StandWithUs educates Cherry Hill teenangers about anti-semitism on college campuses

Sam Grossman, Eastside Staff

On Sunday, April 3, 23 teenagers attended a class at the Katz Jewish Community Center to be educated about anti-Israel movements on college campuses. All of the 23 teens that attended were high school students. The class was free to attend and open to the public. There was also a chinese food buffet for the teens.

The class was taught by Paul Friedman, the Tri-State High School Coordinator for a pro-Israel organization called StandWithUs. StandWithUs is an international, nonprofit organization that “aims to enhance Israel’s image in the eyes of the world,” as written on its website. It was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in Los Angeles. It is the main producer of Israel-related print materials. The organization has thousands of volunteers and seeks to educate both Jews and non-Jews about Israel.

“Think of us as your Israel 911,” Friedman said. “We completely focus on education… We are not a political organization.”

As the teenagers sat around a large semicircle table eating their egg rolls, popcorn chicken and noodles, Friedman presented his slideshow presentation. The lesson was about anti-semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, which have become more prevalent on college campus. Students were taught how to respond to anti-Israel groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). They were also informed about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). BDS is a movement seeking to economically destroy Israel by boycotting any trade with the country.

A 2014 survey by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law showed that Jewish students are being targeted because of their religion on college campuses.

According to the survey, 54 percent of the 1,157 Jewish Students surveyed saw or experienced anti-semitism on college campuses.

There have also been many reports of swastikas being drawn on Jewish fraternities and dormitories, according to the Anti Defamation League. The league also reports cases of vandalism, threats and bias within some student governments.

Students at the class were also taught about how Israel is portrayed in the media.

“The media chooses to portray Israel as a war torn country full of conflict,” Friedman said.

Friedman explained that the media portrays Israel in this way so that the news companies get better ratings. Friedman went on to explain this as students listen intently. There are no disruptions other than the occasional “pssft” of a student refilling his or her cup of soda.

Students from East were also present at the class.

“I came to this because I want to know what to say if somebody is being anti-semitic or telling lies about Israel,” Josh Apell (‘19) said. “It’s good stuff to learn [now] even though I’m not going to college any time soon.”

The class held on Sunday was only one of a three part course that teens are invited to join. The StandWithUs organization also allows high school juniors and seniors to be interns with the group. As an intern, the students can give their own talks to classes like the one on Sunday.

The class ended at 8 p.m. Sunday evening. The students left feeling more enlightened than they did three hours earlier. For many seniors, college is not far off, and it is likely most students will encounter some form of anti-semitism. Whether this be BDS or an anti-Israel rally, the students will know how to defend themselves and the state of Israel.