Bringing Israel Home for college students enters fifth year — Sneak preview of film

July 14, 2014

What’s Happening

Bringing Israel Home 2013.

Bringing Israel Home 2013.

Thursday, August 14, 8 pm, Azar’s at Hilltop, in Virginia Beach — free for college students (with RSVP)

The Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater continues it support of local college students with their fifth annual program, Bringing Israel Home (formerly Sababa Sunday). Designed to educate and motivate young adults while encouraging Israel advocacy on college campuses, a bit of social is in the mix, too.

After her Birthright trip five years ago, Staci Eichelbaum started the program, which is planned by and hosted for college students—rising freshmen through seniors. Since its inception, Bringing Israel Home has partnered with several international organizations. For example, Masa Israel Journey, an agency that connects Jewish young adults (ages 18–30) to gap year, study abroad, post-college, and volunteer programs as a joint project of the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel (a constituent agency of UJFT) and its partners and the Jewish Federations of North America, of which UJFT is a member, was the first partner. Other partners have been AIPAC and The David Project as the students learned about ways to advocate for Israel and articulate their own personal narrative as to why they support a Jewish state. Each year, resources are offered so that students go to school confident that they can hold a conversation or even argue on behalf of the Jewish state.

This year, the college students have chosen to work with Jerusalem U, a film based-educational initiative that seeks to change the way the world sees Israel. Their recent original film, screened in Tidewater a number of times, Israel Inside: How A Small Nation Makes A Big Difference has succeeded in showing millions of people across the globe an uplifting, inspiring and accurate face of Israel seldom considered in main-stream media.

At the event, students will screen Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front, followed by discussion through a focus group. The film is set for release in the fall. In fact, Jerusalem U plans to use Tidewater college students’ input as they finalize edits and complete production. Students attending the event will not only walk away with tools they can use to articulate their Israel conversation, but will shape the way others view Israel and the IDF through this new film.

Beneath the Helmet documents the dramatic transformation of five Israeli paratroopers from high school graduates to defenders of the State. Looking beyond uniforms, the film explores recruits’ personal lives, dreams, fears and dilemmas, revealing the human side of Israel’s military and the inspiring young people who comprise the IDF.

Leading the focus group discussion after the film and offering first hand knowledge of Israel and great ways to be part of the conversation on campus (or even defend, if needed) will be Matt Weisbaum, managing director of Jerusalm U. Trained by Hasbara Fellowships, Weisbaum works in Florida and runs Israel advocacy workshops for high school and college students. Born and raised in the United States, Weisbaum immigrated to Israel in 2001, where he witnessed firsthand the devastating attacks on civilians during the War of Palestinian Terror. He joined Jerusalem U in 2009 to pioneer new systems for Israel education and to show the world the true, vibrant and creative face of Israel. Whether as a tour guide or as a guest lecturer, Weisbaum excels at conveying not only the facts, but also the depth and meaning of a host of Israel-related issues.

The event will provide young adult community members with a casual space to discuss matters as fun and exciting as their own experiences on Birthright, and more serious matters such as the current situation in Israel, while being able to contribute to the making of a film that will be used by many thousands of others for Israel advocacy. Students will be free to share as much or as little as they are comfortable sharing, for participation on any level is encouraged and valued.

I have been attending Bringing Israel Home since its beginning the summer before my freshman year of college. This program has helped me develop a better understanding of the conflict in Israel, reconnect with old friends from home, meet new friends and engage in interesting conversations.

Bringing Israel home has played an important role during my time as a college student as I realize that it helped me to develop my own individual connection with Israel. I’m looking forward to seeing how, in this fifth year, this great event planned by and for college students will continue to succeed and influence the lives of other young people as much as it did my own.

RSVP required by August 11 to RMancoll@ujft.org. More information can be found on www.JewishVA.org/CRC-BIH.

by Rachel Gross

Letter to the Editor