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Young adults ‘empowered’ at Israel on Campus Coalition summit in DC

More than 400 Zionist college students from across the country told JNS that they are absorbing much about advocating for Israel.

Speakers at a panel on day one titled “Many Voices, One Vision: Change Agents on Campus” at the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., include (from left) moderator Jacob Baime, CEO of Israel on Campus Coalition; Keron Campbell, an alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta; Sam Fingerhut, a student activist at The Ohio State University; and Tessa Veksler, student government president at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Aug. 7, 2023. Photo by David Swindle.
Speakers at a panel on day one titled “Many Voices, One Vision: Change Agents on Campus” at the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., include (from left) moderator Jacob Baime, CEO of Israel on Campus Coalition; Keron Campbell, an alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta; Sam Fingerhut, a student activist at The Ohio State University; and Tessa Veksler, student government president at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Aug. 7, 2023. Photo by David Swindle.
Israel on Campus Coalition
Jason Greenblatt, former White House special representative for international negotiations, at the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 7, 2023. Photo by David Swindle.

Sarah Miller’s biggest takeaway from her first day at the Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., was that there are stronger forces that unite rather than divide.

“We have more in common than we have apart,” Miller, a junior studying web design, education and French at Butler University in Indianapolis, told JNS. She cited three speakers who shared “their belief in the power of building connections.”

“They proved that not only on the international level but also on the personal level, the way to solve conflict is by building connections and acting on the other’s interests,” she said.

The summit—ICC’s largest in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic—began on Monday and runs through Wednesday. Held in the nation’s capital, it is the largest domestic gathering of pro-Israel college students, with more than 400 young men and women attending, according to the Israel on Campus Coalition.

Among speakers on the docket are Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador in Washington; and Jason Greenblatt, former White House special representative for international negotiations and a key player in the formation of the Abraham Accords.

A panel with Greenblatt and Saudi social-media influencer Loay Alshareef, who lives in the United Arab Emirates and is an advocate of the accords, stood out to Miller. So did a class run by Aviva Klompas, co-founder of the nonprofit Boundless Israel, on speaking up for Israel.

Half-a-dozen other students who attended the summit told JNS that they were already benefiting from the conference on its first day.

Jarvis Prewitt, a mechanical engineering and math double-major at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, told JNS that he relished a discussion on combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism through normalization with Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as with the other two signees, Morocco and Sudan. 

“The session laid the foundation of the workings that are needed to take action on our respective campuses to engage students about the Abraham Accords,” he said.

‘A pro-Israel base from Athens to Atlanta’

Keron Campbell, a recent graduate of Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, was one of three young people whom Jacob Baime, CEO of ICC, interviewed during the opening session. He was also recognized for his involvement in campus activism.

“Being honored with this award was truly humbling,” Campbell, an associate for political and community engagement at the American Jewish Committee, told JNS. “I have a passion for building coalitions of diverse people to take on our greatest challenges.”

Attendees of the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 7, 2023. Photo by David Swindle.

Morgan Ames, a political science and religion double-major at Emory University in Atlanta, also received an award. She told JNS that she is thankful for her friends “across Georgia” who helped “build a pro-Israel base from Athens to Atlanta.”

“It goes to show that students can build coalitions from the ground up and that we are always more successful when we work together,” she said.

Her fellow Emory student, Sophie Kalmin, who double majors in American and in Middle East studies, told JNS that she enjoyed hearing about the projects of the awardees. “They do so much, and they deserve it,” she said.

Hailey Todd, a government major at the Christian school Regent University in Virginia Beach, found the session with Herzog the most memorable. “What an amazing opportunity to hear from such an influential man,” she told JNS. “I loved hearing his vision for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Clara Calavia Sarnago, a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told JNS that she was inspired to hear from Herzog since she hopes to work in diplomacy. Carlos Vasquez, an aspiring lawyer who studies at Oral Roberts University, an evangelical school in Tulsa, Okla., also appreciated Herzog’s talk.

Israel on Campus Coalition
Students at a session run by Raeefa Shams, director of communications and programming, Academic Engagement Network, at the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 7, 2023. Photo by David Swindle.

“I really enjoyed getting the Israeli ambassador’s insight on the judicial reform in Israel right now and what the next few weeks may look like,” he told JNS.

Other students, like Micah Gritz, an international security student at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., who is the chief operating officer of a group called Jewish on Campus, told JNS that they made good use of the networking opportunities.

Gritz said it was “really empowering” to be surrounded by fellow Zionists. At Tufts, in the Boston area, that’s “something I’m very much not used to,” he said.

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