A Texas-Sized Israel Shabbaton

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My recent trip to Texas was great. Not only did I enjoy beautiful weather (for the most part), delicious food (I recommend the stuffed avocados), and meeting awesome students, I also got to be a part of the second Texas Shabbaton. Forty students from across Texas came to University of Texas, Austin, to learn about Israel and how to be great Israel advocates. They heard from Neil Lazarus, who gave a great session on social media and Israel 101.  Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southwest, Maya Kadosh, briefed the students on current events and led an interesting discussion about the effects of protesting on campus.

For me, one of the highlights of the conference was leading a workshop on personal advocacy. First, I asked the students to sit in a circle and share their experiences with Israel, focusing on what stood out to them. They then came up with specific groups and people they wanted to reach out to on campus and the stories they could use to relate to them. One student brought up the athletic group she is involved in, as an example for the group to discuss. She said she tried to talk about her Birthright trip and various stories, but she said it just wasn’t clicking. One other student gave a perfect example to use for this particular group. Since they are involved with athletics and working out, she could tell about her experiences of belonging to a gym in Israel. At the gym, she attended a Zumba class with various people, including an Orthodox woman, Arab Israeli, and a secular Jew. Through the class, she was able to see that what is depicted on the news as dislike amongst the different groups really doesn’t exist at the ground level, or in simple situations such as taking a work out class together. This story could work to relate to someone who is interested in athletics because it talks about something they are interested in (working out) and shows that Israel is different than what may be seen in the media.

The students left the session remembering why they are Israel advocates and excited to go out and tell their story to their peers on campus.