By Danny Becker, Campus Manager Going into my second summer attending the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) Field Professional Retreat, I was very excited to see many of my colleagues who have become great friends, begin to plan how our organizations could work together for the next year, and continue to develop the professional skills that help us all succeed and support one another on campus. I thought that it would be a great idea to introduce members of other Israel campus organizations who we love to partner with and learn from.
In Part 1 of this two part series, I reached out to 3 professionals that I have known for quite some time (Andrew Feuerstein of AEPi, Yael Steinberg of Hasbara Fellowships, and Noa Raman of StandWithUs) to hear what they thought about the ICC Field Professionals Retreat and how they do Israel advocacy work within their own organization!
1. Name and Title. How would you describe your position with your organization?
Andrew Feuerstein (AF): My role in AEPi is very unique. I am afforded the opportunity to go meet with and cultivate Jewish leaders at Universities without a Chapter/Colony already present. In doing so, I'm providing the undergraduates an opportunity to broaden their horizons and have access to countless tools to better not just themselves, but also the campus Jewish life as a whole.
Noa Raman (NR): I am the StandWithUs Pacific Northwest/ Northern California Campus Coordinator. I connect, organize and lead educational programming for university students and professional staff on campus. This includes needing to recruit, train, and empower students across the Pacific Northwest/Northern California region to become better advocates, future ambassadors, and community leaders, as well as, plan speaker tours and major events.
Yael Steinberg (YS): My role is to standardize, research, and compile Hasbara Fellowships educational materials for our use in campus campaigns and campus strategy. I am a resource to staff and students for defeating anti-Israel propaganda and handling Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions scenarios. I will also be teaching Hasbara Fellowships educational sessions in Israel for students on gap year or learning programs who will be returning to college campuses.
2. What are the easiest and most challenging aspects of working in the Israel world on college campuses?
AF: To me, the easiest part of working in the Israel world is seeing people's opinions and passions towards Israel further with a little education. The hardest, which I'm fortunate to not have experienced as much, is when a pro-Israel movement or moment becomes anti-Semitic due to anti-Israel groups.
NR: The most challenging aspect of working in the Israel world is when anti-Israel groups launch surprise initiatives or campaigns against Israel. It is important to remain calm and focus on the steps that can be taken based on best practices learned over the years to move forward and to take appropriate action. The easiest aspect is finding ways that Israel inspires people and sharing those aspects with our student leaders.
YS: The easiest aspect of the pro Israel world on college campuses is working with both students and colleagues who are passionate and creatively engaged in a topic you love. It's amazing to walk into a meeting and know right at the start that the thing you and the other person have in common is something big and ideologically important. I guess the most difficult part of the field is the other side of that coin: that EVERYBODY is trying to learn and adapt at the same time, with all of their creative ideas. It's tough to implement and gauge the success of a campus strategy while there are a bunch of other campus strategies also being put into action at the same time. If for example, a pharmaceutical company tried to test a drug therapy's success while simultaneously testing five other therapies at the same time on the same patients, it would be impossible to see what drug was working and should be focused on. Even if a bunch of the medicines were working, they'd never know what to focus on or invest in. Sometimes it feels like that in the campus advocacy world too.
3. Was there a session or theme from this year’s ICC conference that really spoke to you?
AF: The entire ICC Field Professional's Conference every year continues to renew my ecstatic perspective towards working with amazing people both professionally and on campus.
NR: “We can not leave our home because there is war. We can only leave our home for peace.”
YS: I loved the session on negotiation techniques. It wasn't so much about how to negotiate scenarios for me as it was about learning the aspects that come into play with interpersonal communication in general. I learned a lot about myself and how my emotions play a part in my interactions.
4. Was there a conversation with another individual or with another organization that is resonating with you?
AF: I had a few conversations with members of CAMERA that resonated with me. To see what they do through journalism and social media to enhance Israel perspectives on campus is very unique and seems quite effective.
NR: Enhancing collaboration and supporting one another in the new academic year.
YS: My most surprising conversation actually occurred during that negotiation session with a colleague from another ICC organization. We had done an exercise where we had just tried to negotiate a tough scenario in a group, and both of us recognized hang-ups or tendencies within ourselves that we had not noticed before. It's really cool to be able to have a self-discovery moment and learn about yourself while having input you trust.
5. In one word, how was your experience in Portland?