Samantha Dorenfeld, Tal Edelstein, Matthew Malsin, Leor Rozen and I didn’t know each other well in September of 2016, but we all had one thing in common; we love Israel. The five us formed Mustangs Israel Public Affairs Committee, or MIPAC as it became known to the pro-Israel community and local officials.
Dorenfeld was entering her fourth year as a political science major when MIPAC began. As the Campus Electoral Coordinator, Dorenfeld worked to educate the student body and student government on Israel and contacting the California Senate Jewish Caucus to create a relationship and a pathway into working with them in the future. Dorenfeld’s hard work all stemmed for her support for the only “true and free democracy in the Middle East and the leader in innovation, safety, and most importantly human rights.”
Edelstein, the Campus Liaison, founded our cadre during his third year as a business major. Edelstein had grown up in Israel, and after experiencing anti-Semitism as a child, he always believed there needed to be a place for the Jewish people. Edelstein had started the pro-Israel coalition on Cal Poly’s campus, CAMERA-supported Mustangs United for Israel (MUFI), in 2015. A year later, MIPAC was born, “While MUFI was so successful in its first year in reaching mass audiences and starting the Israel conversation on our campus, it didn’t actually make a significant change. With MIPAC, we had the ability to target specific decision-makers and to educate those people about the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Malsin took on the roll as Campus Legislative Coordinator during his fourth year as a history major. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Malsin joined MIPAC because it gave him the opportunity to help improve the U.S.-Israel relationship, “For our family, Israel was a place where Jews from anywhere could feel safe no matter what issues they faced.”
Rozen, a third-year construction management major,, became Campus Engagement Coordinator because he believes the world is a better place with Israel in it. Rozen worked tirelessly to recruit campus advocates to help lobby members of Congress and remain active advocated of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Lastly, there was me, Jody Miller, a third-year journalism major. While I support Israel for its democratic values and innovations, my true passion lay in the fact I found the place to be home. When I stepped foot in Israel and rested my hand on the Western Wall, I instantly knew I belonged, and I believe every Jew deserves that feeling. As the Campus Communications Coordinator, I created interactive media, managed all social media, kept track of all Israel and U.S. news and served as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America fellow.
For the 2016 elections, our cadre went to work in the end of September on volunteering for a candidate with the strongest pro-Israel stance in our district. Our initial goal was 100 hours volunteered and $500 raised. In under two months, we exceeded our goals by raising $4000 and volunteering over 230 hours. This set a precedent for how the rest of our year would follow.
Instantly, we became a well-respected group on and off campus. Edelstein’s overall goal was to receive American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) cadre of the year, “Not because I wanted the title or cared what other people thought, but because if we got to that level, that would signal that we were doing a spectacular job and that we were being recognized for it. If we could achieve that overarching goal, we would know that we had succeeded in all of our smaller individual goals.” While we didn’t receive Cadre of the Year, Edelstein won Advocate of the Year, “an award I view the same as the former in that it represents our whole cadre’s success and not just mine,” he said.
Our biggest success and one that speaks volumes to our work, is with our district’s Representative, Salud Carbajal. We lobbied him and his office three times since his election. The first time, one of the topics was on legislation targeting Iran’s terror activity and testing of ballistic missiles (two things not covered in the recent Iran nuclear deal). In that meeting, we told him about a resolution dealing with this which he hadn’t heard of, so he took note of it. A few months later, in the next meeting we had with his office, we learned that Congressman Carbajal was now a co-sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives dealing with that very same issue.
While we may be students, we were able to make a difference in some important areas regarding our representative’s stance towards the U.S.-Israel relationship. Across the country, on every college campus, we encourage all students to do the same.
Contributed by Jody Miller, CAMERA Fellow at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and member of CAMERA-supported group Mustangs United for Israel.