Virtual StandWithUs Student Conferences

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic this year’s StandWithUs conferences were hosted virtually. The 2020-21 StandWithUs High School Interns and college Emerson Fellows completed their respective conferences and are excited to begin educating about Israel and combating antisemitism in their schools and communities. Educational sessions were run by StandWithUs staff, and they bonded via the multiple networking, exercise and engaging sessions designed to connect them together individually and as a group. While virtual conferences have their challenges, and students worldwide are experiencing zoom-fatigue, none of this seemed to matter!

Created in 2012, the StandWithUs High School Internship is a year-long program for North American students in 11th and 12th grades. The program prepares students for challenges they may face regarding Israel in college and to grow their Israel knowledge and leadership skills to make a difference in their schools and for the future. Interns are passionate about creating educational opportunities to inspire their peers with thoughtful, nuanced, and intentional Israel education programs throughout the school year.

This year’s interns are Abi Schonberger, Lower Merion High School; Matthew Khelmer, Council Rock High School South; Alexa Jakubowitz, Upper Dublin High School; Benji Himmel, Taylor Allderdice High School; Blake Fox, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy; Alex Forgosh, Parkland High School; Miriam Decker, Cheltenham High School and Lital Abergel, Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

The StandWithUs Emerson Fellowship was founded in 2007 by Los Angeles philanthropists Steve and Rita Emerson. Student leaders on campuses throughout the US, Canada, the UK and Brazil are selected and trained to educate about Israel and confront anti-Israel rhetoric. Throughout the year, they create interesting Israel programming designed to engage others, including bringing in speakers and creating educational and cultural events. They also monitor and respond to anti-Israel and antisemitic actions.

This year’s Emerson Fellows are Penn Israel Coalition board member Allison Gorokhovsky at the University of Pennsylvania; Alexis Lukaszewski at Pennsylvania State University (University Park), who serves as secretary for Lions for Israel, and Paige Weisburg at Muhlenberg College, who is the Hillel Israel Chair.

Both programs have a record number of students this year, selected from high schools and universities in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Brazil. There are 125 High School Interns and 149 Emerson Fellows.

Interns and Fellows attended two conferences, including SWU’s annual “Israel in Focus” International Conference. Throughout the August conferences, students learned how to create their personal “Israel story,” and present it to different groups. They took a deep dive into Israel’s history, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the social history of Israel to have the context necessary to have insightful conversations about Israel. They also learned about when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism. Participants were exposed to tactful debate skills so that they can begin to practice addressing anti-Israel claims in a respectful and effective manner. They shared strategies of how to confront anti-Israel boycott campaigns and disputes with professors.

Paula Joffe, who recently celebrated her first anniversary as executive director of StandWithUs Mid-Atlantic, remarked, “With their eagerness to learn, their passion to educate about Israel and their enthusiasm for sharing what they’ve learned, these extraordinary students are setting examples for their peers, their parents, their educators and their communities. StandWithUs provides them with the tools and support to become credible sources of information and the confidence to become life-long leaders. These students and their coordinators Matthew and Nathan, will have a profound impact on the pro-Israel movement and in creating a community of critical thinkers who understand why Israel is vitally important and why we must combat antisemitism.”

Minority of One

How does a regular young man from Cairo grow up hating Jews? How does he free his mind from that hatred and ultimately free himself, even at the risk of losing his life? What do pivotal world events like 9/11 and the Arab Spring look like through his eyes?

Hussein Aboubakr Mansour was born in 1989 in Cairo, Egypt. The ultimate villains in the local lore were the “bloodthirsty Zionists,” so Hussein began to study the supposed enemies of his people.

Hussein studied Hebrew at Cairo University, but did not adapt to the official anti-Israel, antisemitic curriculum of the regime. The first visitor to check out books and watch films at the Israeli Academic Center of Cairo, in 2010 Hussein was monitored, harassed, and jailed by the Egyptian State Police. That same year, he was suspected of being a “Zionist agent” and held a military detention facility where he was tortured to the point of wanting to kill himself.

He became an organizer of the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011. By 2012 the secret police of the Muslim Brotherhood regime again began persecuting Hussein for his contacts with Israelis and writings expressing hopes for coexistence and peace. His Coptic friends arranged his escape to the US. Hussein received asylum in 2014 and taught Hebrew in the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. He joined StandWitUs in 2019 as an educator and now lives in Los Angeles.

Minority of One tells Hussein Aboubakr’s story.

Please register here.

High School Internship from StandWithUs and Gratz College

StandWithUs and Gratz College have partnered to offer the StandWithUs High School Interns college credit for successful completion of the Internship. The StandWithUs High School Internship is a year-long leadership program which prepares high school juniors and seniors for the challenges they may face regarding Israel in college and in their communities. The Gratz College course will appear in the Gratz course library as, “Israel: The Socio-Political History of a Modern State.” Participating students may apply the three college credits they receive to their future universities.

Dr. Paul Finkelman, the president of Gratz College noted that “for 125 years, part of the mission of the College had been to support and develop new programs in Jewish education.” He observed that “this partnership brings together two leading innovators in Jewish education: Gratz College and StandWithUs. Both strive to prepare the next generation of Jewish leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The teenagers selected to participate in the StandWithUs High School Internship program are precisely the kind of students that Gratz seeks to work with: bright, articulate, caring, and motivated. We look forward to watching them develop through this program and beyond. We believe this new partnership will benefit StandWithUs, Gratz, and our larger communities through our joint efforts and through the leaders we help educate and inspire.”

