What is better than a bunch of passionate Israel activists? A bunch of passionate Israel activists at the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference! After registration, the students gathered at the Boston University Hillel to kick off the day with lunch and introductions. CAMERA’s International Campus Director, Aviva Slomich then gave a wonderful presentation on how to stand up for Israel on college campuses. After which Tatiana Becker, a CAMERA campus coordinator, conducted a presentation entitled “What Do You Know about CAMERA on Campus?” The students played an engaging online quiz, ‘Kahoot’, that tested the students’ know-how when it comes to Israel trivia. The students enthusiastically broke out their phones and frantically typed in answers to Tatiana’s questions.
After the students had their fun with Kahoot, they went to their breakout sessions. There were three options, two of which the students were able to attend. The breakout sessions included, “Zionism 101” with Sidney Shapiro of Laurentian University, “Witnesses of History” campaign with Rachel Wolf of American University, and “Keys to Planning Successful Events” with Justin Hayet of Binghamton University.
The students then heard from Gilead Ini, a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, about detecting media bias and how CAMERA fixes these biases. Afterwards, the students met with David Yarus, the founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, who gave tips on how to give their Israel groups a prominent presence on social media.
After a beautiful picnic in the park with a view of Boston’s Charles River, the students ended the day with a screening of the acclaimed documentary film, the “J Street Challenge,” followed by a Q & A with the film’s producer, Avi Goldwasser. This day was meant to motivate the students, not only for the rest of the conference, but for the upcoming school year.
Tatiana Becker kicked off the day with an informative presentation on the best ways make a campus Israel group more attractive to a wide range of students. This involved how to draw people in during tabling, what the best way is to plan events, and how to effectively divide work among members of the group. One of the ways discussed to get students to come to events was to make sure there is food at all of them!
After hearing from Tatiana, the students divided into groups in accordance with their position on their Israel E-Board: President, Political Chair, Outreach Chair, and Communications/Social Media Chair and went into specialized breakout sessions. Some of the challenges that were discussed within the various positions were time management, delegating, and making sure everyone in the group is on the same page.
Then CAMERA’s Director of Student Programming, Gilad Skolnick, spoke with the students the best way to write an op-ed. His tips included how to introduce topics with a hook, how to make writing concise and clear, and the best way to keep people reading!
Masha Gabriel helped the students practice their debate skills by acting as an anti-Israel activist and asking tough questions related to Israel. Simultaneously, Susan Rubin helped the students improve their stage presence, which is an important part of Israel activism.
Aviva Slomich then presented the successful CAMERA campaign, Less Hamas, More Hummus. For this campaign CAMERA teams up with MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) and uses clips of media in Arabic in order to demonstrate the destructive nature of Hamas.
The students ended the day with Jerusalem U Campus Director, Yoni Mann, who told his story of how he came to be an advocate for Israel, and then facilitated a screening of the film “Crossing the Line.”
The third day began two anti-Israel-activists-turned-Zionists: Romeu Monteiro and Kasim Hafeez. Each speaker told his own story and showed everyone at CAMERA that it is possible to cause a change of heart in event the most vehemently anti-Israel individuals.
After their workout, the students heard from Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, the founder of Our Soldiers Speak, who gave a captivating and chilling presentation in which he discussed his experiences and about how the students can be just as powerful on campus as the IDF soldiers in the field.
Then Dr. Ephraim Inbar, the Director of the Began-Sadat center, who will be on tour with CAMERA this Fall, spoke afterwards about the dangers of the Iran deal.
To end the day, Dr. Alex Safian of CAMERA then gave a presentation on how to answer tough questions. This session was key to the students’ understanding how to answer some of the most difficult questions that they could encounter on campus from both students and professors alike.
To kick off the final day of the conference, the students heard from Dexter Van Zile and Tricia Miller about the status of Christians in the Middle East, a topic that isn’t commonly addressed, but can help with campus activism.
Then, Lana Melman of Liberate Art came to discuss her work in countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli artists and performers. Her presentation was timely, as the Spanish Reggae Festival announced that they would allow Matisyahu to perform despite calls from BDS activists to do
After lunch, a mock BDS hearing took place among the students. The students were broken up into groups and told to come up with arguments against BDS. Once their arguments were finished they got the chance to argue against the CAMERA staff who read pro-BDS statements from real BDS votes.
To end the conference, CAMERA’s Executive Director Andrea Levin closed the conference with a moving presentation in which she talked about 10 things to remember when standing up for Israel. Goodbyes were said with lots of hugs and lots of love; a beautiful end to an incredible conference!
To read more about past conferences, check out this page on the CAMERA on Campus website.