The tensions are hidden beneath the surface. There aren’t many protest wars. There’s very little outright violence. But in 2002, The David Project realized that there was something wrong on American college campuses.
“The problem is a drip-drip of negativity on Israel, rather than what’s often characterized as hostility toward Israel or Jewish students,” Executive Director David Bernstein explained to Jspace News.
It’s far from an overt problem, with no easy solution. To Bernstein, American campuses aren’t inherently anti-Israel. “Outside organizations are seeking to turn Israel into an international pariah, and they’re using the college campus as a way into the American discussion,” he argued. “Our approach is to promote a positive perspective of Israel among a diverse student population.”
The David Project works towards this goal on two fronts: through campus intervention and early education programs. The former involves educating, training and empowering campus opinion-makers to become thoughtful Israel advocates. Bernstein has “always believed that college was a key venue for the discussion of Israel and for Israel’s future standing in this country.”
Recently The David Project, in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, brought a mixed group of Latino and Jewish students to Israel. Upon their return, the students held Latino-Jewish summits to talk about their experience. Bernstein boasts, “there is now a permanent Latino-Jewish group operating at Boston University that came out of the trip.”
For earlier interventions, The David Project offers an Israel education curricula taught in more than 130 Jewish middle and high schools across the country. “The David Project works with and through students to help shape campus opinion and discourse on Israel,” summarizes Bernstein.
College students face increasingly subtle attacks on the Jewish State. Harvard students recently organized a “One State Conference” under the guise of balancing the dialogue on the Middle East conflict. The organizers of that and similar Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or Israel Apartheid events “are actively promoting a hate agenda,” argued Bernstein. “There’s no question about that.”
But even here, The David Project believes there is a way to change the dialogue. “During the Penn BDS conference that took place just a few weeks ago, Jewish students organized 80 Shabbat dinners in various apartments and dorm rooms to discuss Israel with key constituencies on campus,” Bernstein relates. “To me, the most effective way of responding is in a proactive, thoughtful and positive way.”
It’s sometimes an uphill battle, but the David Project relishes the challenge.
.ORG-Connection: The David Project positively shapes campus opinion on Israel by educating, training, and empowering student leaders to be thoughtful, strategic and persuasive advocates.