Two college students were awarded the inaugural “Goodman Prize for Israel Engagement on Campus” in recognition of their exceptional efforts to create dynamic and meaningful Israel experiences for their peers on campus. The winners – Rebecca Starr, a first-year student at Concordia University in Montreal, and Aaron Karas, a junior at Emory University in Atlanta – were selected by the iCenter for Israel Education, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), and the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation. In the summer, Rebecca and Aaron are staff at Jewish overnight camps and have gained skills and strategies for Israel engagement as part of their camp’s participation in the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History – a partnership between the iCenter and FJC with generous support from The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations, with contributions from the Marcus Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation.
“I always want to show my fellow students all that Israel offers so that they can really connect with the country,” says Starr, currently co-President of Hillel at Concordia and staff at Camp Kinnert-Biluim in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. “It has been tough on campus this year, but I am absolutely determined to defend Israel and to create more love for Israel whenever I can. I’m honored to win the Goodman Prize for Israel Engagement on Campus, and I want to motivate even more people to engage with Israel and to make a difference.”
Starr is a member of Israel on Campus Concordia, which held a “Peace Week” encouraging people to write on a wall what peace means to them. She also helped lead the fight again BDS with a ‘Let’s Stay United’ campaign that brought people together. Starr adds that her time at Camp Kinneret-Bilum taught her to be a leader and to think creatively about the many ways to bring Israel to life for others.
Aaron Karas also demonstrated exceptional qualities that made him deserving of the award. As a freshman, he joined the board of Emory Students for Israel, and today is president of the organization. During his sophomore year he helped found Tamid at Emory, which researches Israeli companies and helps consult for them as way to learn more about the country. He credits his time as a camper and now staff member at Camp Judaea in North Carolina for instilling in him a connection to Israel.
“I love showing people the real side of Israel,” says Karas. “I realize that events that blend some Israel education with some fun, like trivia or eating schwarma, get more people involved and excited about Israel. I’m very proud of our work at Emory and this award is a major honor. I hope the contest encourages others to be engaged and to engage others.”
The winners were selected based on the originality and impact of their Israel engagement on campus; how they adapted their camp experiences to campus; and their continued commitment and leadership to engaging campers and peers with Israel.
The award was announced a week after the iCenter, FJC, and the Goodman Foundation also awarded the inaugural “Goodman Prize for Excellence in Israel Education at Camp” to Camp Pembroke in Massachusetts for its success infusing Israel into a greater part of camp culture and overall experience.