Hasbara Fellowships, a program spearheaded by Aish HaTorah since 2001 and which has become a leading campus activism organization, working with more than 80 universities across North America, is bringing some 70 students from more than 25 campuses on two all-encompassing advocacy training trips this winter, with an eye on cultivating the next generation of passionate and articulate pro-Israel voices.
The 16-day Israel Training Program trips, held December 16 through January 1 and December 25 through January 10, will feature all key aspects of advocacy training, from public speaking, to on-camera techniques, to social media skills, to coalition-building, to role-playing scenarios which are likely to arise in hostile campus environments.
Participants will also take part in a negotiations seminar and will travel across Israel for insightful briefings and firsthand accounts from top Israeli experts in diplomacy, media, and other fields that intimately shape advocacy.
Students attending the winter trips hail from campuses in Arizona, California, Delaware, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Toronto, Virginia, and Vermont. The campuses run the gamut from small to large Jewish communities, from nascent to longstanding Israel advocacy groups, facing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other pro-BDS groups.
“In recent years on campus, I had been struggling to defend this love I have always had for the Jewish nation, but Hasbara Fellowships provided me with indispensable tools and breathtaking experiences to help me in my quest to stand and support Israel,” said Oren Rosenberg from the University of Minnesota, a past participant on the trip. “On the program, we met with people hailing from every corner of the political spectrum and heard countless aspects of the many narratives regarding the conflict. It was a priceless experience that will help to guide me for a lifetime.”
“Regardless of any campus’s environment as it relates to Israel and the Jewish community, virtually every school is affected by the BDS movement in some form, whether it be through student government resolutions, biased professors, apathetic administrations, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ displays, or other types of incidents and discourse,” said Hasbara Fellowships Executive Director Rabbi Elliot Mathias.
“In this ever-shifting landscape, pro-Israel students need the tools to tackle any possible scenario on campus and beyond, and to make the case for Israel in a balanced, reasoned manner that does more than ‘preach to the choir.’ Our Israel Training Program trips accomplish this by enabling students to gain leadership skills, network with their peers, meet Israelis and Palestinians from all sides of the political spectrum, and travel to strategic locations throughout the country.”
In addition, this winter, a new partnership with the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has resulted in the launch of the JIGSAW initiative (Justice Initiative Guiding Student Activists Worldwide), where 12 law students will be trained in a specific Hasbara Fellowships legal track in order to bring back relevant knowledge and assist undergraduate advocates in their work on campus by using university policies, and state and federal law.