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Standing with the next generation of pro-Israel leaders

We were proud to attend a summit with young people determined to stand up for Israel despite resistance.

Teenagers march in the Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan, May 22, 2022. Photo by Don Pollard/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Teenagers march in the Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan, May 22, 2022. Photo by Don Pollard/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Rep. Alma Hernandez and Daniel Hernandez Jr.
Siblings Alma Hernandez and Daniel Hernandez Jr. are current and former Democratic members of the Arizona House of Representatives.

One of the privileges of serving in elected office is the opportunity to stand up for what we most passionately believe in. We are the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona House of Representatives and co-founder of the first LGBTQ caucus in the Arizona legislature, respectively.

Long before we began our service in the Arizona House, we were shaped by our heritage as Jewish- and Mexican-Americans. We are proudly progressive and proudly pro-Israel, and we are thrilled to have had a chance to share that message with 400 student leaders at the Israel on Campus Coalition National Leadership Summit earlier this month. The young people we met there deeply inspired us. We saw a new generation of diverse pro-Israel leaders rising to meet the demands of our times, answering the same call we heard at their age.

We grew up in a vibrant Latino family in Tucson, Arizona just 60 miles from the southern border. Our mother was born in Nogales, Mexico, giving us deep roots in the immigrant experience. Our identity is layered, as our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Alma converted in 2015 and celebrated her adult bat mitzvah two years later. Daniel has not taken that step but has been active in Jewish community life, attending synagogue on the High Holidays and preparing family meals for Passover and Hanukkah.

While our unique heritage influences our decision to support Israel, we’ve also had experiences that influenced our love for the Jewish state. An elementary schoolteacher from Hungary who survived the Holocaust left a lasting impact on Daniel, shaping his appreciation for Israel from an early age after hearing her profoundly moving experience and the suffering she faced.

We have both found ourselves the victims of racist and antisemitic abuse and have seen the consequences of violence and stigmatization firsthand. Daniel was an intern for former Rep. Gabby Giffords when she was shot by a would-be assassin outside a meet-and-greet in 2011. Daniel was the one who propped up her head and held his hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, helping save her life.

Alma was a high school freshman when she was brutally attacked on campus by two adult women and a police officer, which caused long term damage to her spine.

Because of our dual-minority background, we have faced hate from bigots like KKK leader David Duke. At the same time, some fellow progressives have criticized our robust support for Israel. We know that many pro-Israel students on campus today have faced similar trials.

Having multiple aspects of our identities has come with challenges, but it has given us rich insights and perspectives. Through it all, we have been proud to advocate for Israel and Jewish issues because it is the right thing to do, and we have often reached out across the aisle. As a Democrat, Alma recently passed a bipartisan Holocaust education bill through the Republican-controlled state legislature.

We believe in Israel’s right to defend herself and the importance of supporting a nation that shares our commitment to democratic principles, equality under the law, human rights and the pursuit of peace.

ICC’s National Leadership Summit was an inspiring reminder of why we advocate for Israel and Jewish issues. These students have made pro-Israel advocacy a fundamental element of their collegiate journey. During the three-day summit, this allowed student leaders to unite, share their experiences and drive positive change for Israel on campuses nationwide.

We passionately believe in this incredible opportunity for students because we once were those students. We know firsthand the resistance young people can face when they stand up for Israel. But these students care more about what is right than what is popular on campus. Now, we are calling on the next generation to take up the mantle to ensure a strong U.S.-Israel relationship continues unabated.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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