MSU Hillel’s delegation to the AIPAC Policy Conference
MSU Hillel’s delegation to the AIPAC Policy Conference

MSU pro-Israel students share what they learned.

Upon arrival at the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., we had little to no idea what AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference would look like. We’d been to a previous policy conference, so we understood the number of participants this conference draws each year, but there was something about this year that stood out to us. Not only did 18,000 pro-Israel supporters attend the conference in early March, but the spirit and excitement from the crowd were especially different.

It was captivating.

As pro-Israel college students at Michigan State University, we know very well how hard it can be on campus. For students around the country, anti-Israel sentiments not only threaten academic and social success but can also prove to be security threats.

While we do not experience such drastic actions on our campus, we still hear from fellow pro-Israel students about how the students they interact with on campus are often uninterested or uneducated toward Israel. It can be exhausting to try and create positive change toward Israel on campus when there is pushback from our peers.

However, even with the difficulty and exhaustion of doing this work, we love it; and at AIPAC’s Policy Conference this year, we got to join nearly 3,500 other students to learn, share and, most importantly, get re-energized to do pro-Israel work on campus for the rest of this academic year.

From numerous breakout sessions about battling the spread of anti-Israel rhetoric to learning how to structure and position fellow pro-Israel students to make a larger and stronger impact, we wove through the conference learning more and more as we went.

Seeing the Israeli innovation highlights featured on the mainstage during full-conference plenaries and in the AIPAC Village lounge area were some of our favorite parts of the conference. We were able to see an Iron Dome missile defense system up close, as well as learn from the founders of Israel’s largest seeing-eye dog training facility. We were able to hear from leaders in medicine, economics and diplomacy, all while occasionally walking past a congresswoman or two. We also got to learn from AIPAC about how to lobby and share dialogue about Israel in a healthy and productive way. There were so many incredible portions of the conference each day that it felt like every second was a learning opportunity.

We will say, though, that one of the best parts about attending the policy conference this year was getting to share the experience with 15 fellow Michigan State Spartans as a part of our MSU Hillel delegation. Every college student has a different perspective and set of experiences, so when you put together 17 pro-Israel students, not only do we have fun, but we can also spend time drawing from what we observed at the conference and brainstorming how we can bring our experiences back to campus.

Overall, we left AIPAC’s Policy Conference with more excitement to do bigger and better things back on campus. With a mixture of fascinating sessions, larger crowds and dynamic speakers, this year’s conference gave us much more than we had hoped it would, and we are excited to continue to be committed pro-Israel college students in the years to come.

MSU sophomore Lexie Kay and freshman Cole Levine are both from West Bloomfield.

 

Teens At AIPAC

Congregation B’nai Moshe Rabbi Shalom Kantor, Jeremy Rebenstock, Pierce Fox, Haley Whalen and congregant Bert Stein
Congregation B’nai Moshe Rabbi Shalom Kantor, Jeremy Rebenstock, Pierce Fox, Haley Whalen and congregant Bert Stein

Rabbi Shalom Kantor of Congregation B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield took three students in the shul’s PBJ high school program to the AIPAC conference. Here are comments from two of them.

“AIPAC taught me that no matter who you are, you can and will make a difference in the world. Gender, religion and race make no difference in speaking up for what you believe in.”

— Haley Whalen

“Attending the AIPAC conference was a wonderful experience. At AIPAC, I learned about the terrific relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Furthermore, I lobbied the Michigan senators to help keep the international bond strong.”

— Jeremy Rebenstock