Prominent American Pollster Brings Hard-Hitting Workshop to Foreign Students in Israel
JNS.org — A renowned American pollster and political adviser recently came to Israel to give high school students a workshop intensive on defending the Jewish state on the front lines of public opinion.
“Part of the struggle for those who advocate for Israel is that we need to respond to simple questions and accusations with really complicated answers, because the truth itself is so complicated,” public opinion guru Dr. Frank Luntz recently told a group of Jewish American, Australian and Colombian students at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). “To get to the truth, it is important to understand every narrative and point of view of events that happen in Israel. Without a full understanding, you can’t argue anything.”
At AMHSI’s Hod HaSharon campus in central Israel, Luntz — who has worked on many American and international political campaigns on packaging complex policy matters for a general audience — opened his workshop by presenting the students with a rapid-fire series of hard-hitting and politically charged questions.
“I found myself fumbling for an answer to Dr. Luntz’s questions,” said Maor Ziv-Kreger, an 11th-grade student from Boston and an academic fellow at AMHSI. “With my mind racing for a reasonable response, I knew deep down inside that I have learned so much over the past three months studying at Muss. I have done well on tests from our Israel studies curriculum, but these questions were different than what we typically saw on exams.”
The students’ frustration with trying to find the right words to express their love and support of Israel was both natural and expected. In fact, it was exactly what the program intended to highlight. Luntz’s workshop was created with the purpose to better prepare high school students for some unpleasant questions they may encounter when they arrive on college campuses.
Luntz designed the seminar, in conjunction with AMHSI’s Israel advocacy studies unit, in order to successfully train the next generation of advocates with the essential tools to speak positively about Israel. By the end of the workshop, AMHSI students were able to promote Israel with diplomatic answers and follow-up questions, simulating the creation of a healthy dialogue with those questioning Israel’s legitimacy.
When Luntz finished running through his questions, he presented the group with examples of answers and provided tips for the students to employ during college debates.
“It’s okay to admit Israel has made mistakes,” Luntz explained. “Israel is a democracy and it’s not perfect, so you should give reasons for why Israel makes the difficult decisions that it does.”
Students at the seminar were part of AMHSI’s study abroad program, which includes a semester-long intensive Jewish and Israel studies curriculum that is part of the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) “Israel Continuum” educational series, which seeks to create advocates for the Jewish state, with training that begins in early childhood and extends all the way to the college years.
Ziv-Kreger, a Boston native, said that Luntz’s workshop will help him successfully communicate the vast knowledge he gained while at AMHSI.
“There are many misconceptions about Israel and its people. I know that when I eventually get to college, I may experience antisemitism or misconceptions of Israel,” Ziv-Krieger said. “Now, I look forward to continuing my education and sharing what I have learned here with the world, debunking one misconception at a time.”