Tag Archives: israel advocacy

The Story of Mustangs Israel Public Affairs Committee (MIPAC)

CAMERA Fellow Jodie Miller

Samantha Dorenfeld, Tal Edelstein, Matthew Malsin, Leor Rozen and I didn’t know each other well in September of 2016, but we all had one thing in common; we love Israel. The five us formed Mustangs Israel Public Affairs Committee, or MIPAC as it became known to the pro-Israel community and local officials.

Dorenfeld was entering her fourth year as a political science major when MIPAC began. As the Campus Electoral Coordinator, Dorenfeld worked to educate the student body and student government on Israel and contacting the California Senate Jewish Caucus to create a relationship and a pathway into working with them in the future. Dorenfeld’s hard work all stemmed for her support for the only “true and free democracy in the Middle East and the leader in innovation, safety, and most importantly human rights.”

Edelstein, the Campus Liaison, founded our cadre during his third year as a business major. Edelstein had grown up in Israel, and after experiencing anti-Semitism as a child, he always believed there needed to be a place for the Jewish people. Edelstein had started the pro-Israel coalition on Cal Poly’s campus, CAMERA-supported Mustangs United for Israel (MUFI), in 2015. A year later, MIPAC was born, “While MUFI was so successful in its first year in reaching mass audiences and starting the Israel conversation on our campus, it didn’t actually make a significant change. With MIPAC, we had the ability to target specific decision-makers and to educate those people about the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”

MIPAC Logo

Malsin took on the roll as Campus Legislative Coordinator during his fourth year as a history major. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Malsin joined MIPAC because it gave him the opportunity to help improve the U.S.-Israel relationship, “For our family, Israel was a place where Jews from anywhere could feel safe no matter what issues they faced.”

Rozen, a third-year construction management major,, became Campus Engagement Coordinator because he believes the world is a better place with Israel in it. Rozen worked tirelessly to recruit campus advocates to help lobby members of Congress and remain active advocated of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Lastly, there was me, Jody Miller, a third-year journalism major. While I support Israel for its democratic values and innovations, my true passion lay in the fact I found the place to be home. When I stepped foot in Israel and rested my hand on the Western Wall, I instantly knew I belonged, and I believe every Jew deserves that feeling. As the Campus Communications Coordinator, I created interactive media, managed all social media, kept track of all Israel and U.S. news and served as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America fellow.

For the 2016 elections, our cadre went to work in the end of September on volunteering for a candidate with the strongest pro-Israel stance in our district. Our initial goal was 100 hours volunteered and $500 raised. In under two months, we exceeded our goals by raising $4000 and volunteering over 230 hours. This set a precedent for how the rest of our year would follow.

Instantly, we became a well-respected group on and off campus. Edelstein’s overall goal was to receive American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) cadre of the year, “Not because I wanted the title or cared what other people thought, but because if we got to that level, that would signal that we were doing a spectacular job and that we were being recognized for it. If we could achieve that overarching goal, we would know that we had succeeded in all of our smaller individual goals.” While we didn’t receive Cadre of the Year, Edelstein won Advocate of the Year, “an award I view the same as the former in that it represents our whole cadre’s success and not just mine,” he said.

Our biggest success and one that speaks volumes to our work, is with our district’s Representative, Salud Carbajal. We lobbied him and his office three times since his election. The first time, one of the topics was on legislation targeting Iran’s terror activity and testing of ballistic missiles (two things not covered in the recent Iran nuclear deal). In that meeting, we told him about a resolution dealing with this which he hadn’t heard of, so he took note of it. A few months later, in the next meeting we had with his office, we learned that Congressman Carbajal was now a co-sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives dealing with that very same issue.

The MIPAC team meeting with Salud Carbajal

While we may be students, we were able to make a difference in some important areas regarding our representative’s stance towards the U.S.-Israel relationship. Across the country, on every college campus, we encourage all students to do the same.

Contributed by Jody Miller, CAMERA Fellow at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and member of CAMERA-supported group Mustangs United for Israel.

Amid rise in campus anti-Semitism, pro-Israel students prepare for challenging year ahead

For most students, the dog days of August are one final chance for summer traditions such as hitting the beach or visiting national parks with their family before heading back to campus.

