Zoe Kaufman at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva

GVSU senior joins Jewish students at Human Rights Council in Geneva

During my time studying abroad in Israel, I had the opportunity to sit in a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council through an organization called the European Union of Jewish Students. I had applied to be on the delegation.

The EUJS staff treated our delegation to an unforgettable week in Geneva. I have wanted to go to the U.N. since I was young and being accepted onto the delegation was a moment I will always remember.

I flew to Geneva and was greeted with the warmest of welcomes from Jewish students from all across Europe. Through our love of Judaism and Israel, I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

It was an incredible honor to be at the Human Rights Council session and observe how nations voice their opinions on various issues. One of my passions includes international relations, the field I hope to work in after graduation. Being at the U.N., after studying international relations for the past three years, was a dream come true. I loved seeing so many countries and cultures in one room.

The United Nations Human Rights Council dedicates an entire agenda item (No. 7) just for Israel. At this time, nations and NGOs voiced their opinions openly and without interruption or debate; this can last up to two hours.

One thing that shocked me was the manner in which nations discussed Israel. While some of Israel’s greatest allies such as the United States, the European Union and Australia chose not to attend because of the strong biases that occur during this session, it was disappointing that the countries in attendance were negatively biased, which was evident in their speeches.

After attending this session, I felt inspired to continue advocating for Israel when I got back to my campus and within my personal life.

Israel and Jewish education are incredibly important to me and this conference solidified that. Without this trip, I would not have been exposed to international politics at such a high level. I am just now beginning to understand the influence the United Nations Human Rights Council has and the functions it serves.

Apart from these council sessions, EUJS allowed us time with professionals in the field, including Ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter, permanent representative of Israel to the U.N., and various NGOs like Human Rights Watch that work tirelessly to promote human rights and fairness among U.N. member states at the Human Rights Council.

All politics aside, I will remember this trip in a positive light. Having the opportunity to be an advocate for Israel at the U.N. was something that will always inspire me to continue supporting our Jewish state. The delegation to the U.N. also confirmed in me the drive to further the right kind of education on Israel that fosters understanding and education from both sides.

Zoe Kaufman at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva


Zoe Kaufman of Chicago is a senior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale and president of the GVSU Hillel.