StandWithUs grads begin Israel advocacy

Fourth class of student fellows graduates.

StandWithUs group 311 (photo credit: Michael Dickson)
StandWithUs group 311
(photo credit: Michael Dickson)
StandWithUs International, a campus Israel-advocacy group that operates in Israel and around the world, graduated its fourth class of studentfellows on Wednesday evening with a ceremony at the Israel Museum’s Ticho House in Jerusalem.
Mayor Nir Barkat addressed the nearly 150 fellowship graduates, who hail from various locations across the country and who aspire to be ambassadors for the State of Israel in diplomacy and additional leading fields in the coming years.
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“Advocacy, which many of you will soon be engaged in, is critical for the success of our country,” Barkat said. “And StandWithUs has done a remarkable job in training you for that task. That’s why it was so important for me to come here tonight.”
The mayor also discussed the various challenges facing Israel advocates in the world today, and reflected on his own experiences advocating for the city of Jerusalem while on visits to the United States over recent months.
“Advocacy has to be derived from a vision,” Barkat said.
“It has to be something that comes from you heart and is logical, but you also have to be able to speak – not our language, not translated Hebrew – but American English or any language you need to speak, depending on where you choose to work in Europe.
“We have to do a better job in advocacy,” he added. “We have to better understand whom we’re advocating to, better understand the things we’re doing here on the ground, and know how to integrate between both of them.”
The StandWithUs fellowship operates on six campus centers across Israel, making it the only nationwide fellowship of its kind.
“They are the face of Israel, eloquent, knowledgeable and charismatic,” said Michael Dickson, StandWithUs Israel’s director of the Israeli Fellows.
“They have the capacity to break one hundred stereotypes that people in the wider world may have about Israel.”
Dickson added that SWU seeks to educate the next generation of Israelis to be globally minded, articulate advocates for Israel.
“I genuinely believe that a prime minister of Israel is in this room tonight,” said Shay Assor, the StandWithUs Fellowship Director.
Before they begin campaigning for top spots in the Knesset, many of the fellows are about to begin internships abroad in places such as embassies, think-tanks, and advocacy organizations, representing Israel and bridging gaps between Israel and other groups.
As part of their training, the fellows must come up with project ideas to carry out on their campuses. These projects either have to serve the betterment of the State of Israel, or promote a positive image of Israel abroad. This year, over 150 proposals had to be narrowed down to six, which then had to be implemented.
The fellows also spend hours a month meeting with each other, hearing speakers, and showing delegations of all types around Israel.
Next school year a new group of 150 fellows will be chosen to represent SWU on Israeli campuses.
Assor also said that SWU is unique in the sense that the staff is highly professional, but young and can relate to the fellows.
The organization is able to “remain classy and prestigious while still maintaining a youthful and friendly atmosphere,” he said.
“There’s something about StandWithUs that is unique,” Dickson said. “Israelis on campus want to be involved. They trust [the organization] to teach them about Israel. They are great students, but at the end of the day [SWU] is so important to them, it’s their life.”