Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.
As students prepare for the new academic year, the campus Israel community is stocking up with new ideas for attracting participants, as well as using some tried-and-true approaches from past years. Israel advocates face the challenge of creating techniques that focus on retaining old students and recruiting new ones who have yet to become active on campus.
Many pro-Israel groups see the first month of school as a crucial period—a small window of time in which they must draw students to their cause. They focus much of their efforts on students who have demonstrated interest by visiting Israel recently.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Tracy Frydberg, a sophomore who serves as vice president of Texans for Israel (TFI), said, “At the beginning of the school year, TFI will contact any student who went on Birthright or other trips to Israel, talk to them about their experience and find ways for them to stay involved.”
At Penn State, sophomore vice president of Penn State Israel Alliance (PSIA) , Melissa Saks, said, “It is critical to branch out to those students who have visited Israel over the summer, especially at the beginning of the semester, because they are still on that ‘Israel high’ and really feel compelled to be involved with helping Israel.”
However, not all students have been to Israel and advocates must find ways to make Zionism and the Jewish state appealing to them.
Some activists plan to work with like-minded campus groups that can help them reach large new audiences. At the University of Nevada at Reno, junior Elliot Malin described an environment in which he and other pro-Israel students seek “to reach out to a larger group this year by doing more events with Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
“Since our Jewish population is so small,” Malin said, “we figured if we can engage with another energized group we can be more successful. We want to diversify the leadership to get those who aren’t as involved more involved.”
Reaching out to students in the 21st century involves a mix of traditional and innovative approaches. Many campus Israel groups use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to highlight their activities. PSIA has embraced another technology — television — to spread their message. They have crossed into relatively new territory by appearing on their University’s news channel. With approximately 40,000 undergraduate students on Penn State’s campus, the university channel provides an easy and effective way to reach a broad segment of the student population.
Advocates at schools without a university news channel can still reach a large and diverse student body during the activities fair; a day early in the semester when every club on campus is allowed to set up shop at a table and display materials, pamphlets and other unique club attributes to campus.
Nonetheless, sometimes the most effective pitch for advocates to give is a simple, face-to-face discussion.
“I hope to sit down over coffee with as many people that I can and find them specific roles and jobs within TFI to keep them excited and engaged for the rest of the school year,” said UT’s Frydberg.
Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.Ryan Yuffe, Israel Campus Beat