Four college students, alumni of The Jewish Week’s Write On For Israel educational project, were honored for their pro-Israel leadership on campus at Write On’s 2015 graduation ceremonies June 11 at Park Avenue Synagogue.
Forty-six high school seniors from 25 public, private and Jewish day schools in New York and New Jersey completed the two-year program. Founded in 2002, it is designed to provide a solid grounding in the Mideast conflict and prepare students for campus life, where Israel has been the target of increasingly virulent rhetorical attacks.
Rena Nasar, a 2010 graduate of the Yeshivah of Flatbush, founded a pro-Israel group at Baruch College called YOFI (Youth Organization for Israel), now headed by its fourth executive board. It seeks to engage students from many backgrounds and showcase Israel’s diversity.
Katie Hartman, a 2013 graduate of Trinity School, just completed her sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania, where she serves on the board of PIPAC, the Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee, and organized the group’s first advocacy training program.
Jonas Singer, a 2013 graduate of Millburn High School, is a rising junior at Brandeis University and co-president of the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee, where he was vice president as a freshman. And Daniel Silvermintz, who spoke on behalf of the four honorees, is a 2015 graduate of the University of Southern California. He graduated from the Frisch School in 2011 and was active at USC in TAMID, which focuses on the strength of Israel’s start-up nation ethos in forging relationships with college students across the country. He served as president of the USC chapter and as national chair, with TAMID reaching 1,400 students around the country.
The featured speaker was Harriet Levin, mother of Michael Levin, a lone soldier in the Israel Defense Forces from the Philadelphia area who was killed in the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. She described her son’s tenacious commitment to Israel from an early age and noted that his is the most visited grave in the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yotav Eliach, the founding core educator for Write On’s first 12 years, was honored for his passionate leadership and ongoing involvement in the program. Tuvia Book, the current core educator, spoke of the powerful experience he and the seniors shared when they visited Israel in February.
Linda Scherzer, founding project director, and Gary Rosenblatt, Jewish Week editor and founding chair, noted in their remarks to the graduates and their families and friends that when Write On was founded, during the second intifada, the hope was that it would not be necessary for more than a few years. “But sadly, Write On is needed now more than ever, as the BDS movement has become increasingly active on college campuses,” Rosenblatt said.