Home April 2014 Varying Degrees

Varying Degrees

When 14 students from three Orange County campuses – the University of California, Irvine (UCI), California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and Chapman University – boarded a plane for Washington, DC, they knew what they wanted to do.  When they got to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), they hit the ground running.
The students, who are participants in the Jewish Campus Leadership Initiative launched by the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services in fall 2013, received training in Israel advocacy, interfaith relations and bridge building as soon as they hit the campus. Led by Judith Flacks, who completed her tenure as head of the Union of Jewish Students in the United Kingdom, the two-year program includes interactive workshops, immersion experiences and seminars with key people engaged in Israel advocacy.
Students in the program learn how to become leaders, how to develop relationships with other faith communities and how to find common ground with other groups on campus. They have a chance to engage with mentors.
Then, the Rose Project, Hillel and the students themselves made the trip to Washington possible. JFFS has taken a delegation of students to the AIPAC conference every year since 2008. Students who get selected to make the trip consider it a big honor and take it very seriously.
There were 2300 students at the AIPAC conference this year. The local students were “very positive and energized to see a huge network of students,” said Lisa Armony, director of the Rose Project.  “They made friends and discussed issues on each other’s campuses. Going to the conference is the highlight of the year for them. We plan to keep doing this.”
The conference offered a variety of speakers, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a literal “who’s who” of American leaders. The students attended sessions on Iran, issues on campus, Israeli entrepreneurship and high technology and more during the three-day conference.
AIPAC’s mission is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States. AIPAC urges all members of Congress to support Israel through foreign aid, government partnerships, joint anti-terrorism efforts and the  promotion of a negotiated two-state solution—a Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state. The organization empowers pro-Israel activists across all ages, religions and races to be politically engaged and build relationships with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to promote the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Students came home even more motivated than before, according to Armony. “The conference was really motivating in terms of programs and speakers,” she said. “The students already have a wish list of people they want to bring to their campuses.”

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