By: Brian Burke, National Student Board Chair
This past week I was fortunate enough to attend my third Relationship Building Institute with The David Project. As a third-year intern, 2016-2017 Israel Uncovered trip participant, and chair of this year’s National Student Board, I went in to the conference wondering if there would be any significant differences from the previous two I had been part of. Besides being in a new city, what would make this RBI special? I quickly discovered the answer to that question involved so many different things.
The sessions and panels epitomized The David Project’s approach to relationship building, advocacy, and education on campus. We discussed how the values that connect us to Israel are also what underlie our support for numerous other causes. Campus coordinators connected the history of major ideological streams of Zionism to how they play a role in contemporary Israel in engaging and informative ways. For the first time, members of the National Student Board had the opportunity to lead breakout sessions devoted to effective program planning and group to group campus outreach, sharing our personal experiences of success and failure with peers from schools across the country. After learning about what it means to be an ally, we had the chance to hear from members of the St. Louis community in panels dedicated to Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-African American relations and partnerships in the city.
What made this RBI so special to me, though, was not just the slew of incredible programs and speakers. It was the people and sense of shared purpose that I felt from the first plenary session. I firmly believe that everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Over the few short (but very tiring days!) of RBI, I saw this come to life at discussions over meals, session Q & As, and within regional delegation meetings. Every student, Israel Fellow, Hillel professional, and David Project staff members was at RBI with the belief that each of us can do good on our campuses and in the world by building relationships with others.
Sometimes, the change we hope to create is difficult to achieve. School, our personal lives, anti-Israel activists, and countless other things can make our work incredibly challenging. Despite the hardships we may encounter, I believe Theodor Herzl’s timeless quote can serve as a reminder of the importance of what we are trying to accomplish: “if you will it, it is no dream.” We can create positive change on campus through relationship building. We can talk about the beauty and complexity of Israel by finding common ground over shared values. The David Project has given us the tools. Now it’s time for us to bring it all back to campus and let everyone know #TheChangeIsrael. Yalla, friends!