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The Minnesota Hillel Blog

Israel on Minnesota’s Campus 
Henry Benson

Minnesota is not very well known for it’s Jewish community, comprising of less than 1% of the Minnesotan population, however it’s the quality, not the quantity, of the Minnesotan Jewish people that create the tight knit community at the University of Minnesota. It’s this unique feeling of being a part of a small group within one of America’s largest universities that has helped to foster bonding between Jewish students on campus, facilitated by our campus’ Hillel.

The University of Minnesota Hillel has become the central “hub” so-to-speak of Jewish life on campus, and rightfully so. In addition to services, Hillel puts on many events including movie nights, Shabbat dinners, discussions on Israeli topics, and even a weekly “Jewball” pickup basketball game. But the most important component of Hillel is it’s ability to be a place for Jewish students to feel welcome. In a state with a relatively small Jewish community, it allows our students the rare opportunity to feel welcome.

A major component of Jewish life on campus across nearly all American universities is the battle for the Israeli cause. Approached by the Students Supporting Israel group on campus last year to become an Israeli advocate by travelling to Israel last winter break to learn about Israeli issues first-hand, I quickly learned how tough of a situation Israel is in for the PR debate among American college students. This is incredibly important because as everyone repeatedly says, students are the future. Students will eventually be leading businesses and the government making decisions affecting Israel.

However the battle going on throughout college campuses wrongfully pits Israel in a negative light. After learning more about the situation that Israel finds itself in, I have taken a strong stance to help Israel and the Students Supporting Israel group to the fullest of my ability.

Reasons such as this are why I was motivated to attend The Stand With Us: Israel in Focus conference earlier this November. Through the conference I was able to hear about the effective ways to advocate for Israel on my campus through the positions that I hold and how a more favorable view of Israel can be shown on our campus.

The conference garnered many different perspectives of why it is crucial to support Israel in addition to other activities that helped us better our Israeli advocacy tactics. Perhaps the most interesting speech at the conference came from a British woman who had moved to Israel and convinced a friend that was skeptical about safety to come visit. On only the second day of her friend’s visit, they went along a hike in which they encountered terrorists who violently attacked them with machetes. The gruesome story of such hatred killed her friend and nearly her as well, but after struggling to walk over a mile after the terrorists left, she was found by some passers by who quickly came to her aid. She was quickly taken to a hospital and luckily survived. Quick action by the police also allowed for the capture of the perpetrators. These stories of how a beautiful country can be damaged by such hateful attacks have shown us just how important Israeli advocacy is to make sure that people who live so far away from the conflict in America understand the reality of what is happening.

Henry is a junior at the University of Minnesota originally from Illinois. He is a political science major and serves on the University's student association. Henry attended a national campus conference held by Stand With Us to promote pro-Israel work on campus. We are honored to share his thoughts.

Posted December 8, 2014

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