Ira Stup likes to joke that Israel advocacy is part of his DNA.
A founding staffer of J Street U — the campus arm of the liberal Israel advocacy group J Street — Stup has been hearing tales of Israel activism his entire life.
“My grandfather, after serving in Europe in World War II, came home and smuggled his rifle to the Haganah, and my paternal grandparents were leaders in Israel Bonds and other organizations helping to build the State of Israel,” the Philadelphia native said. Stup even decided to forgo a big bar mitzvah party in favor of visiting Israel for the first time.
While an undergrad in a joint Columbia University/Jewish Theological Seminary program, he began thinking more critically about Israel.
“I had spent almost all my life at day school, Camp Ramah and USY, and college was the first time I was confronted with such diverse opinions about the Middle East,” he said. “It forced tough new thinking about the impact of a decades-long occupation on Israeli society and the American Jewish community.”
But Stup found few progressive voices on campus who could give him satisfactory answers.
After a year in Israel as a Dorot Fellow, volunteering and doing research on Jewish and Palestinian communities in the West Bank, Stup became a campus organizer for J Street U, eventually becoming its director.
“My goal was to empower students to organize as a serious, sophisticated force for change in the American Jewish community and in our political system,” said Stup.
Now preparing for law school, Stup serves as a senior consultant to the organization.
“My parents and grandparents have more than demonstrated that we’re responsible to help ensure a vibrant future for Israel,” said Stup. “They had questions when I first joined J Street U, but I’ve brought them in a deeper conversation about my concerns for Israel’s future. Now, they’re very supportive and involved with J Street themselves.”
Anthem aficionado: Stup has always been interested in what countries focus on in their national anthems. He has a special fondness for Australia’s, which, like unlike America’s, celebrates the country’s natural beauty rather than God or warfare. That, and the fact that the tune is really “catchy,” spurs him to try, largely unsuccessfully, to teach it to all his friends.