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Israel on Campus Coalition Hosts Star-Studded Retreat for Pro-Israel College Students

In a time when antisemitism is growing on college campuses across the U.S., ICC is working to support students and give them the information and tools they need to stand up to the hate and anti-Zionist rhetoric.
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January 18, 2024
Photo courtesy of ICC

Some of the best-known pro-Israel advocates gathered in New York City Jan. 2-5 for Israel on Campus Coalition’s ICC Geller Fellowship Retreat. The event, which is for pro-Israel students on college campuses, featured talks with actress Debra Messing, social media influencer Lizzy Savetsky, Executive Director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer, activists Hen Mazzig and Sarah Idan, author Dan Senor and Boundless Israel Founder Aviva Klompas. 

In a time when antisemitism is growing on college campuses across the U.S., ICC is working to support students and give them the information and tools they need to stand up to the hate and anti-Zionist rhetoric.

“Attending the Geller Retreat replaced those feelings of burnout and isolation with community, solidarity and renewed energy to fight for the truth.” – Luda Isakharov

“As we hit the three-month mark since the Oct. 7 attack, I have reflected on how mentally and emotionally taxing it is to advocate for Israel while simultaneously grieving and processing what is going on, and continuing obligations as college students — especially since we often find ourselves advocating and processing alone on college campuses,” said Luda Isakharov, an ICC fellow and Jewish senior at the University of Oregon. “Attending the Geller Retreat replaced those feelings of burnout and isolation with community, solidarity and renewed energy to fight for the truth.”

ICC works both Jewish and non-Jewish students who support Israel. It was at the retreat that Isakharov met the diverse group of fellows who took time out of their winter breaks to come together.

“I connected with students from completely different walks of life — Christians, Jews, students attending historically black colleges and universities, members of the LGBTQ community, progressives, conservatives, liberal arts majors and STEM majors, every unique life experience you can imagine,” she said. “Yet we all shared one thing in common: our solidarity in supporting Israel, and our commitment to fighting for the safety of Jewish and Zionist students on college campuses across the United States.”

Sessions at the ICC Geller Fellowship retreat included “The Genius of Israel with Dan Senor,” a fireside chat moderated by Klompas; “The War for Attention in the Modern Media Landscape” with former Jerusalem Post editor Avi Mayer, moderated by Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss; a dinner with Savetsky and Marty Geller, founder and chairman, Geller & Company; and a session with Messing and Mazzig called, “Going Viral – Defending Truth Online.” Neuer spoke with Jacob Baime, CEO of ICC, during a fireside chat as well. 

Photo courtesy of ICC

In his talk, Senor touched on the Abraham Accords and why he believes an alliance with Saudi Arabia could still happen if Israel wins the war.

“The reason these Arab countries wanted to partner with Israel and normalize with Israel is they saw Israel as an economic superpower in the region,” he said. “They saw Israel as a technology superpower in the world, and they saw Israel as a military and intelligence juggernaut.”

Messing spoke about going to Israel to bear witness to the destruction and offer support to her people.

“When you’re there, when you are standing in the kibbutz and you are talking to a parent who has lost their children, and you hear the stories, it just becomes so, so real,” she said. “I had the privilege of sitting down with some of the families whose loved ones are still being held hostage. It’s easy for us to forget the anguish and the excruciating pain that these families are going through every single day.”

The actress assured the fellows they are not alone in what they are feeling, and that they do have ample support. 

“There are so many people who are working behind the scenes every single day, every single hour, fighting to make campuses safer, and for making the world safer for Jews,” she said. “And if you’re feeling that you are out at sea and that you’re dealing with this alone, I just want you to know that there are people who have your back, even if you don’t experience that on a daily basis.”

George Moore, a non-Jewish senior at the University of Georgia, walked away from the retreat with new insights and, like Isakharov, enriching connections with other fellows. 

Photo courtesy of ICC

“The guest speakers and engaging dialogue opened my eyes to so many people hurting, and I was able to learn more information to make myself a more educated listener and leader on campus,” he said. 

Isaac Weiss, a Jewish junior at Ohio State, welcomed the positive energy of the retreat after what he called a “tough fall semester.” Going back to school for the spring semester, he is equipped with renewed energy and motivation to keep being proudly pro-Israel and Jewish on campus. 

“I felt an instant connection to the Geller Fellows as we learned together, shared stories from our campuses and made our own memories on the retreat,” he said. “Leaving the retreat, I felt empowered, and I now return to campus more confident in my identity and better equipped to serve my community.”

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