The news coming from Israel and Gaza is very difficult. Every day we see things that are frightening, angering, upsetting.
Current events place us all in uncharted territory. How does one balance legitimate fear for Israel’s safety with compassion for the suffering and death in Gaza? How do we deal with the obvious rise of virulent anti-Semitism around the world?
It is easy to feel powerless, helpless. But we are not. Research has shown that people are most likely to have a fair view on Israel if they know someone for whom Israel matters, and if they have had conversations with that person about Israel.
At the age of 25, 35 or 45 you may be equipped for such conversations. In building a career you learned the skills for navigating challenging topics. You’ve had experience listening to ideas with which you disagree and holding your emotions in check. You have learned how to be a savvy consumer of information, read with a critical eye, take context into account.
So if YOU were headed off to college next year you might be well prepared for the anti-Israel attitudes you would encounter on campus.
Our teens are not yet at that level. And the campus atmosphere vis-a-vis Israel has probably declined since you were there. Especially after all that has happened this summer.
We need to prepare our teens to be strong and capable advocates for Israel and we need your help to find them.
Those of us who care about Israel will face many challenges in the months to come. American support for Israel is critical and you are in the position to help.
How? Spread the word on the Israel Leadership Fellows Program and help teens gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence that will enable them to engage in the kinds of conversations about Israel that make a positive difference.
The program, in its second year, is a collaboration of the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.
Israel Leadership Fellows (ILF) is open to students grades 10-12 throughout the community. It combines a weekly, Wednesday evening class at the Talmud Torah with outside-of-class mentoring by seasoned Israel advocacy volunteers from JCRC, NCJW, the Israel Center, or the community at large.
Working with a mentor will enable teens to learn about real life advocacy and to apply what they learn in class toward their own advocacy goals. JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs says, “The ILF Program leverages a tremendous community asset, our passionate and capable Israel advocacy volunteers, unsung heroes of our community, dedicated to preparing the next generation to stand with Israel.”
Sophie Mirviss, one of the 2014 Israel Leadership Fellows, had this to say:
This program gives you so much insight into Israel without being overly biased. Wherever you go you will always be asked questions about Israel. Like it or not, as a Jew you will be seen as an ambassador for Israel. The more informed your answer, the better. Now it will be easier for me to talk about Israel. Not only can I more easily refute anti-Semitic or anti-Israel ideas, but I can also sit down and converse intelligently with people who disagree with me.
As Sophie heads off to her first year of college, she will be bringing these important skills with her.
For Matt Zeman, the combination of classroom learning and mentoring made the program worthwhile.
Israel Leadership Fellows was an all encompassing program. I learned both history and current events, and working with Steve Lear, my mentor, I practiced talking about Israel. Now I am much more knowledgable, more confident and natural in discussing Israel with people I know and with those I don’t.
Now more than ever, it takes strong leaders to bring a fair and sane perspective to the conversation about Israel. That is why we want to engage the next generation, to turn passion for Israel into action.
Don’t you wish a program like this existed when you were in high school? Therefore, won’t you help us spread the word? –
Program kickoff and registration will take place on Sunday, Sept. 7, at 11 am at Talmud Torah of Minneapolis. Space is limited. For more information, please contact Sally Abrams at the JCRC, 612-338-7816 or [email protected]