By Mitchell A. Klein
and Jordanna Yochai
This summer, as final year campers at NJY Teen Camp, we were given the unique opportunity of meeting Linda Scherzer. Scherzer, a former CNN correspondent in the Middle East and the current director of the Write On For Israel program, was one of the countless Shabbat speakers brought in by NJY Teen Camp to address campers. Standing in our camp’s recreational building, she explained to us that Write On For Israel, which is currently in its fourteenth year, is a program that aims to give high school juniors and seniors the necessary tools to advocate on behalf of the State of Israel and to combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism on college campuses. Its approach combines journalism, history, and modern political science. Scherzer’s presentation was both engaging and tremendously informative; it opened our eyes to the sheer ubiquity of Anti-Zionism in the United States. Having spent 5-weeks in Israel as part of our camp’s TAC Israel trip during the 2014 War on Terror, we were appalled by the allegations being made against Israel’s morality and right to exist. We knew that this was something that we wanted to get involved in, and immediately contacted Mrs. Scherzer to start the application process. Upon learning that we were accepted, we were elated.
Write On For Israel meets one Sunday each month at the Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan. These meetings, which run from 10:30 in the morning until about 5:30 in the evening, are led by Tuvia Book. Book is an experienced Israel educator who has authored a number of books regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. A passionate teacher and involved Israel-advocate, Tuvia Book consistently creates energized historical discussions and combines them with his expert analyses of the modern political landscape. In addition to Tuvia Book, Write On brings several guest speakers to each meeting to discuss the various faces of the conflict. These speakers range from media analysts like Neil Lazarus, the Director of Awesome Seminars; Noam Bedein, the Director of Israel’s Sderot Media Center; and Jonathan Kessler, the Director of AIPAC’s Leadership Development Division. Finally, the cohort is divided into discussion groups led by Write On For Israel alumni and college students who are at the forefront of Israel advocacy.
When AIPAC’s Jonathan Kessler came to speak to us, he repeatedly stressed that in advocacy, as well as in life, the strength of our personal relationships is closely related to and is frequently indicative of our success. This idea made perfect sense to us as a result of our experiences at NJY Camps. In line with the words of our camp song: “Summer after summer,” we endeavor to build “bonds that never break” with our counselors and fellow campers. We usually accomplish this goal, creating long-lasting and life-changing friendships in the process. The parallels between the relationships that AIPAC builds with members of Congress and the friendships that we forge at our home away from home were striking. Thus, it was only natural that AIPAC’s Saban Leadership Seminar caught our attention. A convention geared toward college students who display leadership potential, Saban is the most prestigious of the conferences hosted by AIPAC. Many of the students who attend the seminar in Washington, D.C. are involved in Israel advocacy groups, College Democrats, or College Republicans on their respective campuses. As high school students, we felt incredibly lucky and proud to represent both Write On for Israel and NJY Camps at Saban. We attended lectures from brilliant speakers, who included Israel’s Defense and Armed Forces Attaché to the US, Yaakov Ayish; former Israeli Parliament member Dr. Einat Wilf; and Matt Nosanchuk from the White House Office of Public Engagement. Each speaker, advisor, and student activist taught us invaluable things about the importance of supporting Israel in high school, college, and beyond. We will not soon forget the things that we learned and the people whom we met.
We are incredibly grateful for the countless opportunities that we have received through our involvement in both Write On For Israel and AIPAC. We assure you that this is just the beginning of what we hope will be two long and successful careers in Israel advocacy. Metaphorically speaking, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot wait to bring what we’ve learned back to camp and share our love for Israel with our campers and co-counselors. It was through camp, our home away from home, that we were first taught the value and importance of the Jewish State. In fact, Israel education and appreciation are two fundamental components of our camp experiences and we eagerly look forward to sharing this with the next generation of New Jersey Y campers.
Mitchell A. Klein and Jordanna Yochai are former campers and now staff at the NJY Camps and current participants of the Write On For Israel program.