For dozens of pro-Israel college students, however, learning about ways combat increasing campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism was their focus during summer’s final weeks.

Over 80 college students from nearly 70 campuses around the world attended the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s (CAMERA) student conference in Boston, Massachusetts Aug. 7-10.

“Reports of intimidation on campus are becoming all too common across the globe,” said Aviva Slomich, CAMERA’s international campus director. “Unfortunately campus anti-Semitism seems to be on the rise, which explains why so many students are eager to learn the skills that are offered at CAMERA’s conference.”

The program comes at a critical time for Jewish and pro-Israel students. A recent report by the AMCHA Initiative found an alarming spike in campus anti-Semitism during the first half of 2016.

“Nearly 100 more incidents of antisemitism occurred on campus during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first six months of 2015,” according to the AMCHA Initiative’s mid-year study.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Anti-Semitic activity was twice as likely to occur on campuses where BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign) was present, eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), and six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotter, the report noted.

Now in its sixth year, the CAMERA conference seeks to help students learn necessary skills for dealing with anti-Israel activists on campus. The three-day event tackles a number of important issues for students, ranging from educational seminars on the BDS movement to learning about bias in the media. Additionally, the conference allows students to put the knowledge they gain from the seminars to practical use, such as learning about techniques on how to talk with extreme anti-Israel activists on campus and how to work within student government to fight BDS resolutions. These all culminate in an impassioned mock BDS hearing on the last day, where students experience first-hand the challenges they may face during the school year.

“What we offer students is high-level intellectual training and emotional support to meet the challenges of the modern college campus,” said Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s campus program director. “Throughout the year we give students the resources to counter anti-Israel activity on campus, such as providing films, speakers, teach-ins, rallies all funded by CAMERA.”

Rezwan Haq, a University of Central Florida economics and political science student, told JNS.org that the CAMERA conference helped him set the foundation to combat anti-Israel activity on campus.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

“I thought that the CAMERA conference was phenomenal and it truly arms [us] with knowledge and information to combat anti-Israeli rhetoric and BDS on college campuses. I look forward to working with CAMERA during the upcoming school year,” he said.

Haq, however, is not your normal pro-Israel student. He shared his unique experience at the conference in session called “Why I left SJP and joined a CAMERA supported group.”

Raised Muslim, Haq is a first generation immigrant who moved to the United States from Bangladesh at 13. His default inclination was to support the Palestinians because they were also Muslim.

“As I child, I knew I supported Palestine, I just didn’t know why,” he said.

Upon entering school, Haq reached out to his local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian activist group that champions the BDS movement on campuses and is often in direct conflict with pro-Israel student groups. Haq said he was outraged at images of Palestinians suffering from the 2014 summer war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. He later helped his SJP group bring to campus the “Israeli Apartheid Wall,” which seek to highlight Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by mimicking the security barrier between Israel and the West.

Yet it was that very same wall, meant to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, which led him to become an advocate for Israel and attend the CAMERA conference.

“Ironically, it was at the Israeli Apartheid Wall was when I spoke to a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldier for the first time in my life. Before then, I used to believe that IDF soldiers were terrorists yet [we] had a genuine conversation when he shared the story of his best friend being killed during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’” Haq said.

“It was at that moment when the image I held of IDF soldiers were humanized,” he added. “I realized that [I] and this former IDF soldier both wanted peace, we just had a different way of going about it.”

Calling it a moment of clarity, Haq’s interaction with the former IDF soldier set off a frenzy of learning for him. He realized that many pro-Palestinian organizations never hold Palestinian leadership accountable for their actions and that they solely exist to slander Israel,” he said.

Also at the conference, students heard first-hand from others who experienced high levels of anti-Israel activism on campus and fought against BDS resolutions.

Jason Storch, a senior pre-med student from Long Island, NY at Vassar College, got involved in pro-Israel advocacy after witnessing the “increasing level of tolerance towards open hostility at anyone so much as on-the-fence about BDS or Israel as a whole,” he toldJNS.org.

