“Why Would He Want to Talk to Me about Israel!?”

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This past weekend, I led an all-day retreat with the six new Israel Engagement Fellows of Hillel at Temple University. Each Israel Engagement Fellow is tasked with creating relationships on campus over the rest of the school year. During the retreat, a common hesitation came up – why would someone with no connection to Israel ever take the time to talk to me? Instead of having the answer come from me (an Israel advocacy professional), I invited Ernest Owens to lunch.

Ernest is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. He is active on student government, is a member of the LGBT group on campus as well as the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association, and is a media maven. Oh, yeah – he also happens to be a huge supporter of Israel!

How did Ernest come to appreciate the Jewish state? Simple - an Israel advocate reached out and established a relationship with him. Since then, Ernest has completed an internship with AIPAC, has visited Israel on a 10 day trip, and agrees that humus is much better in the Middle East.

During the retreat, Ernest took the words right out of my mouth: “Events are great. But real change occurs when you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and meet with people who are different from you.”

That’s the power of a conversation, and Ernest is just one example of the incredible impact students can make by reaching out to others on campus.

The fellows took Ernest's message to heart and finished the day excited to meet the next "Ernest Owens" on their campus.