Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of the community as our “Person of the Week.” Last week week we got to know Re’ema Absey. This week meet Ilan Sinelnikov! Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ilan: I am originally from Rehovot, Israel, but I’ve been living in Minnesota for the past six years.
TCJ: What brought you here?
Ilan: In 2008 my father was offered employment in Minnesota and our family immigrated to the US.
TCJ: You’re currently a senior at the U of M, where you (and your sister) started Students Supporting Israel (SSI). What is SSI, and why did you start it?
Ilan: Students Supporting Israel is a campus movement that started at the University of Minnesota in 2012, and currently includes 13 chapters located in 9 different states in the USA, in addition to another international chapter in Toronto, Canada. It was founded by my sister, Valeria Chazin, and I as a direct response to the “Israel Apartheid Week” events on the University of Minnesota campus in the spring of 2012. For a full week students were creating what I call, “The industry of lies” in regards to Israel. The things students — with the support of professors — blamed Israel for were just outrageous, and there was no voice on campus to combat it. Our goal at that time was to reassure those students in opposition to the demonization of the state of Israel that they were not alone and that they should not be afraid to speak in defense of Israel. While this remains one of our principal goals today, the group has evolved to include educating students about current events in the Middle East as well as provide a clear and confident pro-Israel voice on college campuses across the United States. We believe that the knowledge of Israel’s history and its current day-to-day reality will promote a better understand of Israel and its hope for a peaceful existence in the Middle East.
TCJ: Do you have any plans yet for after you graduate?
Ilan: My immediate plan for after graduation is to continue working with SSI and keep developing it as a nonprofit organization and movement. [They are in the process of making SSI a 501(c)(3) non-profit, as well as expanding it to even more campuses.] SSI’s success so far is an important indicator of the need for pro-Israel advocacy on our campuses. I love working with the amazing student leaders and activists from across the nation, as well as with different Pro-Israel groups in the community. I believe that SSI has great potential to change the anti-Israel climate on college campuses, and I would love to see this happen.
TCJ: Are you involved in any other TC organizations?
Ilan: I attend many of the Jewish community events in the twin cities. I am involved in Hillel, Chabad, Minnesotans against Terrorism, and I attend the Federations’ Young Leadership group. Also, this summer I was interning for the Republican Party of Minnesota, in addition to coaching soccer at the Plymouth Soccer Association.
TCJ: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Ilan: Shabbat is when I love to spend time with my family and close friends. Nothing can get better than that.
TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Ilan: Passover is my favorite holiday, because I think that its symbolism is very important. On this holiday we were able to get our freedom, and today the Jewish people are free on our land in Israel. Passover is a reminder that freedom isn’t free, therefore, also a good reminder for why we need to protect the state of Israel and defend it.
TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish food?
Ilan: Whatever my mom cooks is my favorite Jewish food (I hope she reads this line when it’s published).
TCJ: Who is the coolest Jew?
Ilan: Menachem Begin, the founder of the Likud and the 6th Prime Minister of Israel. He represented many things that I believe in, like being proud of your heritage and bringing people from different backgrounds together
TCJ: Here’s where we ask whether you’ve been to Israel. Clearly you have. But from someone who’s lived there most of his life, what, to you, makes Israel so special?
Ilan: I don’t even know where I can start, because I can write a whole paper answering that question. However, what makes Israel special is the fact that this is the homeland for the Jewish people. There is a special feeling walking on the streets during a holiday, when you know that the entire city is celebrating the same holiday with you and preparing the same dinner for Shabbat. To me Israel is our dream that came true, where you can always feel as a part of a large family. It is something that our great-grandparents’ generation did not have, the feeling that you are not a guest in a country, but that you are at home.
TCJ: What’s your favorite summer activity?
Ilan: Playing soccer. Without soccer I wouldn’t be the same person. I’ve been playing it since I was five years old.
TCJ: Give us one more reason why you’re folking awesome!
Ilan: I can cross a soccer field a few times with a ball on my head without dropping it — any size of a ball. I don’t think anyone else I know can do it.