“I felt it necessary to at least lend an alternative viewpoint I knew was being withheld from the discussion,” Storch said. “I plan to continue evaluating the situation in the Middle East and coming to various conclusions based on the events, but I cannot see myself not advocating for Israel. So long as there is one liberal democracy amid a sea of tyranny, the decision seems less than challenging.”

Vassar College, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, has been known as a hotbed of ant-Israel activism for years. Recently it was at the forefront of the debate over whether or not to support the BDS movement.  In March, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) voted to endorse the BDS movement. However, after an outcry from pro-Israel groups, alumni and school’s administration, a second vote was held, and the resolution was defeated.

“Vassar as a campus is of course highly anti-Israel, however it is important to remember this manifests itself through an only decent-sized minority asserting themselves the loudest,” Storch said. The whole brand of ‘take no prisoners’ SJP-style of pro-Palestinian activism isn’t resonating with the majority of students, he added.

While he’s encouraged by the defeat of the BDS resolution, as well as the students and faculty who finally spoke out against it, Storch remains concerned of the overall situation on campus.

“While I’m glad anti-BDS faculty have emerged, there’s still a vast discrepancy that often makes students, myself included, worry that they’ll be token Israel student in a class, which can be very intimidating,” Storch said.

With summer ending soon, efforts among pro-Palestinian groups targeting Israel and pro-Israel students on campus will no doubt continue in the upcoming school year. As someone who has been on both sides of the conflict, Haq believes it’s important for students to truly listen to each other in hopes of forging peace, not only on campus but for the conflict overall.

“We should put down our talking points and truly listen to what the other side has to say,” Haq said. “So if you’re an Israeli or an advocate of Israel, take the time to listen to a Palestinian and vice-versa. When I heard that IDF soldier speak to me years ago, it was the first time I ever took time to listen to the other side of the story rather than be defensive. We have to understand that the only way to seek peace is for both sides to come to the table.”

This article was written by Sean Savage and was originally published on JNS.org.

The Identity Crisis of the Cautious Zionist

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

One warm afternoon this past semester, I found myself in the car of a Saudi girl. We hadn’t met before – she was a friend of a friend — and had offered to drive us somewhere. While we were in the car, I blurted something out to my friend. At the time I was in a cross-continental, not-quite relationship with an Israeli boy, who I had always simply referred to as “the Israeli.” I don’t remember what I said, but I referred to him by that moniker, forgetting whose company I was in. I had let my guard down. How did this Saudi girl feel about Israel? Did she despise Zionism? Would she kick me out of her car and drop me on the side of the road?

The story ends well, and with me still in her car. She didn’t say anything at the mention of ‘the Israeli’. She’s a liberal girl, dressed in Western fashion, studying architecture at a prominent university, and apparently a Bernie supporter. But those facts alone weren’t enough to make me feel totally comfortable letting my Zionism show.

I should say here that my previous interactions with Saudis – and other Arabs – stemmed from my experiences in high school. The boarding school I attended regularly pulled well-to-do kids from various Middle Eastern Arab countries. Though they came from a mix of different countries, they all had a few things in common – a heightened sense of nationalism that likely came from being transplanted in a society so far from home at a young age, and a hatred (or a strong distaste for, to put it mildly) for Zionism. As one of the only Jews in my grade, and as one who had traveled to Israel during my high school years, I became the target of their anger toward Israel. I was, to them, what the country represented. My knowledge about Israeli and Middle Eastern history was, at the time, lacking, and so I found myself swallowing my words, arguing with someone whose history I didn’t know, and arguing a history I barely knew myself.

For the full article, visit the Times of Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Syracuse UniversityShoshana Kranish.

Tell the Truth

CAMERA Fellow Raizy Cohen

CAMERA Fellow Raizy Cohen.

“Israel is not a witness to be put on a stand for cross-examination,” Sergeant Benjamin Anthony said in addressing students at a Realize Israel NYU event on Tuesday, March 29th. Sergeant Anthony, founder of Our Soldiers Speak, was discussing the gross double standard to which Israel is constantly held in the court of public opinion. Israel, as a country, should not have to defend her right to exist more than does any other sovereign nation.

