JUF's Israel Education Center hosted its second Israel Intern training of the 2016-2017 school year on Jan. 28-29 for its 18 Israel interns at 15 different colleges and universities across the Midwest.
The first day of training provided a space for the interns to network and share tips on creating coalitions and educating others about Israel. Being pro-Israel in the current political climate, especially on campuses, is extremely difficult and can feel isolating at times, according to Emily Briskman, executive director of the IEC and assistant vice-president of campus affairs at JUF.
"By bringing students from across the Midwest together, the IEC is creating a network of students who can support each other throughout the year and beyond," Briskman said.
Interns hailed from Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. Representatives from Hillel International also participated as part of their partnership with the IEC.
The students had opportunities to discuss what it means to be brave, how to be brave in the work that they do and empathize with each other and seek out ways to collaborate to advance Israel's presence on college campuses.
On day two, the interns and their advisors heard from three speakers on Israeli current affairs and issues facing students. The speakers represented a range of perspectives on Israel and came from various professions where opportunities to advocate for Israel arise.
First was Carl Schrag , an educator and former editor of The Jerusalem Post , who discussed the implications of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and provided a brief history of the Six Day War.
Schrag explained that the anniversary of the Six Day War is likely to be a large focus for anti-Israel groups who refer to it as the Naksa , the setback, or the start of the occupation. Understanding the facts about what happened in 1967, he added, will help the interns in addressing the one-sided perspective that will be espoused by anti-Israel groups.
Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois' 10th District then provided an update on Israel's current standing in American politics and how to keep Israel as a bipartisan issue. The discussion then focused on what interns can do to reframe the discourse on Israel in a way that would engage students from a wide range of political views.
Finally, 25-year-old environmental activist Erin Schrode spoke about facing anti-Semitism when running for office as a California Congressional candidate and shared her experience of overcoming harassment during her campaign while also creating change in a diverse community.
Interns will bring this information and inspiration back to their campuses as they plan events, create coalitions, and educate others about Israel.