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May 28, 2004 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-05-28

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Special Report

CAMPUS SUCCESS from page 15

that has put Israel advocacy at the center
of its national agenda.
Last year, AEPi's director of program-
ming invited Litwer to attend AIPAC's
policy conference. Then Litwer learned
about the Birthright Israel program, and
got the chance to see Israel last June.
Birthright, which offers free 10-day trips
to Israel to Jews ages 18-26 who never
before have been on a peer trip to the
Jewish state, has had a significant influ-
ence on campus activism.
Hillel serves 15-30 percent of Jewish
students, Hillel's president, Avraham
Infeld said, but Birthright offers an
opportunity to reach out to another 40
percent of Jewish students — those who
aren't opposed to Jewish or Israel-related
activities but have not really felt com-
pelled to explore them.
"If we can pinpoint five or six partici-
pants on every Birthright bus who have
leadership ability, they can be the ones to
reach the 40 percent," Infeld said. "We
need to find those leaders and invest
heavily in them."

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The empowerment of pro-Israel activists
isn't limited to Berkeley and Eugene.
Hillel has placed unprecedented empha-
sis on Israel over the past two years and
works closely with AIPAC to develop
strong advocacy groups on campus.
Jonathan Kessler, AIPAC's leadership
development director, oversees a far-
reaching program to groom thousands of
college pro-Israel leaders.
Through seminars in Washington,
trips to Israel and a network of campus
liaisons who work with student leaders,
AIPAC helps students build a pro-Israel
"I do not agree that anti-Semitism on
campus is rampant," Kessler said. "I do
not agree that we're losing the battle, and
I do not agree with the alarmists who
-assert that the sky has fallen."
At Berkeley, the approach seems to be
paying off Last month, two years after
pro-Israel students mounted their pro-
Israel campaign, barely 150 people
showed up at the annual Deir Yassin
demonstration. A pro-Israel petition on
campus garnered over 1,500 signatures,
while an online petition from Students
for Justice in Palestine has garnered only
about 150 signatures in three years.
This year, AIPAC launched a pilot
core education program at four campus-
es. Groups of about 50 students at the
University of Texas, University of
Washington, Northwestern and
American University underwent on-cam-
pus training to get more comfortable
talking about Israel and to identify cre-
ative ways to generate support for the
Jewish state. ❑

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