Miri Kornfeld, StandWithUs Executive Director of High School Affairs, who holds an MA in Jewish Education, will oversee the program. She stated, “We are always seeking to provide our students with the best possible educational and leadership opportunities. Collaborating with Gratz College, a prestigious Jewish university, allows our students to be rewarded for their incredible effort and educational achievements during the course of their internship. We are thrilled that Gratz recognized the hard work that our students do every single year and are honored to to offer this game-changing opportunity to our students who truly are game-changers themselves in so many different ways.”

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour

By Ferne Hassan
Associate Director
StandWithUs/Mid-Atlantic Region

On October 14 two reservists will reveal their personal experiences in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They will be in Philadelphia as part of StandWithUs “Israeli Soldiers Tour” (IST). These veterans will share stories from the front lines, not from the headlines. Ilan and Yuval (last names withheld for security purposes) will also share their backgrounds, life in Israel and answer any tough questions members from the audience wish to pose to them.

Ilan was born in Venezuela and moved to Israel in 2010. Ilan’s father is a Christian Venezuelan and his mother is the daughter of a Holocaust refugee. His home, education, and life have always exemplified multiculturalism and coexistence. Ilan served in the Humanitarian and Civil Affairs Unit in the IDF, also known as COGAT, working with Palestinian civilians and representatives in projects focused on improving the lives of Palestinian families. Ilan lives in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv.

Yuval, 25, studies Law at the College of Management Academic Studies, in Rishon LeZion. At age 17 Yuval’s dance group won first place in a competition in Barcelona. At age 18, Yuval entered mandatory military service in the Israeli Air Force, administering tests both written and in a flight simulator to candidates for an Elite Pilots Course. After service, Yuval traveled by herself through Central and South America. Last year, she volunteered to be part of a humanitarian delegation to Tanzania helping renovate a school and taught children English and Mathematics. Yuval now lives in Kibbutz Palmachim.

Ilan and Yuval will speak at the Lower Merion Area Hebrew High School, Congregation Beth Or in Ambler, and the University of Pennsylvania Hillel.

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tours Visited Philadelphia

– Ferne Hassan

The innovative Israeli Soldiers Tours (IST) program features two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists, who relate their personal experiences upholding the strict IDF moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians. Their stories have never been heard before.

Six teams of two IST participants spent two weeks this fall speaking throughout the United States, primarily on campuses, in high schools, synagogues and churches. They put a human face on the IDF uniform. [Read more…]

StandWithUs Truck Ad During Roger Waters Concert

StandWithUs/Philadelphia is running a truck ad that will circle the city of Philadelphia prior to Roger Waters’ concert on Wednesday, August 9, 2017. The truck will begin its circuit in downtown Philadelphia at 12:00 PM and head to the Wells Fargo Center arriving at 6:00 PM. It will be visible to concert-goers until 8:00 PM.

The message, which will be placed all three sides of the truck reads:
Say NO to Racist Attacks Against Israel By Roger Waters!

“Roger Waters has a history of blaming only the state of Israel for the lack of peace. He supports the boycott campaign against Israel, which does not promote peace, does not create a better life for Palestinians, and whose agenda is the destruction of the State of Israel. He has even flown a helium pig with a Star of David on it during his concerts,” states Joseph Puder, executive director, StandWithUs/Philadelphia.

“Waters claims to be against all forms of injustice, but where is his outrage at the Palestinian Authority which incentivizes murder of Israeli civilians by paying subsidies to terrorists in Israeli jails and their families? StandWithUs is sending a clear message to Waters that his double standard, hatred and lies against Israel will not go unanswered,” Puder continued.

StandWithUs Passover Haggadah

unnamed-1A new Passover Haggadah is being distributed by StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, that emphasizes not only the themes of slavery and freedom but also underscores Jews’ 3,000-year-long connection to their ancestral homeland, Israel. The Haggadah, From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel, is the brainchild of StandWithUs co-founder and COO, Jerry Rothstein.

“According to a Pew research survey, 70% of Jews in America from all denominations will likely participate in a Passover Seder,” states Rothstein. “This statistic is greater than participation on Yom Kippur, on Rosh Hashanah, or during the lighting of Shabbat candles. What better time to reach high numbers of Jews of all ages as well as their non-Jewish friends who will be attending their Seders?”

The new StandWithUs Haggadah contains the traditional service and adds beautiful original artwork, Hebrew text with English translation, and updates the language to modify the text from “you should tell your sons” to “you should tell your children.” StandWithUs is also preparing to distribute this Haggadah published in other languages.

“While all Haggadahs do a great job focusing on the Jewish suffering during slavery and the miracle of the escape from Egypt, the subsequent arrival in the ancestral land of Israel (immediately following the Exodus) should also be taught at the Passover table,” adds Rothstein.

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour

Come hear the stories of two extraordinary Israelis – their struggles, successes, military service and their hopes and dreams. Shai and Nir will share stories from the front lines that have never been heard before. They will put a “human face” on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) uniform. Ask the tough questions and learn what its really like to live in a country that is the subject of so much discussion. Their last names are withheld for security purposes.

Shai, 24, is from Kibbutz Tzora, a traditional collective community. She studies communications at Sapir Academic College, and completed the StandWithUs Israel Fellowship. She lives in Sderot, located in Southern Israel near the Gaza border. She served in the Israeli Air Force’s Pilot Cadet Course. Her parents are Australian and Indian.

Nir grew up on an Israeli Air Force base, due to his father’s service in the IDF. Nir was active in the Israeli scouts movement. He served in the elite Paratroopers Brigade as an officer and a deputy company commander. After service, he volunteered to assist families with financial difficulties. Nir is the Alumni Network Manager for StandWithUs’ Israel Fellowship Program, where he is responsible for over 1,300 alumni.