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As campus Israel groups and leaders begin formulating their plans for next year, the search for innovative ways to achieve their goals commences. Where do they look for new and effective programming?
In past years, students turned to the people they knew for advice or strived to build creative plans on their own. While these approaches can yield strong results, imagine what could be achieved with a nationally networked resource that provides the best of all worlds — tested, proven programming ideas and step-by-step details of best practices for impacting the campus environment.
This year, it is no dream: Savvy campus leaders will be able to access the vast collected experiences of a nationwide movement of campus Israel supporters. It all comes down to two words: Ask Herzl.
When it launches next month, Ask Herzl will serve as a resource for Israel advocates who want “ready to run” programs for their campuses. The website, currently running in beta mode, offers links to program plans that address a wide and growing range of themes and topics. The site, initiated by the Israel on Campus Coalition, also provides a networking space where students and professionals can collaborate on mutual challenges and forge new initiatives.
Ask Herzl emerged in response to a need expressed by campus activists and professionals who wanted a resource that would remain constant even as student leaders graduated and staff people moved on. In the fast-paced campus environment, people felt they missed out on many good ideas simply because they didn’t notice them when they were offered, or the person who knew about them had graduated or moved on.
In light of constant turnover that occurs on campus — every four years the entire student population changes, and professionals come and go — students need a consistent address for ideas and answers. While the project aims to meet campus needs, the website can be used by anyone seeking to educate, engage, and advocate for Israel, including high school educators, college Israel-related professionals, Jewish communal professional and post-college professionals.
“We worked with students and professionals from around the country to make Ask Herzl a relevant, useful tool,” said Stephen Kuperberg, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition. “We believe this will provide an incredible resource to activists and a great forum for students and professionals to share experiences and best practices.”
ICC developed Ask Herzl in collaboration with a committee that includes students, professionals and programmers from campus and non-campus communities.
Penn State Hillel’s assistant director, Audrey Bloomberg, who is part of the advisory committee, is excited that the project will streamline programs.
“There are so many opportunities that come to our inboxes each year about Israel programming and resources,” she said, “I can’t wait to have all of that information in one easy location instead of searching through old files and emails!”
Shoshanna Howard, the World Zionist Organization’s national project manager, said she was happy to play a part in creating this new resource. “We want to ensure the best Israel and Zionist educational programs are accessible to students, community leaders and everyone in between,” she remarked, “and we see Ask Herzl as an avenue to achieve this.”
Tzvi Raviv, who directs the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement and also helped develop the website, went even further, saying, “Ask Herzl has the potential to be a game-changer in Israel advocacy on campus by connecting the nodes of the pro-Israel network.”
The website’s interactive features include a tool for rating and critiquing speakers as well as a mechanism for rating programs recently run on college campuses. Awards, labeled The Theo Awards, offer incentive grants of up to $1,000 for top-notch submitted materials and cash prizes to individuals and campuses that demonstrate commitment to Israel advocacy programming through website engagement and submission of quality resources. Raviv noted that the grants make Ask Herzl particularly attractive to activists who need support in order to implement their ideas.
Sam Greenberg, who served as Hillel co-president and Israel chair at Yale University, had long thought about a site similar to Ask Herzl, so he was pleased to have an opportunity to help develop it.