Israel’s right to self-defense is often unnecessarily justified by the citing of statistics which prove that Israel has a diverse governing body, or that it is the home of a disproportionate amount of successful startups. However, as Sgt. Anthony said: “it is not democracy for which we fight….it is not about technology.” Yes, those things are important facets of Israeli culture and contribute to its status as a significant player on the world stage. It is true that it is the only place in the region that affords rights to all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, or creed.  It is a beacon of democracy and equality, but this is not what gives Israel its significance or its right to exist. Israel is inherently significant for the fact that it “is not just a country. It is also a people.”

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Students listen to Sgt. Anthony speak at NYU.

At the end of the day, what is so vital about Israel is its nature as the homeland of the Jewish people. Sergeant Anthony himself moved to Israel from the UK, after growing up in a place where he could not safely walk outside in his kippah, the skullcap typically worn by Orthodox Jews.  When explaining why he moved to Israel, he said that he “yearned to live in a place where I am safe because I am Jewish and not despite the fact that I am Jewish- and there is only one place that is afforded to me.”

Historically speaking, Jews have had to run away from every single country in which they have resided. “Jewish people, embattled run away,” said Sgt. Anthony, “Not because they are cowards, but because if they do not, they are ostracized, banished, or burned.” Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and it is a homeland for which they are willing to fight.

This is why the Uganda Scheme failed definitively at the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland.

This is why, with all of its problems, more than half of world Jewry resides there today.

And this is why Israel was the first and only place for which the Jewish people were willing to fight en masse.

The Holocaust survivors that fought at the 1948 Battle of Latrun were no longer running from persecution, but toward the promise of a 2,000-year-old dream, on the verge of being realized.

It was not for the democracy.

It was not for the technology.

Jews were praying to return to Israel when Mark Twain called accurately described it as “a silent mournful expanse.”

It was because, as Anthony said, “our futures are inextricably tied.”

As such, Jews have not only the right, but the obligation to defend it. Israel, stressed Anthony, has every right to “rid herself of the scourge of terror.” However, Israel is being held to a horrific standard, where governments and news outlets world-wide villainize her for exercising her right to self-defense. “It is not a contradiction,” he maintains, “to dispatch troops to bring quiet to your border.”

However, in our globalizing world, it is not sufficient to protect Israel within her borders. She must also be defended on college campuses, where pro-Israel students often do not voice their opinions due to fear of backlash from not only powerful anti-Israel groups, but their professors and peers as well. “A pro-Israel student,” opined Anthony, “can be no less embattled than soldiers on a battlefield.” But what can one student do? First, advises Anthony, “get politically enfranchised.” So often, students get wrapped up in the day-to-day stresses of academic and social responsibilities, that we lost sight of the fact that we live in a democracy where public opinion shapes policy. We must “pull the levers of democracy” and take advantage of the fact that we have a voice.

On a smaller scale, it is important to stand up to injustices on a daily basis. If there are people spreading lies about Israel, it is the obligation of a pro-Israel student to point out those fallacies. The truth matters, and there are so many people who consider themselves anti-Israel because that which they know about Israel is either an outright untruth or a misrepresentation of facts. Yes, it can be difficult to take a stance on such an explosive issue. No, it is not always easy. But, as Sgt. Anthony said: “Some people are not worth it- but Israel the country and Israel the people are worth it.”

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at NYU Polytechnic Raizy Cohen.

Apply for our 2016/2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

Dumisani Washington Speaks at UCONN

In early March, Dumisani Washington came to speak for the University of Connecticut’s Emet for Israel group, Huskies for Israel. Washington addressed his involvement in the U.S Civil Rights movement, diversity in Israel, and why the African American community should support Israel. These subjects kept the sixty five students in attendance engaged, as they spoke to popular historical and current issues.

12802749_10153651716924335_4698080821918641949_nHuskies for Israel students held the event with the goal of educating the UCONN community about the many different demographics living in Israel. This meant that the event was also aimed toward African American students who may not have thought about their connection to the Jewish state.

Dumisani’s interactive and engaging presentation kept students on their toes. Several thought-provoking questions were asked throughout the evening, mainly regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in the audience aggressively questioned why Israel was geocoding Ethiopian Jews through birth control. This false claim was effectively refuted by Washington. He opened up about civil rights throughout the State of Israel, even though the figures he mentioned did not support the uninformed opinions of SJP members in attendance.

