“The food was not really free,” Watson acknowledged. “People spent about 30 seconds talking to us about Israel and U.N. Me. It was really key to getting people in the door to the screening.”
Although the pre-U.N. Me event’s goal was to bring viewers to the documentary screening, SCIAC members felt that the food did more than merely put U.N. Me on the campus-wide radar.
“People had to walk away having talked to someone about SCIAC,” Watson said. “They walked away remembering SCIAC and remembering that we put on events on campus.”
SCIAC distributed a total of 225 falafel meals prior to U.N. Me, but that wasn’t the end of their food giveaways. The pro-Israel group also provided dinner at the screening, a tactic that, Herschmann claims, boosts attendance at any event.
“Food is a big deal,” Herschmann said. “It’s good for us and it’s good for the students; it helps them save a little bit of time. Hopefully, during that time, we can educate them about Israel.”
Indeed, it seems that the free food appealed to anyone with a mouth and a stomach, including students without passionate opinions about Israel. According to Herschmann, he’d never even seen most of the students who attended. Kasner estimated that about a quarter of the audience showed up for the food, a composition which works both for and against SCIAC’s goals.
“Sometimes it means that people aren’t there for the right reasons,” Kasner said. “But we get a lot of people at our events.”
Yet the opponents of Israel were certainly not absent from the U.N. Me screening either. Herschmann said that many of the new faces held anti-Israel views. Kasner estimated that they comprised ten percent of the audience.
“The U.N. Me screening definitely drew in some people that we wouldn’t have drawn in another way,” Kasner said.
The screening enhanced SCIAC membership and it served as a useful tool in Israel education and the dispersion of accurate information, according to Watson.
“Next time people see a report from the United Nations, they’ll think twice about it.”
Similarly, cosponsoring Medved’s talk with university departments allowed UCSC students to learn about Israel beyond the conflict.
“When Jon talked, people really listened,” Herschmann said. “He sparked a new interest within them about Israel’s economic interest.”
Herschmann feels that widespread, inclusive events like Medved’s talk and the U.N. Me screening were crucial to strengthening SCIAC during the 2011-12 school year, helping boost attendance at events and teach the greater campus community about the real Israel.
“By forming a cohesive board and working collaboratively to engage diverse campus communities, SCIAC successfully implemented dozens of programs that not only built important bridges between different campus groups, but aimed to provide a fair and balanced education to our peers about Israel’s countless accomplishments and challenges,” he concluded.