Israel On Campus: Staff Discussion Program

This activity is designed to show staff members who are college students, or will be freshmen in the fall, what they can do to advance Israel's cause on campus.

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Part 1: Introduction

Begin by telling the group the purpose of the gathering: To provide a forum for staff who are active in campus Israel activities to share their experiences with the others and for all staff to explore ways they might get involved on campus, as well as the possible motivations for doing so. The introduction might include:

  • By a quick show of hands, who has been to Israel?
  • And who has been involved in Israel-related activities at school?
  • Does anyone want to share the greatest, or the worst, thing you saw on campus in regards to Israel last year?

Part 2: Sharing Our Stories

The facilitator offers a few examples of Israel activities and developments from schools in the area or across the country in the past year. Ideally, these will include stories from schools that are "on the radar" of the staff -- perhaps one of the examples will be an activity that took place on the facilitator's campus, with the facilitator playing a key role. Cited examples can include some great Israel engagement moments, as well as some particularly unpleasant anti-Israel episodes.

Next, several staff members who have been active in campus Israel activities are "introduced" (of course, everybody knows these people already, but they may not associate them with campus Israel activism.) This part of the activity can be set up as a panel discussion, or each staff person can take the floor in succession. Either way, others -- the other speakers as well as the audience -- should be encouraged to ask questions after each presenter completes his/her presentation. 

The panelists each tell a personal story about their campus involvement. In planning the program, the GE and facilitator should seek out staff members whose stories run the gamut to include, for instance:

  • A staff member who was not involved in Israel-on-campus activities until he/she participated in a Birthright trip. This person can describe the Birthright experience as well as the new opportunities on campus that became available upon return.
  • A staff member who went to college knowing that he/she would get involved in Israel activism there (either because of past exposure in a youth movement, at camp or another personal connection)
  • A staff member who played a key role in mounting a large Israel-related program or campaign on campus last year. This person should share some of the nuts and bolts of the effort, as well as a discussion of the skills involved and the sense of satisfaction upon completion.

After all of the presenters have told their story, the facilitator can pose one or more questions to them. These can include:

  • What would you suggest to everyone in the room if they might want to get involved? What's the first step?
  • What if someone says 'I don't know enough'?
  • Maybe it seems obvious to you, but can you talk just a bit about why this kind of involvement is important? (Depending on the prevalence of Israel-related activism among your camp's staff members, this might be better positioned in the facilitator's opening remarks.)

Part 3: Wrap-up

The facilitator wraps up the discussion by asking the group if anyone wants to share his or her own experience, and by reiterating the importance of sharing our own ideas about, and connections to, Israel with others on our college campuses. If there is a tie-in to any upcoming activities at camp, this is the time to mention it.

Stress that this isn't about telling everyone around you that Israel is the greatest country in the world; it's about sharing your own feelings and your own reasons for caring. If something -- in this case Israel -- is important to you, it's probably worth sharing with your peers.

Variations: 

After the opening part of the program, you might consider splitting the staff into several smaller groups and having the presenters rotate among the groups to share their own stories and perspectives. This more intimate setting may encourage greater dialogue. (If you do this, split into the right number of groups to enable one presenter to be with each group at any given time, and rotate until each presenter has been with all participants.) Bring the entire group back together for the wrap-up.

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