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South Florida college, high school students train to advocate for Israel

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sergio Carmona

August 23, 2019

StandWithUs' 2019-20 Emerson Fellows include college students from South Florida. (StandWithUs/Courtesy)

In early August, the Israel education organization StandWithUs hosted trainings in Los Angeles for selected North American college and high school students to prepare them to be pro-Israel advocates on their campuses for this 2019-20 school year.

Among the high school and college students who attended the trainings included several from Florida, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade county schools.

One of the programs the students trained for is the year-long SWU Emerson Fellowship, which trains and educates pro-Israel college student leaders on college campuses.

Valentina Ramirez, a sophomore at Florida International University and Hispanic Emerson Fellow who is also a Christian, said that at this training conference, she was able to educate herself on a deeper level about Israel from a point of view that wasn’t strictly Christian.

"I learned new skills on how to be a better leader for my community and bring awareness of the struggles of the Jewish community with anti-Zionism. I learned about the Jewish perspective and because of it, I plan to collaborate with Jewish clubs such as Hillel at FIU for the purpose of bringing intersectionality between cultures."

Kathryn Helms-Morreale, a senior at Florida Atlantic University, said that as an Emerson Fellow, she hopes “to work with all the communities on campus to spread a love for Israel and stop the lies that cause anti-Zionism.”

Ariana Ponte, a senior at the University of South Florida, said at the conference, she learned how to answer the difficult questions about Israel but most importantly, she also learned to be more confident in herself and her ability to express her opinions.

Lital Hartzy, a senior at the University of Florida, said, "I was able to listen to other people’s experiences and learn more facts about Israel."

Sara Gold Rafel, StandWithUs/Southeast’s executive director, said, “We are so excited to be working with our students and to seeing all they accomplish."

“They have so many more challenges this year in combating the rise of anti-Semitism at their schools and providing balanced information to their peers about Israel.”

StandWithUs' 2019-20 high school interns include students from South Florida. (StandWithUs/Courtesy)

High school students trained for the year-long SWU High School Internship program that prepares students for the challenges they may face in college and the community regarding Israel. The students receive guidance and funding to run programming in their high schools and youth groups.

Danielle Pinto of Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami, said, “At the conference, I learned so much about Israel’s history and its relations with different countries all across the globe.”

Leeat Goldstein of Coral Springs Charter School said, This conference taught me various ways of combating anti-Semitism, including the different action steps to take if I encounter a situation that symbolizes hate.”

Noa Miller of Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach feels the multiple perspectives that people have on Israel that she learned about at this conference will help her create programs which can apply to everyone, regardless of their beliefs.

Rachel Eskandry of David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, said regarding her plans as an intern, I hope to get my fellow peers at school and members of my community more involved and active with pro-Israel and other events.”

"This year, my goal is to plan different programs in which we stand together in support of the Jewish homeland Israel, and to educate my community on the importance of being a Zionist."

Yael Bister of Hebrew Academy (RASG) in Miami Beach said, “I hope to back up my community’s love for Israel with facts and knowledge so they can be better equipped for what the real world has in store.”

Leonardo Bentata of Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, said, Looking at my community’s needs, there are a few specific goals I hope to accomplish.”

"These include educating my community about the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict using objective facts, teaching how to recognize legitimate criticism of Israel and when it crosses the line into anti-Semitism and strengthening people's connections to Israel."

Leah Bard of Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton said, “Throughout this Internship, I hope that I can empower, inspire and educate my audience while building confidence in those I am educating so that they can do the same to others.”

Hailey Riter of Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, hopes she is able to spread awareness about Israel in her community.

"I want my peers, and the rest of my community to feel educated not only about the conflict, but also on how much of an impact the State of Israel has had on the world in just the few years that it has been around."

Harrison Lieber of Ransom Everglades School in Miami explained why he joined the internship.

"When I returned to the United States after a semester abroad in Israel, I felt like something was missing. I wanted to spread my love for Israel by educating others. That’s why I joined StandWithUs."

Contact Rafel at or call the Southeast office in Boca Raton at 561-961-0752 for more information on the organization’s work in South Florida.

Read the entire article HERE.


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