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April 1, 2016 10:01 am

Expanded Initiative to Combat Campus Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism Launched by Jewish Agency

avatar by Lea Speyer

A non-official Israeli flag being burned. Photo: Wikipedia.

A non-official Israeli flag being burned. Photo: Wikipedia.

“Anti-Israel activities like divestment campaigns and boycott efforts are a threat to Jewish life on campus,” a member of the world’s largest Jewish student organization told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

Shelley Kedar, vice president for Israel Education and Engagement at Hillel International and Jewish Agency for Israel central shlichah to Hillel, was explaining an expanded initiative aimed at combating antisemitic and anti-Zionist activity across college campuses.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky announced the initiative on Wednesday, stating that recruitment efforts to its Israel Fellows program will “expand significantly the number of emissaries all over the world.” The Jewish Agency helps run the Israel Fellows program, which, according to Kedar, places young Israeli college graduates in universities around the world as “peer ambassadors” representing Israel to students, alongside Hillel.

The main goal of the program, Sharansky said, is to connect students with Israel and “bring them closer to Zionism and the state and build up their solidarity and national pride.”

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“Israel Fellows provide many students with their first meaningful opportunity to meet an Israeli and learn about Israel. The Israel Fellows also encourage students to get involved in advocacy efforts for Israel. Hillel professionals are requesting Israel Fellows on their campuses because there has never been a more important time to mobilize the campus to oppose and reverse the trend of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity,” said Kedar. The Jewish Agency’s Israel Fellows to Hillel are central to the efforts to combat these efforts when they arise.”

Israel Fellows are also taught various tools to “help students mobilize, build coalitions on campus, educate their peers about the dangers of the BDS movement and defeat harmful boycott and divestment efforts,” she said. “When they are not facing existing anti-Israel campaigns, fellows work to combat anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism and promote positive connections to Israel by working with friends and allies of all backgrounds to tell the real story of Israel — a vibrant, diverse place full of real people.”

According to statistics provided by Hillel, during the  2015-2016 academic year, in North America alone, 75 Israel Fellows served approximately 120 college campuses. In the fall semester of 2015, Israel Fellows reached 8,386 students, hosted 171 discussion groups, 182 speakers, 233 cultural programs and 194 leadership development opportunities for students. They responded to 114 incidents of anti-Israel activity.

In addition, 1,464 students were brought to Israel on Birthright trips this past winter, where they took part in special programming to retain their connection to Israel and Jewish life.  

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