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Students gather to learn Israel advocacy
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Students gather to learn Israel advocacy

StandWithUs campus liaison Jen Weintraub at the conference.
StandWithUs campus liaison Jen Weintraub at the conference.

CHUKA IKPEZE, a Nigerian-born American whose 2012 visit to Israel gave him a passion for the country and the Jewish people, was the keynote speaker at the Feb 10-12 Talk Israel Student Conference sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

The conference, which was cosponsored by Rutgers Hillel, took place at the Parsippany Hilton and drew over 100 students from Rutgers, Montclair State, Seton Hall, Kean, Drew, and Fairleigh Dickinson universities as well as Bergen Community College, County College of Morris, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Rockland Community College. 

Ikpeze’s appearance was sponsored by the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs; other participating organizations were Hasbara Fellowships, CAMERA, Masa Israel Journey, Jewish National Fund, the Anti-Defamation League, and Artists4Israel.

Ikpeze, who is pursuing a graduate degree in clinical sciences, said that during his month-long stay in Israel, “I immediately discovered the seemingly insurmountable disparity between the portrayal of the nation of Israel and the reality. This grossly unfair depiction and perpetuated bias spurred a desire to disseminate truth in ways I knew best. I was particularly fascinated by the numerous parallels between the Jews and African-Americans.”

Ikpeze also stressed the importance of citing personal experiences to communicate Israel’s story to others.

An Israeli cooking demonstration was offered by Meny Vaknin, the owner and executive chef of Mishmish, a restaurant in Montclair. His cuisine reflects the influence of many of the immigrant communities in his birthplace of Yerucham in the Negev and his Moroccan family roots.

StandWithUs tristate campus coordinator Rena Nasar ran two breakout sessions, one about Israel’s diversity, the other, Across the Spectrum, to guide students in educating others in their campus communities about Israel in the face of political divisions.

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