Wrapping up the year
Over the final weeks of the academic year, the IEC has been wrapping up the semester with intensive on-campus programming, which will encompass 10 campuses with 16 different programs. Last week, the IEC and The Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest sponsored the visit of Professor Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University. Rabi spoke at public lectures hosted by The University of Chicago's Center for Middle Eastern Studies and The Center for International Studies, Northwestern University's Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Aurora University. Rabi also spoke in classrooms at these campuses and gave separate talks at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and at a program hosted at JUF by JCRC geared towards members of the consulate corps in Chicago. Rabi's talks ranged from "Iran, the West and Israel - Moving Toward a Decision" to "Regional Changes and the Geopolitical Challenges of the New Middle East Landscape," and his expertise in this region lent to an outstanding series of lectures which received some of the strongest and most positive feedback the IEC has had over the course of the academic year.
Professor Rabi at The University of Chicago
This week the IEC hosted two different speakers at four campuses, including St. Xavier University, Knox College, University of Illinois at Springfield, and Augustana College. Lee Gordon, co-founder of Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, spoke at lectures sponsored by Education Departments and Interfaith Student organizations. Gordon made an indelible impact on these students' lives when speaking about the relationships being built by Jewish and Arab communities in Israel because of the thousands of children who are given an excellent educational experience together in the classrooms of Hand in Hand's schools. Students were so impressed by the peace-work that these schools are doing that a number of students approached him after his lectures to find out more information about possible internships in Israel with Hand in Hand. It's important to note that these were non-Jewish students.
Lee Gordon addresses Education majors at Knox College
This week, Gil Hoffman, Chief Political Correspondent of the Jerusalem Post spoke at the University of Illinois at Springfield—a visit which made a very special impression on me. This year IEC staff formed a relationship with a student leader at UIS, who attended the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference with us in March. Danielle, a non-Jewish grad student studying Public Health and Public Administration, applied for an internship with us next year and, before she was even accepted, she coordinated an amazing program at UIS simply because she recognized this as an opportunity to educate students at her campus about Israel.
The reason this visit made such a strong impression on me, was because of the level of thought and care as well as professionalism that went into her planning. Danielle coordinated a classroom lecture for Hoffman to speak in which he covered the ever-immanent threat of Iran's nuclear program and its impact on Israel. He was well received and students (a mix of history majors, young military veterans, and a few adult students) were very much engaged with him and posed many questions afterward. With the sponsorship of the Diversity Center and Office of International Programs an amazing dinner was held to honor Hoffman's visit which included students involved with the Diversity Center, the Director of Int'l programs, staff members of different departments in the State of Illinois, and the Director of the Springfield Jewish Federation.
The night continued with a public lecture sponsored by the Diversity Center, Office of International Programs, and the Springfield Jewish Federation in which Hoffman spoke about Iran, Israel, and the implications of the Arab Spring. UIS students, faculty, staff, and members of the Jewish community attended with a reception following. It's also interesting to note that a former graduate of UIS worked with Danielle to coordinate this entire visit—this young lady visited Israel last year on a top Christian leadership program in which she happened to be interviewed by Hoffman himself during her trip. Because of the dedication and efforts of these two young ladies who are committed to educating their campus community about Israel, this program was a success due to their efforts.
Gil Hoffman with two student organizers, Danielle and LaTrice at University of Illinois Springfield
Over the next few weeks, the IEC will host UK Member of Parliament Denis MacShane at North Park University and IDF Lieutenant Colonel, Oren Zini at Western Illinois University. These programs separately sponsored by Political Science, Diversity Center, Military Science, and ROTC are sure to finalize a year of tremendous outreach, education, and advocacy on all 26 of the college campuses that the IEC partners with. The IEC reaches out to all of these diverse departments, student organizations, faculty, staff, students on each campus community with a message about Israel that holds relevance to their studies, focus, and interests in order to widen the support of Israel on college campuses throughout Illinois in all of these constituencies. Through our efforts this year I am convinced by the many real stories that have emerged from our work- that the IEC is truly making a significant impact in the lives of thousands of students, faculty, and staff by ensuring support for Israel both now and in the future.