Huskies for Israel were pleased to have an engaging, interesting, and well-educated speaker present on UConn’s campus to foster healthier dialogue on Israel.

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The event was co-sponsored by Hillel.

Apply for our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship by May 1st!

Liz Wahl Discusses Media Bias, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Former Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl, who was last seen on air delivering an unexpected resignation in 2014, spoke to UCF students about her reasons for quitting on March 28.

She discussed the importance of media literacy, particularly in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Wahl said Israel is not blameless in the conflict, she believes that the European media has covered it in a way that is overly critical of the country.

Knights for Israel, a pro-Israel student organization, hosted the event where Wahl cited what she considered “blatantly biased content” about the Russia-Crimea conflict reported by Russia Today, also known as RT, as her reason for leaving.

“Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” Wahl said during her final moments on air.  “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth. And that is why after this newscast, I’m resigning.”

Since leaving RT, Wahl has investigated potential media biases in the news coverage of other topics, particularly in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She partnered with Jerusalem U, a Jewish Educational Organization, to create a documentary called “Media 101: Reading Between the Lines” that explores the issue. It was shown before Wahl’s speech.

Ben Suster, a 21-year-old biotechnology major and the current president of Knights for Israel, said he organized Wahl’s visit as a way to raise awareness of the biased ISIS attacks.

“Has the suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan received as much coverage as the bombing in Brussels? Not at all. Not even close,” Suster said. “There’s a significant human element to the media we follow that we know so little about. They are prone to error, biases and inclinations towards narratives that advance their respective self-interests just like any other human.”

Many of the other attendees at the event shared Suster’s sentiments and were eager to hear the opinions of a professional journalist on the matter.

“It’s no secret that there’s a lot of bias in the media and that things are being altered all the time. It’s interesting to hear a perspective from someone who’s actually behind the scenes working for the media, who gave up her job because of the things that were going on [at RT],” said Rachel Sorsher, a senior psychology student.

Marc Diamant, a current member of Knights for Israel and 19 year-old computer science major, was excited by the event’s potential to generate an open discussion about the conflict and the way that it’s covered.

“Well, knowledge is power. Both sides of [the Israel-Palestinian conflict] demand to be told from their perspective – that’s how you come to your viewpoint,” Diamant said.

During the airing of “Media 101: Reading Between the Lines” and the Q&A session that followed, Wahl discussed her experience at RT, as well as the anti-Semitic attacks that followed her resignation.

“In the wake of resigning from RT, I began to face a lot of backlash coming from some unexpected sources accusing me of being part of a Jewish, Zionist, Neocon plot. Now I’m not Jewish, and I don’t have any connection to Israel. Being a journalist myself, I began to wonder: could the media have something to do with it?”

Wahl offered an acronym for media consumers to distinguish reputable, accurate news sources from those with an agenda: CLUMSY. Each letter stands for Censorship, Local Fixers, Unconscious biases, Media outlets, Social Media and You. Wahl said that examining each of these aspects of media can help consumers find the least biased sources available.

During the Q&A session, Adam Manno, a junior journalism major, asked Wahl if there might be a conflict of interest, because the documentary was produced by a pro-Israel organization. Manno also pointed out that the documentary featured only “two Palestinians…and about six or seven Jewish perspectives.”

“That’s a totally fair question,” Wahl said. “I was hesitant to work with a Jewish nonprofit organization because I thought that it would be perceived as biased, and then I realized that it was ridiculous of me to not want to work with an organization simply because they were Jewish.”

Wahl said that because she had been the target of anti-Semitic sentiments following her resignation from RT, she thought it was particularly important to partner up with Jerusalem U.

“Are there things that I personally would have done differently to make [the documentary] more balanced? Perhaps, but I think that the voices that we spoke to were very non-extremist. I think they were fair. Hate on either end is not appropriate,” Walsh said.

Part 1 and Part 2 of Wahl’s documentary, “Media 101: Reading Between the Lines,” can be watched on Jersualem U’s Vimeo page.

