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Israel teen workshop to focus on advocacy
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Israel teen workshop to focus on advocacy

Rabbi Eric Lankin
Rabbi Eric Lankin

The Marlboro Jewish Center is hosting an Israel advocacy program for high school students.

Organizers say they are concerned that students are ill prepared to stand up to the anti-Zionism prevalent on many campuses and are left feeling alone and vulnerable.

“What goes on on college campuses is really quite frightening,” said Rabbi Eric Lankin, chief of institutional advancement for the Jewish National Fund, which is sponsoring “Anti-Israel Sentiments on Today’s College Campus and What We Can Do About It” on Wednesday evening, Feb. 3.

While aimed at students and their parents, all members of the community are invited.

“This is important for everybody to hear; it’s not only applicable to young people, so we’re hoping others from our congregation and other synagogues will come,” said Tmima Grinvald, chair of the synagogue’s Israel affairs committee, which is cosponsoring the program. The Israeli native said she hoped attending the event would help young people “express the possibility of coexistence and peace.”

The program is part of JNF’s Caravan for Democracy, which provides high schoolers with pro-Israel advocacy training.

The college edition of the program promotes constructive dialogue about Israel and the Middle East by bringing a cross-section of Israeli politicians and diplomats, journalists, professors, and advocacy trainers to campus.

“We aren’t worried only about trees,” said Lankin, referring to JNF’s traditional role as the afforestation and environmental agency in Israel. “JNF has played a critical role in Zionist activities practically from the beginning.”

Lankin, speaking to NJJN by phone from Florida, said that students facing anti-Israel activists on campus can expect to hear such untruths as “Israel is an apartheid state” or that the country is “oppressing Arabs.”

“The truth is Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East,” said Lankin. “The challenge for college students is that they are far away from home and open to new ideas, which we applaud, and they are just not prepared to stand up to the virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism they encounter.”

Lankin offered advice for college students looking to advocate for Israel. He suggested turning to the campus Hillel or Chabad or contacting Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (spme.net). Students can also contact JNF, which will put them in touch with supporters in their area.

JNF has also formed an alliance with Jerusalem Online University (jerusalemonlineuniversity.com), through which students can enroll in accredited courses taught by experts about Judaism and Israel. Upon completion of requirements, students will receive a $100 stipend.

The organization also runs an alternative program, in which students go to Israel in March to perform six days of community service in the Negev. The 300 students who will go this year are required to raise $975 through a designated fund-raising website from friends and family earmarked for JNF’s Blueprint Negev campaign to sustainably develop the desert.

JNF can be reached at jnf.org, 888-JNF-0099, or jnf.org. For information about the Caravan for Democracy high school edition, contact Lynn Norton Robins at 215-832-0690 or Lnortonrobins@jnf.org.

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