Speaking Up for Israel

American Jewish Committee Partners with Lander College for Women to Train Students in Advocacy

February 22, 2024
LCW student government president Talya Stauber, talking to NYC Councilman Eric Dinowitz at a table with AJC logo in the background
Talya Stauber, student government president at Touro’s Lander College for Women, speaks with Eric Dinowitz, NYC Councilman, at Advocacy Day

The program is the brainchild of Lander College for Women Dean Marian Stoltz-Loike, and Dr. Laura Shaw Frank and Dr. Alexandra Herzog of the AJC. Together, they recognized that although students are in a safe, supportive environment within the Touro LCW community, they are certain to encounter people who have questions about Israel and others who espouse anti-Israel and antisemitic views, whether in the professional world, in their personal relationships or on social media.

Students needed to be trained in how to respond to false narratives, misleading statistics and hateful rhetoric. “The last few months have underscored the need for Jewish leaders who can communicate clearly, articulately and effectively regarding Israel and the Jewish community,” Dean Stoltz-Loike said. “This unique AJC-LCW advocacy program provides our students with the advocacy skills they need as future Jewish leaders in their communities and beyond.”

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the program is that it was launched at the start of the 2022-23 fall semester, more than a year before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“A number of students assumed that it was created to combat the anti-Israel sentiment that has emerged since the start of the war,” according to LCW Director of Fellowships Dr. Julie Golding, who oversees the program. “It wasn’t on everyone’s radar last year, but now everybody understands why it’s so important. We don’t have to sell it to anybody.”

College Students Learn Basics of Advocacy and Diplomacy and Then Train High Schoolers

This year, there are a dozen students in the program, which is broken into three phases: The first is during the fall semester, when senior AJC staff members teach the students basic advocacy and diplomacy skills. The students learn best practices for communicating with friends, coworkers and neighbors on issues related to Israel and the Jewish community, as well as how to reach out to elected officials. The second phase, which will begin in the next few weeks, is for the students to turn around and impart the skills they have learned to 11th-graders from local yeshiva high schools, over the course of three training sessions.

“One of our main goals is to guide the Touro students to be able to mentor and educate the high schoolers,” said Dr. Shaw Frank, director of the AJC’s William Petschek Contemporary Jewish Life Department. “This adds another level to their advocacy education.”

The final phase will be later in the spring, when the students from LCW and yeshiva high schools will come together for a joint Advocacy Day and meet with foreign diplomats, elected officials and AJC leadership to learn about the challenges they face and to practice their new skills and learn how they can be most effective in supporting the Jewish community. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering for the second year in a row with Lander College for Women at Touro University,” said Dr. Herzog, who serves as the deputy director of the department. “In this particularly crucial time, we must equip young Jews to counter antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric with knowledge, advocacy skills and renewed Jewish pride rooted in Jewish values. By investing in Orthodox women and girls, we ensure a diverse and robust future for Jewish advocacy.”

Antisemitism on Social Media

One point that the AJC staff emphasized during the training sessions: Don’t respond to virulent posts or comments online or on social media. “If somebody posts something antisemitic, just don’t answer that, don’t attack them directly online,” according to Chaya Nessa Krycer, an LCW Honors student, who is part of the program. “Because talking to people when you don’t know who they are and they don’t know you, you’re never going to convince them and it’s not going to be a productive discussion. It’s better to talk face-to-face.”

At the end of the day, for Chaya Nessa at least, the skills they are learning in the program will be beneficial to Israel and Jewish causes long after the conflict is over.

“With the war going on, we have a tangible subject to focus on for our advocacy, and that’s what we’ve been working on so far,” she said. “But it’s really about how you advocate for your beliefs, whatever they may be, without making other people get defensive or feel silenced. That’s how you get people to consider what you have to say.”

And for Dean Stoltz-Loike, this training is an essential part of her students’ education. “Most of our student realize they’ll be encountering many different perspectives when they leave Touro, and those who’ve had this advocacy training will be well-positioned to interact effectively, thoughtfully and respectfully.”