Published in Israel Campus BeatJune 24, 2013
Three years after joining Gators for Israel as a curious member, Taylor Nichole Parker took center stage at the organization’s closing meeting last month as she addressed the members as president for the first time.
[This is the fifth in a series of articles entitled ICB Student Profiles, a series that highlights a particular student's contributions or innovations in Israel activism on campus.]
“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of so many inspiring friends in leading an organization that has an extraordinary record of strengthening the US-Israel alliance both on campus and in our community,” she said to the group. “I am looking forward to continuing Gators for Israel’s legacy within pro-Israel political activism and am excited to help develop the next round of pro-Israel advocates on our campus.”
Parker’s Israel involvement has come a long way from her high school years in Hillsborough County, Florida, where JewishPressTampa.com reported Jews represented 1.87 percent of its 1.2 million residents in 2011. She points to the community’s small Jewish population as one of the main reasons behind her lack of early exposure to Israel, despite her passion for Middle-Eastern studies.
Parker’s pro-Israel journey began freshman year when she served as a student senator and watched as GFI representatives pushed multiple pro-Israel resolutions through the senate. Inspired by the resolutions and interested in the pro-Israel cause, Parker was selected to attend an advocacy training weekend with The David Project, an organization that shapes campus opinion on Israel by educating, training and empowering student leaders.
“I was the awkward one interested in the Middle East, and all of the other students were heavily pro-Israel,” Parker said. “It’s not that I wasn’t pro-Israel, I just hadn’t been educated on the importance of the US-Israel alliance yet, nor had I realized that it is the pro-Israel advocates who have the interest of the Middle East most at heart.”
And what a difference education can make. Immediately after the training, Parker joined GFI and helped to draft pro-Israel resolutions while lobbying her fellow senators. Serving as the organization’s assistant campus relations director during sophomore year and vice president during junior year, Parker immersed herself completely in the pro-Israel world and set her sights on GFI’s presidency.
“Pro-Israel advocacy just made perfect sense to me,” the women’s studies and political campaigning double-major said. “I was involved with advocacy organizations previously, had a strong desire to work with a lobby, and knew the Middle East was my number one political interest. And if you’re a politically minded person interested in the Middle East, the facts are on the pro-Israel side.”
In addition to her political work, Parker also served as her campus’ Grinspoon-Morningstar intern and was responsible for developing a collaborative long-term initiative which would improve the perception of Israel on campus. As directed, she created the Israel Leader Network, a monthly meeting program which gave leaders from the various Israel groups an opportunity to discuss programming, strategize advocacy plans and foster partnerships. Parker went above and beyond the internship’s requirements when she also helped to found Zionist Gators, a cultural, educational and advocacy group.
“Once I fully became part of the community, my commitment to the pro-Israel cause was not only based within political ideology, but developed into a passion for Zionism, amplified by my relationships with other advocates,” she said.
Parker aspires to build a career around influencing US foreign policy in the Middle East; whether that’s through a think tank, government service or a lobby remains to be seen. And as the new leader of what some identify as the most influential pro-Israel campus political group in the nation, Parker is well on her way to achieving her dream, while helping the people of Israel achieve their dream of peace too.