Ilan Sinelnikov helped start the pro-Israel CCAP group at the University of Minnesota, Students Supporting Israel (SSI). For the accomplishments of his group in the 2012-2013 academic year, his group won the David Bar-Illan Award. We flew Ilan to our annual gala dinner this past April to accept the award on behalf of SSI.
Above, a short video about our annual gala.His acceptance speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, I’d like to thank CAMERA for honoring Students Supporting Israel (SSI) with the David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism this evening. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Aviva, Samantha and Gilad- the CAMERA on Campus department, for the amazing work and support that they have provided SSI from the day we were founded. Please give them a round of applause; they deserve it!
I would like to take you all back to March 2012 at the University of Minnesota, so please walk with me on our campus streets and join us during the so called “Israel Apartheid week”. During that week I was exposed first hand to the well-developed anti-Israel lies industry that was working at the University of Minnesota, like in other campuses across the country. —- During the entire week, there was no other group on campus to serve as a counter voice, who was a step up for Israel. It was during that time that my sister and I came to the decision that we will make the University of Minnesota —-a center for Pro-Israel voices on campus, no matter how much time or work it would take us. With the precious help of CAMERA, SSI was founded and became what it is today.
CAMERA’s campus department was always there for us, during the week or on the weekends, listening to our concerns and worries on campus, giving — valuable advice and following up with us to see the results and solutions to our problems. CAMERA’s model of being present on campus, creating a strong network between students across the nation, bringing student fellows to Israel to witness the complex issues on the ground, and educating students at its annual conference which takes place in Boston personally helped me to develop as a student leader, and as an advocate for the State of Israel.
SSI’s — model is grassroots activism and coalition building. We believe in reaching out to the students themselves by engaging them in activities and reaching out to other student organizations to build a pro-Israel block on campus. While about 20 people showed up to our first event, our latest event had over 100 participants.
Our current road to success is rooted in two critical points that if seized upon, can have a momentous impact in Israel advocacy in all of North America. First, SSI answers the question of whether or not the divestment movement can be defeated on a college campus. The answer is yes. Our coalition building strategy made it so the University of Minnesota Student Association passed a pro-Israel legislation introduced by SSI members to support cooperation with Israeli Universities. This happened during the Israel Apartheid week that was almost unfelt this year- only two years after the major week of that kind — triggered our creation.
Secondly, our grassroots approach provides a framework for other universities to adapt and utilize the SSI model on their campuses. While we also speak to professors and leaders, we mainly speak to ordinary students, making them feel like they have a strong backing on college campuses so that pro-Israeli students will no longer be afraid to express their views and spread the truth.
Two years ago, I started SSI from nothing with few other students. Today SSI on campus leaves no room for anti-Israel supplements. Today, SSI isn’t just a student group; it is a movement across the Midwest! Our modal brought SSI to six different campuses in Minnesota at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College, Illinoi at DePaul University and Urbana Champaign, Kansas at Kansas University, and Indiana at the University of Indiana, showing Israel’s supporters on campus that they are not alone. Now our goal is to have a CAMERA fellow and CCAP on every campus that has SSI for future collaboration.
We could not have reached all that without the dedicated training, help and support of CAMERA. In the name of the hundreds of students who participated in our events, we want to thank CAMERA and you for giving us the opportunity to bring a fresh change and a strong pro-Israel statement to our campuses.
Above: Ilan on working with CAMERA.