Leading pro-Israel activists from 26 organizations discussed impediments to studying abroad in Israel and anti-Israel sentiment among college faculty during the semi-annual meeting of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The ICC also publicly recognized the Rutgers University Hillel Foundation and AIPAC for their innovative Israel programming.
The ICC is a partnership of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, in cooperation with a network of organizations committed to promoting Israel education and advocacy on campus.
Sandy Cardin, director of the Schusterman Family Foundation, addressed the gathering and shared his vision for the ICC. Following the consultation he said that "ICC consultations embody the spirit of collaboration upon which the ICC was founded. They provide a forum for campus practitioners, students, and community leaders to pool their collective knowledge and forge relationships and programming that assist students in fostering support for Israel on campuses nationwide."
Attendees heard from both students and professionals about the untenable barriers that colleges and universities have placed before students wishing to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. An Indiana University student who recently returned from Israel noted that she, as well as one-third of the participants in her program, had to officially withdraw from their universities before their year or semester abroad and then re-enroll upon their return. ICC members are working with university officials to eradicate these barriers.
Coalition members also discussed the alarming instances of faculty hostile to both Israel and students supportive of Israel. The ICC, partnering with the American-Israel Cooperative Enterprise, recently released Tenured or Tenuous: Defining the Role of Faculty in Supporting Israel on Campus, an in-depth report on the challenges pro-Israel activists encounter on campuses nationwide. The study includes a number of examples of faculty members spreading misinformation on the Israeli-Arab conflict and emphasizes the need to provide alternatives for educating students on Israel.
The ICC presented its first annual "Outstanding Collaborative Project Award" to the Hillel foundation at Rutgers University for its Israel Inspires campaign and to AIPAC for its Midwest Israel Summit. Israel Inspires consisted of a yearlong series of pro-Israel activities that showcased Israel's land and culture beyond the scope of politics and conflict. The Midwest Israel Summit, which drew 500 participants from across the region, taught students how to make an impact on Israel-related legislation, the media, electoral campaigns and campus debate.
"Both Israel Inspires and the Midwest Israel Summit stand as wonderful examples of the success that can be achieved from cooperation on campuses and in communities," ICC Chair Lisa Eisen said. "I am confident that flame of pro-Israel activism and collaboration kindled by Rutgers Hillel and AIPAC will spark similar efforts throughout the nation."
Attendees hailed from throughout the country, including California, New York, Boston and Chicago, and represented the ICC's 26 member organizations, six regional affiliates, and student leaders. This semi-annual consultation allows members to assess the past year, discern new trends and patterns for the year ahead and forge new avenues of cooperation.
"We are confident that as the ICC continues to grow and develop, organizations, students, and communities will increasingly benefit from the positive effects of cooperation," said Eisen and ICC Executive Director Wayne L. Firestone. "Through this combined utilization of resources can students become confident Israel activists during their stay on campus."