12 Jun 2018 Performance Report – Fighting Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus
When anti-Israel sentiment is expressed on college campuses, Nofar sees it as a representation of the growing anti-Semitism in the world today. Nofar, an Israeli from Kiryat Ono, is a Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at the University of Houston (UH) Hillel in Texas.
The Israel Fellows program trains post-college Israelis to be the face of Israel on campuses around the world, helping Jewish students connect to the Jewish State. “I was really excited about the opportunity to be an Israel Fellow and to learn what it means to be Jewish outside of Israel. Now I understand the challenges of being a minority in society, instead of in the majority,” she says.
The work is, indeed, challenging. For starters, a pro-Palestine student group on campus hosts an annual Israeli Apartheid Week, an anti-Israel event that makes Jewish students feel targeted. There have also been acts of anti-Semitic vandalism, and even students sharing tweets that incite violence against Jews. Still, Nofar remains undeterred in her mission to make Jewish students feel safe on campus.
I’m grateful to have students that, no matter how targeted they are, still believe in dialogue, to be pro and not anti, to love our peers as we love ourselves – even when it’s difficult.
“I’ve had days when students asked me not to speak Hebrew outside my office. I’ve also watched students take off their kippot when they walked on campus,” says Nofar. “But I’m grateful to have students that, no matter how targeted they are, still believe in dialogue, to be pro and not anti, to love our peers as we love ourselves – even when it’s difficult.”
In her time in Houston, Nofar has appreciated the chance to help students stand up for what they believe is right for the good of Israel and the Jewish people. She’s even connected more with Judaism herself in Texas, celebrating a second bat mitzvah and reading from the Torah for the first time. Nofar will return to Israel with an even stronger Israeli and Jewish identity as a result of this experience, proving that not only was her presence in Houston life changing for the students, but for her as well.
“After spending two years at one of the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israel college campuses in the state, I can say that being pro-Israel and Jewish is not easy for students today. The choice to be a supporter of Israel at college is one of the most difficult decisions a pro-Israel student can make,” said Nofar. “If I in any way played a small part in helping UH students and the community stand up for Israel and be Jewish on campus, I’ll know that I did my job.”
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In 2018, 92 Israel Fellows engaged with 13,800 Jewish students and attracted 46,000 students to Israel-related events on campuses around the world.