Updated: Aug. 20, 2020, 1:40 p.m. to include participants from Virginia.
High school and college students gathered lrecently in separate virtual conferences hosted by StandWithUs to learn about and support Israel.
The conference for high schoolers, held online from Aug. 2-6, is part of the StandWithUs High School Internship, a year-long program for North American students in 11th and 12th grades. It aims to prepare students for challenges they may face regarding Israel in college and learn leadership skills. Throughout the semesters, interns will create Israel clubs in their schools, plan programs for peers, bring speakers to their communities and write op-eds.
High school interns include Daniella Cooper of George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Hilary Klein of Pikesville High School, Nessa Raskin of The Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, Sarah Renbaum of The Park School of Baltimore, Maya Taylor of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and Rachel Friedman of James W. Robinson, Jr. Secondary School.
“I wanted to join a group of young and committed people who are as passionate about Israeli education as I am,” Renbaum wrote. “I also joined because I want to continue to raise awareness for Israel in my school and my greater community, and the Internship has given me the resources to do that.”
The conference taught 125 students debate skills to defend Israel and gave students a geopolitical overview of the Middle East. High school coordinators were in charge of leading regional breakout sessions every day, where each region met individually to bond.
Nathan Altshuler, StandWithUs’ Mid-Atlantic high school coordinator, led a session called Conflict 101 for interns who already possessed a higher level of knowledge about Israel and the Middle East. The session took a deep dive into the dual narrative of the conflict and Israel’s history.
“During the StandWithUs High School Internship Conference, I learned that although we all come from different backgrounds, our love for Israel is what connects us all,” Maya Taylor wrote. “I was able to have powerful discussions with my fellow interns about topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where even if we had differing opinions, each of us respected the other and continued to learn together.”
The conference closed with interns sharing their hopes for the school year and for Israel, followed by the singing of “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem.
Emerson Fellows include Keren Binyamin of the University of Maryland, Dahlia Linowes of American University, Jessica Carr of George Washington University, Seth Snyder of University of Virginia, Sean Martino of George Mason University and Dan Asif of Virginia Tech.
“I joined the Emerson Fellowship to learn more about how to effectively promote Israel and the Israel-US relationship on campus,” Carr wrote. “After hearing from past fellows from GW, I knew that joining the fellowship would be an amazing opportunity which I could not let pass by. At the conference I learned about the strength of the StandWithUs network and all of the amazing resources that are available to fellows to help us combat anti-semitism and anti-zionism on campus.”
Students had breakout sessions to get acquainted through activities like Krav Maga, Zumba and yoga. They also met their counterparts in StandWithUs’ chapters in Brazil and the U.K., as well as alumni of the program. Programs offered a deep dive into Israel’s history, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and presented debates on the topics. Students learned how to create their personal “Israel story” and how to present it to different groups. The StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department taught the American and Canadian teams to know their rights and distinguish political criticism from anti-Semitism.
“I joined the Emerson fellowship because I am passionate about fighting anti-Zionism and helping people of all groups find a connection to Israel,” Binyamin wrote. “I learned a lot about engaging my peers about Zionism. Overall, I would recommend this fellowship to any pro-Israel college student who wants to make a difference on their campus.”