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by Rhonda Spivak, April 1, 2012

When I was a university student active in the Jewish Students Association, I was sent by the community to attend the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America, commonly known as the GA. It was a remarkable experience for me and probably shaped my ongoing involvement and engagement with the Jewish community and with Israel advocacy. After the conference, I began to read and learn on my own about the history of Israel and Israeli politics and started on a path of education and discovery. Conferences in New York and elsewhere that I attended with Jewish Students Network (which was then in existence and very involved in student politics and in Israel advocacy) reinforced this process. The GA and out of town conventions were an excellent way of making personal connections and networking that helped build my student resume and focussed my studies. I remember hearing Henry Kissinger speak before thousands of GA delegates in Toronto, and I can still his low frog like voice in my head. I was greatly impacted by hearing Judy Feld Carr's story of saving Syrian Jewry and have never forgotten it (.

For a kid from Winnipeg, a small community, connecting to the larger Jewish world was dynamic and exciting, and I returned to campus life more engaged than before.

When I was active on campus, Israeli's first war in Lebanon began and I remember being involved in bringing Israeli speakers to town to explain Operation Peace for Galilee. My year studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem cemented my interest in everything related to Israeli politics and the Israeli -Palestinian conflict. Being able to explore these issues with leading thinkers and scholars slaked my thirst for knowledge. When I look at the situation today on our campuses, it is clear that we have not produced students who are motivated by student politics or who are actively engaged in Israel advocacy. Winnipeg Has a CJPAC fellow, but we do not have a Jewish CJPAC fellow. The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee offers a year-long Fellowship program, an opportunity which allows politically interested and active students to engage further in Canadian politics at an intense level and also presents opportunities to connect students with pro-Israel advocacy. They have unique opportunities to meet with Members of Parliament and senior political strategists throughout the year. The Fellowship program includes a trip to Ottawa to attend a national political conference with advanced campaign training exclusively for CJPAC Fellows. It is time to ask ourselves why not?

The University of Manitoba had several students running for student council who are active supporters of Israel Apartheid Week. In fact, Bilan Arte, the new University of Manitoba Student Union president, is an ardent supporter of Israel Apartheid Week. Her election should give our community pause to reflect on how we can encourage pro-Israel students to get involved in Israel advocacy. Isn’t it time to invest strategically in our post-secondary students? We should be sending students to the GA, and give them an opportunity to experience the very best conferences in the Jewish world.

Sends students to the annual AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee) conferences in Washington, and encourage them to connect to a broader body-politic. Expose them to the leading thinkers, statesmen, and politicians who are experts in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and Middle East dynamics.

Send them to the Jerusalem Post conference in New York on April 29 this year where leading politicians, journalists and thinkers will discuss the issues facing Israel today.

Start when students are in high school, so they will become student leaders on campus. Fund them and they will come. Invest in them and they will give back.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.