StandWithUs (SWU), a 22-year-old international non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism, has announced the local students participating in the 2023-24 Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship and the Emerson Fellowship.
The StandWithUs High School Leventhal Interns from Connecticut are: Maya Manzotti, Glastonbury High School and Jordan Rubinfeld, Ridgefield High School.
The StandWithUs Emerson Fellows are: Sahar Tartak, Yale University and Ari Gerard at UConn.
The local student leaders join hundreds of others chosen for each program from hundreds of high schools and universities throughout North America and SWU chapters worldwide.
Both programs were created to formalize a growing network of Zionist students who proudly educate their peers about Israel and stand firmly against antisemitism. Many apply to the SWU programs because our student leaders have personally experienced antisemitism at school and/or community. As part of their program, they learn how to navigate antisemitic activity and how to mobilize others to confront these issues strategically and effectively. These leaders, together with the many alumni of both programs, share ideas and best practices, support each other and work together to make their schools and universities a better, safer, and more accepting place for Jewish and other pro-Israel students.
In 2007, StandWithUs created the year-long Emerson Fellowship, which educates and empowers both Jewish and Christian student leaders at universities around the world. Chosen from key campuses, Emerson Fellows assess their campus climate, and engage and inspire their peers through educational events, campaigns and discussions about Israel. Each year, the program trains over 200 student leaders from 150 universities in North America and over 50 in SWU chapters in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the Netherlands. SWU also has a campus fellowship of over 100 Israeli Fellows at Israeli universities. Upon graduating from the programs, Emerson Fellows become part of an alumni network where they can continue their activism after they graduate.
Recognizing that education needs to begin before students enter college, StandWithUs created the Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship in 2012. The program selects and trains more than 190 student leaders from 190 high schools throughout the United States and Canada to educate about Israel and to combat antisemitism. During the two-semester program, Leventhal Interns, who are juniors and seniors, identify the educational needs at their schools as they pertain to Israel and to antisemitism, whether they are rooted in misinformation, ignorance or outright hatred. Then, working with their StandWithUs regional high school managers, they develop a strategy to meet those needs through relevant and practical educational programming. The Internship prepares them for the challenges they may face when entering university, and many Leventhal Interns go on to become Emerson Fellows.
StandWithUs has campus and high school regional managers throughout the U.S., Canada, in Israel, the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the Netherlands. Many are alumni of the Internship and/or Fellowship. They provide guidance and support to any student who requests assistance and help them gain confidence as they meet challenges head-on.
Students in both programs attended their week-long respective conferences in August, preparing them for the school year. They learned how to identify and combat anti-Israel campaigns including utilizing the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and Center for Combating Antisemitism. They learned how to bring Holocaust programming to their schools through the newly created SWU Holocaust Education Center. One critical session explored Zionism and identity. Students learned about the importance of getting their schools/communities to adopt the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. They were taught about the tactics anti-Israel groups utilize and how to respond to lies and misinformation promoted about Israel.
Students explored the history of Israel and reviewed the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while learning how to have rich conversations about Israel and how to better use social media platforms. Students sharpened their leadership skills and met as local regions to develop their own goals for the year. They left excited and felt better prepared, with many new ideas for programming.
Emerson Fellows and Leventhal Interns will also participate in a second StandWithUs conference, “Israel in Focus,” February 29-March 3, 2024, where they will meet other SWU students and leaders from around the world. Held in Los Angeles, the conference is open to both student leaders and community members and offers a variety of tracks for participants to have their own unique, customized experience. There are breakout sessions and everyone joins the plenaries to hear from renowned experts.
Avi Posnick, executive director StandWithUs Northeast and New England states, “Jewish and pro-Israel students are facing a crisis today at their schools and in their communities as antisemitism rises. This year there was an increase on the amount of students who reported being victimized by antisemitic incidents. More students are reporting that they are made to feel isolated because of their religious or national identity. Our programs aim to give students the tools, education and support they need to confidently and fully participate in their schools and communities while proudly expressing core parts of their identity, including their Zionism. We are so proud of the commitment, leadership and love these student leaders have for Israel and the Jewish people, and the impact they are making towards a better future.”