2019 StandWithUs High School Conference
The 2019 StandWithUs High School Conference was an astounding success! Our 98 passionate and energized StandWithUs High School Interns from all over the USA and Canada descended upon Los Angeles for a week of training, learning, inspiration, networking, and, of course, Zionism! In addition to all of the educational sessions that the students attended throughout the week, they met with their regional teams to develop programs that they will run throughout the school year.
Get ready for big things from the interns; they have some impressive plans!
Day 1—Why are We Here?
On day one of the conference, we had a meaningful exchange and discussed that people’s love of Israel can be inspired by their diverse backgrounds. Interns shared stories of their personal experiences in, and feelings about, Israel. Some talked about the March of the Living and that visiting the camps was a stark illustration of the consequences of Jews not having a state. Some talked about the feeling of security that comes with knowing Israel is always there. Others recounted stories of having to stand up for themselves in the face of antisemitism at their high schools. The interns especially loved hearing the Israel stories of their high school professionals, who are themselves a diverse bunch. They are Greek, Hispanic, Tunisian/Iraqi-Israeli, children of Soviet-Jewish immigrants, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and Christian-Zionists. The staff shared how and why they all came to work in the field of Israel education. It set the perfect tone for the conference!
Day 2—Israel Education Tools
On the second day of the conference, we focused on Israel education. The interns learned about Israel’s history, how to distinguish when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism, how to respond to common claims about Israel, and other debate techniques. We also covered topics concerning the Middle East, its complexities, and how this affects Israel. We talked about the role of narratives when it comes to speaking about the Arab–Israeli conflict. The students learned so much, including many valuable tools that they will take with them to use at school and to include in their programming and conversations with their peers.
Day 3—Leadership and Professional Development
The StandWithUs High School Internship program is about more than Israel education and activism. Our program also focuses on the students' personal and professional development. Day three included leadership training, though we took a fun break in the middle of the day to enjoy LA and visit a Malibu beach! In the evening, we had a very special opportunity to hear from StandWithUs educator Hussein Aboubakr, an Egyptian Zionist who told his story of how he grew up in Egypt learning hateful slander about Israel and the Jewish people. He shared his journey of learning about Israel in spite of the misinformation that he was fed as a child. His story inspired the students, and many of them are looking forward to bringing him to their communities to speak during the year.
Day 4—Developing a Plan of Action
On our last full day together, the interns incorporated their newly acquired skills and applied their knowledge to develop programs, including:
How to start an Israel club in various types of schools
Answering difficult questions about Israel
The rise of antisemitism today on college campuses
Creative, new Israel engagement opportunities such as our Experiential Israel Programs. Check out an example we call "Squeeze the Challenges in Your Life": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVhir0ZczSc
Of course, we finished the night with a celebration of our successes and a dance party full of Israeli music and Israeli snacks!
Day 5—This Is Just the Beginning!
The theme of our last morning together was Hatikvah, the hope. We shared our regional visions of what we wanted to accomplish together and then talked about the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The interns wrote their personal hatikvahs for the year and finished the conference strong by singing the Hatikvah, the national anthem of their favorite country! It was a moving reminder of why we all came together, and it concluded our conference on a high note. The interns have been trained and are energized to start the best year yet!
The school year has only just begun, but our 98 StandWithUs High School Interns have already hit the ground running. We're excited to see what they do and know that it will be FANTASTIC!
T: 310-836-6140 ext. 117