The Golda Awards: A celebration of student leaders fighting for Israel - opinion

The goal was not simply to give credit where it’s due, but to show our community that these students are on the frontlines against antisemitism today.

 STUDENTS RECEIVE certificates at The Golda Awards in Toronto, at the beginning of this month. (photo credit: J Gucci Entertainment)
STUDENTS RECEIVE certificates at The Golda Awards in Toronto, at the beginning of this month.
(photo credit: J Gucci Entertainment)

There has been no shortage of ink spilled over the phenomenon of anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda taking place on college and university campuses from across North America.

From BDS votes and anti-Israel resolutions to antisemitic graffiti and tenured professors abusing their positions to spread misinformation about the Jewish state, there is a clear campaign aimed at harassing student ambassadors for Israel and the Jewish people.

In fact, beyond spreading propaganda, this intimidation against Jewish students is a feature, not a bug, of the anti-Israel movement on campuses today. It looks to silence students from speaking up against antisemitism on campus.

In my role as executive director of Hasbara Canada, a leading educational organization working to empower high school, college, and university students to become advocates for the Jewish people, I have met some remarkably impressive young leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, dedicated to sharing the truth about Israel.

But our team has also met many young people who are fearful that speaking out publicly in defense of Israel will get them labeled as supporters of apartheid or worse.

 Computer Science and Engineering Building (CSE), York University (credit: Raysonho/Wikimedia) Computer Science and Engineering Building (CSE), York University (credit: Raysonho/Wikimedia)

The advocacy training and education we offer can only take students so far. Sometimes, these tireless activists need to be recognized for their efforts. They need to know that there’s a huge community of people rallying behind them who appreciate their work.

Golda Awards

That’s exactly why on June 1, our organization held The Second Annual Golda Awards, recognizing excellence in student advocacy. The goal was not simply to give credit where it’s due, but to show our community that these students are on the frontlines against antisemitism today. They deserve our moral support so they can continue to play their critical role.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was fairly obvious that our Hasbara student leaders were tired and unmotivated. The Golda Awards was our response to that dilemma, to energize and excite our students to continue their important work in support of Am Yisrael.

Held at a newly opened venue in midtown Toronto, the event attracted more than 200 attendees, including high school and university student award recipients, their parents, friends and supporters of Hasbara Canada. It was hosted by Toronto’s entertainment gurus Jian and Page Magen, a.k.a. The Magen Boys.

Named after Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, The Golda Awards is a testament to her dedication and vision. She had no shortage of worthy quotes and soundbites but there was one referenced throughout the evening that truly personified the impact these students have on campus: “Nothing in life just happens.”

Students were honored with awards such as “The Zionist & Proud Award”, “The Peace & Prosperity Award”, and “The Am Yisrael Chai Award”. The awards featured miniature Golda Meir figurines emblazoned with their names and were presented by some of Canada’s biggest philanthropists and community activists. Guests enjoyed catered Israeli food, a replica of an Israeli shuk, custom cocktails and were able to bid on customized paintings of Golda Meir, created live by an array of top artists.

Ysabella Hazan, a Hasbara Canada alumna, and a leading educator and activist online, served as the keynote speaker and presented “The Hasbara Award.”

Most importantly, students left feeling inspired, invigorated and motivated to advocate for Am Yisrael.

After all, fighting back against a merciless anti-Israel propaganda machine is no small task, and these students need support, encouragement, training and resources. The Golda Awards was an inspiring event, but we must support and encourage our students, the future leaders of our community, throughout the year. As long as we do that, I have no doubt that they will continue to impress us with their tenacity, determination and strength.

The writer is the executive director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada.