As a reminder of the event that the majority of my content revolves around, this past summer I participated on a program called Birthright – a non-profit educational organization that sponsors free 10-day long heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish descent.
My group traveled all around the country during those 10 days – to see the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the beaches of Tel Aviv, the shops of Tzfat, swim in the Dead Sea, climb Masada, and so much more to receive the perfect combination of tourism activities and cultural immersion.
Even before the 10 days were over, I honestly was getting so sad to leave. As I have mentioned before, Maya, Hadar and Yovel were some of the amazing Israeli soldiers that rode along with us and showed us their beautiful country. My tour guide, Adi, did an incredible job describing the history of and current state of Israel. And as tears fell down my face at Ben Gurion airport when I had to say goodbye to the Israelis and their beautiful country, I knew that I needed to find a way to stay connected to Israel from America.
And it was when a friend of mine, another Jew from my hometown of Deerfield, IL and fellow University of Iowa student, reached out to me at the beginning of this Fall semester that I found my opportunity. He also took advantage of his birthright last summer and was looking for help with his up-and-coming campus organization, Students Supporting Israel.
Students Supporting Israel is a pro-Israel international campus movement that supports the state of Israel politically, socially and culturally.
The organization brands its international mission as – “to be a clear and confident Pro-Israel voice on college campuses and to support students in grassroots Pro-Israel advocacy” – and I encourage you to follow along on this page for more information on the growth of the movement around the country.
“I heard about the organization from one of my friends who is a member at the University of Illinois,” said Isaac, founder and current President of the Iowa Chapter. “I also saw an absence of awareness toward Judaism and Israel at the University of Iowa, and after experiencing the country first-hand I knew I needed to make a change to honor and support the people that fight so hard for their home.”
So as this Fall semester commenced I joined Isaac as the Recruitment Chair for SSI, and we combined our passion for Israel to gain more members and more awareness of our organization.
In August, SSI participated in the University of Iowa Student Org. Fair at the Iowa Memorial Union, where we set up our own table with fliers and t-shirts to draw in other students. While the majority of our members are Jewish, I think it is important to note that you do not have to be Jewish to be in SSI and we encourage you to join if you are not! Students Supporting Israel brands itself on overall education and awareness of the country, and that is what we want all people to achieve.
In September, the members of SSI came together on 9/11 and commemorated the day by placing American flags on the Pentacrest. It was a great opportunity for the members to spend time together, raise more awareness for our club as students passed by and joined in and ultimately represent Israel’s alliance with the United States.
In October, the chairmen of the international organization presented us with an opportunity to host 2 former soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces for a lecture about their experiences in combat and opinion on the moral commitment and ethical dilemmas that arise from mandatory service to the IDF. We were so honored to be a stop on their tour of 12 universities through the United States, so check back next week for my review of our event with Aviad Yisraeli and Naftali Gross!
Overall, my participation and leadership in Students Supporting Israel has been extremely worthwhile and an incredible way to keep my appreciation for my trip to Israel and Birthright so strong as I have been back home in America. I also am so excited to see what other opportunities arise from my membership in SSI!