As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement continues to pervade higher education, Hasbara Fellowships, a leading campus activism organization working with over 80 universities across North America, is bringing over 70 students from more than 25 campuses on two all-encompassing advocacy training trips this winter with an eye on cultivating the next generation of passionate and articulate voices for Israel.
The 16-day Israel Training Program trips — to be held December 16-January 1 as well as December 25-January 10 — feature all key aspects of advocacy training from public speaking, to on-camera techniques, to social media skills, to coalition-building, to role-playing scenarios which are likely to arise in hostile campus environments. Trip participants will also take part in a negotiations seminar and will travel across Israel for insightful briefings and firsthand accounts from top Israeli experts in diplomacy, media, and other fields that intimately shape advocacy.
Students attending the winter trips hail from campuses in Arizona, California, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Toronto, Virginia, and Vermont. The campuses run the gamut from small to large Jewish communities, from nascent to longstanding Israel advocacy presences, and from emerging to active threats emanating from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other pro-BDS groups.
“Regardless of any campus’s environment as it relates to Israel and the Jewish community, virtually every school is affected by the BDS movement in some form, whether it be through student government resolutions, biased professors, apathetic administrations, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ displays, or other types of incidents and discourse,” said Hasbara Fellowships Executive Director Rabbi Elliot Mathias. “In this ever-shifting landscape, pro-Israel students need the tools to tackle any possible scenario on campus and beyond, and to make the case for Israel in a balanced, reasoned manner that does more than ‘preach to the choir.’ Our Israel Training Program trips accomplish this by enabling students to gain leadership skills, network with their peers, meet Israelis and Palestinians from all sides of the political spectrum, and travel to strategic locations throughout the country.”
In addition this winter, a new partnership with the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has resulted in the launch of the JIGSAW initiative (Justice Initiative Guiding Student Activists Worldwide), where 12 law students will be trained in a specific Hasbara Fellowships legal track in order to bring back relevant knowledge and assist undergraduate advocates in their work on campus by using university policies, and state and federal law.
Hasbara Fellowships, a program spearheaded by Aish HaTorah since 2001, brings hundreds of students to Israel every summer and winter, giving them the information and tools to return to their campuses as educators about Israel. To date, Hasbara Fellowships has educated over 3,000 students on more than 250 campuses. Upon returning from the program, the Hasbara Fellows receive support from the organization’s staff, as well as access to various campaigns, programs, speakers, and other materials and tools. Hasbara Fellowships focuses on college campuses, but the information and tools it provides young adults continuously empower them as they enter other forums in their personal and professional lives.
While the full cost of the winter trips is valued at $3,500, the students’ experience is generously subsidized by Hasbara Fellowships.
“In recent years on campus, I had been struggling to defend this love I have always had for the Jewish nation, but Hasbara Fellowships provided me with indispensable tools and breathtaking experiences to help me in my quest to stand and support Israel,” said Oren Rosenberg from the University of Minnesota, a past participant on the trip. “On the program, we met with people hailing from every corner of the political spectrum and heard countless aspects of the many narratives regarding the conflict. It was a priceless experience that will help to guide me for a lifetime.”
Source: Hasbara Fellowships