Students go ‘old school’ in defending Israel

Students go ‘old school’ in defending Israel

“Right on” was an expression used in the 1960s to declare solidarity. Write On For Israel is an organization that teaches high school students how to be solid advocates for Israel on college campuses through writing, broadcasting, and public speaking.

The program — which offers seminars taught by top educators and journalists and features Israeli officials, IDF officers, PR executives, and other professionals — has now come to MetroWest.

Eleven students selected from public, private, and Jewish day schools in the MetroWest area through a competitive application process participated in a day-long orientation on Dec. 11 at the Aidekman campus in Whippany. Discussion topics included “Challenges and Achievements of Pro-Israel College Students,” “Zionism: A 4,000-Year-Old National Liberation Movement,” and “The Refugee Problems Created in 1948.” “The Art of Writing Letters to the Editor” was led by New Jersey Jewish News sports and features editor Ron Kaplan. Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ, offered remarks at the beginning of the meeting as did Shmuel Greene, director of teen initiatives at the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, MetroWest’s Jewish education and identity-building agency.

Linda Scherzer, national program director for Write On For Israel, told NJJN that the fellows are “top students with a commitment and interest in Israel. Most of the students have been to Israel many times.”

The MetroWest Write On For Israel fellows are Avigail Aaron, Montclair; Carmelle Bargad, West Orange; Gabrielle Beacken, Randolph; Lilli DeBode, Summit; Galit Greenberg, Millburn; Emily Kamen, Short Hills; Scott Myers, Millburn; Zach Ramsfelder, Morristown; Gabrielle Roth, North Caldwell; Jonas Singer, Millburn; and Jay Zaifman, Millburn.

Scherzer — a former CNN correspondent in Israel — noted the diverse backgrounds of the students. “It’s important to understand that everybody contributes to the fabric of Jewish life, whether they come from yeshivas or public schools,” she said.

“We take them on a seven-day, issues-driven serious journey through Israel. This is not a ‘Hava Nagila’ teen tour,” Scherzer said. “It’s a very serious-minded look at the issues of the day.”

“The CRC is proud to welcome all the MetroWest Write On For Israel fellows,” Gorelick said. “We are proud that we are able to make this incredible experience available to you. The major concern of the national Jewish community is that high school students are not ready to counter anti-Israel activity on college campuses. The CRC wants to make sure that our students are ready and effective.”

While there are no requirements demanded of the students who have completed the program, the expectations are that “they are going to go out and become our leaders and representatives on campus,” Scherzer said. “They’re going to take the skills and do what we’ve asked them to do — which is write letters to the editor and op-eds, stand up and talk to their college professors when they feel something needs to be challenged, have quiet conversations with their roommates, form relations that are going to be beneficial for Israel, and quietly inform students about our issues.”

Write On For Israel was created 10 years ago through the efforts of the Jewish Week of New York and funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation. The CRC, the Partnership, and NJ Jewish News partnered with Write On to offer the program to MetroWest students, with funding from the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest NJ, Milly Iris and family, and Barbara and Charlie Hirsh.

In addition to the Dec. 11 event, the MetroWest fellows will participate in two more full-day seminars at the Aidekman campus, one seminar at Columbia University in New York, and the trip to Israel during Presidents Week 2012.

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