 

Originally published in Central Florida Future.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship by May 1st! 

From Sudan to Israel: The Story of an Escaped Slave

On March 3, the Great Danes for Israel, co-sponsored with the Community for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), hosted speaker Simon Deng, who escaped from slavery in North Sudan.

“Wrong is wrong, no matter how small it is,” Simon Deng said.

Deng began by clarifying that, even before the United Nations acknowledged it, Sudan was two countries, North and South. Overall, Sudan was overtaken by radicals who attempted to impose religious views on the African tribes. It took years for the people of South Sudan to gain recognition as an independent state, and preserve their culture in the face of an invading force.

Great Danes for Israel students with Simon Deng.

Great Danes for Israel students with Simon Deng.

Deng was 9 years old when he was abducted from his home village by his own neighbor and forced into slavery as a “gift” to the man’s cousin. At the time, Deng didn’t understand the meaning of slavery. He was beaten, humiliated, and forced to do hard labor. He could not “even say a word because [he] was owned by another human being.”

“For three and a half years, it was hell. I was not considered a human being.” We, as free citizens, cannot image how he felt. Slavery is still a serious issue, and as Deng spoke, we should be concerned about it.

Fortune smiled upon Deng when he was nearly 13 years old. He ran into two men with tribal markings when the sons of his owners attended high school in a more populated city. These two men connected him to someone from his village, who secreted him away from captivity and back to his home, where he reunited with his family. Deng learned that his father had offered 10 cows, a substantial reward, for anyone who could provide information or help find his missing son. The family was overjoyed to be whole again once more.

The first thing Deng did when he returned home, was to have his tribe’s markings placed upon his face. Deng recalled how his slave master would tell him that unless he gave up his identity as a member of an African tribe, and joined his master’s religion, Deng would continue to be less than human. Deng took the markings to give himself an identity, something he considers just as important, if not more so, than freedom.

Deng has spent much of his life since, traveling parts of the world and speaking to anyone who will listen, about the horrors he lived through, and the steps we need to take to fix these issues. He has organized Sudan Walks across the USA and in the Netherlands, to build support for his people. He thanks and supports Israel, as the only country in the world how gives freedoms and rights to immigrants and refugees. Israel was the first country to recognize South Sudan as an independent country, and South Sudan remains allies with Israel.

 

Originally published in Albany Student Press.

Apply for our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship! Click here to learn more.

UWindsor JSA Hosts Annual Shabbat Dinner

University of Windsor Emet for Israel group Jewish Students Association (JSA) hosted its Annual Shabbat Dinner event in February, and it was a huge success.

JSA ordered kosher food, wine and other alcohol to give participants a taste of Jewish culture in a fun and social setting. Both Jewish and non-Jewish students took part in the dinner. The group was also proud to announce that it was their biggest event thus far, with 70 attendees! What was interesting was that many of the people who came to the dinner happened to be supportive of the JSA, support Israel, or were at least against disproportionate criticism and condemnation of the Jewish state.

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The best part of the event was that it informally educated students about Judaism and Israel, simply by holding the shabbat dinner.

Throughout the night, members made a point of engaging attendees in discussions about the difficulties that Jewish students face on campus, including BDS, SJP, and other anti-Israel rhetoric. Students were understanding and wanted to listen and share their perspectives on these issues.

One interesting conversation in particular that took place was with a Middle Eastern Christian. She noted that most students are not aware of the oppression non-Muslim minorities face in the Middle East, and this was based on person experience at Windsor. Other students engaged in a variety of discussions ranging from the BDS threat to how delicious Israeli wine is!

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The point of the event was not only to educate in a casual and exciting way, but to also create a comfortable environment for dialogue. There were both new and old faces, and it was clear that the participants genuinely enjoyed their time. Ultimately, this event succeeded in getting newcomers and those who are already members of JSA to think critically about Israel, Judaism, and the group’s positive role on campus.

University of Windsor’s Jewish Student Association thanks CAMERA for all its help, support, and for making the Annual Shabbat Dinner a reality!

To apply for our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship, click here!

