April 13, 2010 – An Israel Peace Week. A roundtable discussion on tribalism in the Middle East. Discussions on current events in Israel. These are just a few of the activities spearheaded in the past year by alumni of the Leadership Program in Israel-Arab Studies at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, a year-long academic program for college-bound students that prepares them to be leaders engaged in Jewish and Israel-related activism on American college campuses.
Now, thanks to a grant from Targum Shlishi, these types of initiatives will be widely available through a Web site and presence on Facebook and Twitter, to be developed during the 2010-11 academic year. Development of digital media and social networking opportunities will facilitate networking and the sharing of ideas and content by current students and alumni of the program and dissemination to university communities at large. These media will be used to document program modules and activities, provide teaching material online, plan and announce events, and establish a network of activists.
The Leadership Program in Israel-Arab Studies is currently in its fourth year. Previous funding from Targum Shlishi made the creation of the program possible. Targum Shlishi’s grant for the pilot project led to support from additional sources including StandWithUs and the David Project. The program’s approach provides students with direct exposure to all sides of the Israel-Arab conflict, with lectures by both Israeli and Arab teachers, meetings with Arab students and pro-Palestinian activists, and field trips to areas and sites associated with the ongoing conflict. Israeli academicians provide lectures on Israeli history, culture, and politics as well as on Islam and relations with the Arab world. Currently, approximately forty female students complete the program each year, with plans to double the size by adding forty additional male students in the near future.
The program was conceived and is directed by Dr. Irwin (Yitzchak) Mansdorf, who established it as a way to counteract anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism on American college campuses and address the growing alienation the average Jewish student is showing towards involvement with Judaism in general and Israel in particular. “Our students wrestle with the dilemmas of being proud Jewish activists while recognizing the multi-layered complexity of Israel as a Jewish state with a substantial Arab minority and yet-undefined final borders,” says Dr. Mansdorf.
“We’re essentially fighting a battle against anti-Israel sentiment on our college campuses. The ultimate goal in training these students leaders and providing them with resources is to reach the hearts and minds of college students at large,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “There’s a bias against Israel generated by certain segments of the academic community and a subsequent turning away from the Jewish world. We need to use all of the resources available to us to train these student leaders to effectively communicate the Jewish position and to reach out to as many of our young people as possible. Digital resources are a logical next step to facilitate networking and exponentially increase the program’s reach.”
To date, more than twenty-five of the program’s alumni have become student leaders on the boards of major campus organizations at universities including Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Harvard, NYU, and Brandeis.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.
Contact: Targum Shlishi