example of programming back on campus initiated by Hasbara Fellows was the Mock Israeli Elections, educating students about Israel's unique democratic system through an engaging activity. Thousands of students across North America learned about the wide-spectrum of voices within Israel and cast a vote for their preference.

Minister Sharansky and the State of Israel certainly do need to allocate any available resources to the battle waging today for Israel's image on university campuses in North America. They should be congratulated for making this a priority in a time when so many other issues are pulling at her. But any support given must first be allocated to giving students the confidence, information and tools to be the front-line activists that we need them to be.

Published: January 3, 2004


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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Lindsay Holeman, January 15, 2004 12:00 AM

Response to Evan Gadol's comments

Hi Evan. I read your comment and I have a suggestion so you don't "look like a fruitloop" while encouraging support for Israel on your campus. Why don't you try and start some kind of lunch and learn series. Free lunch will instantly attract because hey- let's face it- free food will always bring people. Plus, while they're eating, you and maybe a few others Jews (or Jew-lovers) who'll do this with you, can discuss with the group how Israel is attacked more by others than Israel attacks anyone else. Then see if anyone who showed up is interested in supporting Israel by raising money for the troops or orphaned children, getting supplies together to send to them, posting flyers around the campus, etc. The worst thing they can say is no.

(6) Evan Gadol, January 14, 2004 12:00 AM

I enjoyed and agreed with the article, but have an interesting problem: I am one of seven Jews who attends a predominantly Southern Baptist college. What's more, I think I am the only actively Jewish person on campus, so I am not sure how to encourage support for Israel without looking like some kind of fruitloop. Any suggestions?

(5) Mel Kalish, January 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Thank you for a very interesting Israel Update. I entirely agree with
your suggestions regarding student activism. As an alumnus I've been in
touch with several universities about the situation, and look forward to
an improvement in the climate on campuses. Israel's economy is not,
however, failing. It is not even stagnant. Rather it is growing slowly.

(4) LORRAINE, January 7, 2004 12:00 AM

GREAT ARTICLE

Important work always deserves praise....keep up the "good" work

(3) Jessica, January 7, 2004 12:00 AM

don't forget...

Excellent points, Mr. Mathias! Please don't forget that there are lots of strong non-Jewish, pro-Israeli voices active in the "Hebrew Roots" (or "Christian Zionist") movements as well. Thank you!

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