Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

CAMERA Helps Jewish Students Fight Back on Campus

August 28, 2013 9:09 am 1 comment

The campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where an Israel divestment measure passed in the school's student government in April. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Lighting up the screen at Boston University Hillel is a progression map of Israel titled “Palestinian Loss of Land.” The image isn’t surprising to the students attending the annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Similar sights are frequent at their own schools.

“During Israel Apartheid Week, there are a lot of skits and performances. Students wrap keffiyehs around their heads and people mock Israel while dressed as IDF soldiers,” said Beata Samel, a CAMERA Campus Activist Project (CCAP) student representing City University of New York (CUNY) Brooklyn.

Highlighting the growing need to combat anti-Israel campaigns on campus, and equipping pro-Israel students with the tools to motivate others to action, is the focus   of the student conference of CAMERA, the Boston-based media watchdog that seeks to promote accurate news coverage and commentary about Israel and the Middle East.

In attendance from Aug. 18-20 were students ranging from native Israelis, to those that have never been to the Jewish state, those planning their Birthright trip experience, and those that have already served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Some pro-Israel students at the conference—like CAMERA Fellow Abraham Mercado, who was the only Jew among 8,000 students at Morgan State University before transferring to Florida Atlantic University—have faced significant isolation on campus.

After finishing his IDF service, Scott Ehrenberg, a CCAP student at CUNY Queens, asked himself how he could support Israel despite being back in the United States.

“The least we can do is to advocate for Israel,” said Ehrenberg, “to hold events on campus wherever we go to college in order to protect and support Israel’s name.”

Twenty-six of CAMERA’s yearlong Fellows joined the organization’s CCAP participants for the three-day conference to learn skills they can bring back to their campuses. According to CAMERA Regional Campus Coordinator Gilad Skolnick, “arguments of the heart and arguments of the mind are the best weaponry” in defense of Israel.

For the CAMERA Fellows, the conference marked the beginning of their yearlong program. Chosen for their commitment to countering anti-Israel activity at their schools, 53 students representing 39 colleges partake in a series of events meant to help them organize pro-Israel events like CAMERA’s “Less Hamas, More Hummus” campaign.

The campaign, which all Fellows are required to run on their campus, was inspired by student Ellie Rudee, the current president of Claremont McKenna College’s CCAP initiative, who drew on Hamas’s own materials to educate students on her campus about the biases against Israel in the media.

During the presentation, CAMERA Campus Director Aviva Slomich cued up a clip of a Hamas kindergarten graduation ceremony where children brandished automatic weapons and sang of their aspirations of death on behalf of Allah.

“Conflict continues because of hateful indoctrination,” Slomich said.

A graphic of a child in tattered clothes being stabbed in the neck by a Jewish star is just one example of the propaganda many students are presented from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) or other anti-Israel groups on campus.

“The SJP has risen up and become pretty prominent on campus,” said a CAMERA Fellow from Duke University. “I remember waking up one Monday morning and seeing they had posted an eviction notice on my door. It said something along the lines of, ‘You have 48 hours to get out of this dorm room.'”

The CAMERA conference’s itinerary was designed to present effective techniques to counteract the rise in SJP activity; Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement campaigns; and the proliferation of Israel Apartheid Week around college campuses in North America. Presentations included “How to Plan An Effective Event,” “How to Educate Yourself and Others,” and “Standing Up for Israel on Campus.”

Other events included talks from Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, Twitter software engineer Danny Hertz, and a seminar in Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts) from Israeli Museum of Martial Arts inductee Gershon Ben Keren.

“It’s not enough for Israel to defend herself,” said Michelle Soicher, a CAMERA Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal. “We need advocates internationally. It is important to fund people who want to educate themselves and the people on their campuses. It’s the idea of perseverance: it’s not enough to just be okay, we have to help Israel thrive and grow, and we have to change the, unfortunately, declining view of Israel internationally.”

Despite their accounts of anti-Israel sentiment on campus, the students seemed hopeful for the upcoming school year. Their ideas about increasing the integration of Jewish and Israel education in campus life bounced around the conference room. Many of these ideas were based on the use of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to draw attention to facts about Israel and the Middle East.

“One of the biggest ways to get people to attend your event is to partner with other groups on campus,” said Eliana Butler, a CCAP student from the University of Chicago.

The consensus among the students was that establishing cooperation and communication with other groups on campus could act as a steppingstone to changing anti-Israel sentiment.

“You never know,” said CCAP student Chloe Valdary of the University of New Orleans, “some people that don’t necessarily agree with your politics may just end up your strongest supporters.”

1 Comment

  • Salomon dayan

    All Jews have to be unified in eradicating college anti Israel policies and bds movements. These are nothing but expression of anti semitism being promoted bu Arab students who find easy preys among naive college students

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →