The University of Illinois is truly incredibly lucky to have Jewish leadership, administrative leadership and community leadership - in addition to many students- who care immensely about maintaining positive relationships to Israel on campus. When events would come up, whether positive or negative, as they do at any college, there was always this support from adults to quickly and collectively decide on steps to be taken- steps to promote the positive and effectively address any potential negative. These events could be speakers coming to campus, student displays on the quad, current events in the Middle East students cared about, or anything else. Students who wanted to be involved in these decisions were more than welcomed and able to play a major role.
When I was looking at colleges, I knew I would be looking at "the Israel Scene" at each campus since the world of Israel advocacy, and strengthening the US-Israel relationship in terms of not just politics but culture as well, was a topic was something I had become increasingly involved with as I finished high school. I had been in so many seminars on college activism and read so many articles about Illinois and other campuses that when I finally showed up to college it had all blurred together and I didn't know what to expect. Within my first week I had been introduced to so many people involved in all of these topics - from the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow to the founders of pro-Israel clubs on campus, to other students who also came to school looking to get involved - that I was amazed. What you can never get from online research or study is the feeling of the people who are actually experiencing all of this on the ground, and on the ground everyone was loving it, and they all welcomed me right in.
Israel played an enormous role in my freshman year experience. It was a part of many hours of my week, from week one, as I started going to Zionist Food for Thought every Friday at Hillel, show up to IlliniPAC or Illini Students Supporting Israel welcome events and then meetings and more. For students who don't know a ton about the topic and want to learn there are classes to take taught by professors and even a student led class. There are speakers coming in and there are movies being shown. Students can join the Israel clubs on campus and help table on the quad and put on events or they can come to any event they see advertised online that interests them. There are trips to Israel available and there are a million ways we try to bring a little bit of Israel to Illinois. Israel life at Illinois was an enormous part of my experience this year because I wanted it to be; it required me to gain confidence in professional meetings and processes, and it introduced me to my closest friends - and I love it.
VP Israel Affairs