The Jewish Emissary of Tulsa Speaks at ORU

Early last November Shiri West, the Jewish Emissary of Tulsa, spoke for the United for Israel club at Oral Roberts University. Having lived in Israel and represented Israel for many years, she delivered a unique perspective about Israel to the ORU community. Some of the topics Shiri covered included Jewish life, the difference between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews, how Shabbat is observed in Israel, how it relates to the Diaspora and non-Jewish community, and how everyone can advocate for Israel.

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Shiri West.

The discussion between the participants and Shiri served as a tool to effectively increase awareness of the Jewish community in Tulsa, and how it relates to supporting Israel in a tangible way. The goals of the event were to foster the establishment of a heartfelt, emotional, and personal connection to the Jewish community and Israel by hosting a Jewish woman who is currently an active member of the ORU community as well.

Many of the students in the club wanted to learn more about Judaism and Israeli culture, and hearing Shiri speak achieved this. Students who attended felt comfortable asking her questions regarding all of her experiences as the Jewish Emissary of Tulsa and as someone who grew up in the Jewish state.

Another exciting aspect was that Shiri asked the students questions about their cooperation and work with CAMERA. She was thankful for CAMERA’s support in helping to build United for Israel.  Towards the end of the speaking engagement, Shiri announced, “There is much more to learn about these topics, but my time is up!” Immediately after one of the students pleaded her to stay, “We want to learn more from you,” the student said. It was clear that the dynamic between Shiri and the students was positive and effective. Some are even coordinating a visit to her office to find out more ways to get involved!

With contributions by Bar Ilan University CAMERA Intern Jasmine Esulin.

Women’s Rights in the Middle East: Israel vs. The Rest

In honor of International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember that most women throughout the Middle East do not have rights as we know them.

For International Women’s Day, a compilation of challenges women continue to face was released by the Associated Press. Honor killings continue to take place in the Palestinian Territories. In Iraq, there are no laws protecting women against domestic violence. Female citizens in Saudi Arabia were only granted the right to vote in municipal elections in 2015 and are still forbidden from driving. Kuwaiti women earned this right a bit earlier in 2005. In Syria, however, women have recently earned seats in Parliament, but in northeastern region, where ISIS has much control, they are being forced to cover their whole bodies, including hands and faces. In Iran, women don’t have the right to attend sporting events where there’s a chance they may see men exercising.

Iran's supporters shout during the FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship first round match between Iran and Italy in Milan September 27, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

Iran’s supporters shout during the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship first round match between Iran and Italy in Milan September 27, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

According to accounts from “My Stealthy Freedom,” a movement to help women escape the Iranian regime, “Iranian poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi have been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison and 99 lashes for ‘kissing on the cheeks and shaking hands as unrelated members of the opposite sex.'”

Source: My Stealthy Freedom Facebook Page

Source: My Stealthy Freedom Facebook Page

As members of the Western world, these figures should shock us, but unfortunately, this is reality for a large number of women within the Muslim world.

What should shock us even more though, is that just last year, the United Nations claimed that Israel was the greatest violator of women’s rights, and failed to mention Saudi Arabia and Iran.

As a woman living in Israel, who regularly travels throughout the country, from communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews to the shores of secular and extremely liberal Tel Aviv, I see every day that women of all faiths and denominations hold rights here. These rights allow women to wear anything they choose. Upon Israel’s establishment, the government modeled the country on the Jewish concept of free will. I see Muslim women wearing hijabs in the streets of Jerusalem, modern Orthodox women with hair coverings and baggy jeans, teenagers in leggings and belly shirts, Haredi women in stockings and shirts covering their collar bones, eighteen year olds in IDF uniforms, and female members of Israel’s Parliament wearing pant suits. We have laws protecting us from domestic violence. We have been allowed to drive since roads were paved. We were granted the right to vote on the momentous day we were granted a state.

Source: Humans of Tel Aviv FB

Source: Humans of Tel Aviv Facebook Page

When it comes to women’s rights, Israel holds itself to a high standard regarding its female citizens. The rest of the Middle East could learn from this model, but true freedom for all does not seem to be its top priority.

Contributed by Bar-Ilan University CAMERA Intern Jasmine Esulin.