July 25, 2024
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Summer Saban Builds the Next Generation of AIPAC Leaders

Having an Israel advocacy club in high school is critical to help combat anti-Zionism nationwide. By starting at a younger age, teens can go off to college prepared with the tools they need to protect and defend Israel. In yeshiva high school, they can get involved simply through the myriad of opportunities AIPAC offers, most of which are catered to students. From July 7-10, AIPAC hosted Summer Saban, the bi-annual Saban Leadership Seminar for high school and college students in Washington, D.C. to train the next generation of advocates. I was lucky to be selected, along with three other students, to be part of the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (Kushner) delegation attending, and was able to experience a unique educational opportunity. AIPAC’s Saban leadership development programs teach important skills to leaders on school campuses, which cultivate their ambition and motivation to bring those lessons back to their respective schools so they can apply them efficiently.

The first program of this year’s AIPAC Summer Saban educated the students about how to be a strong lobbyist, which is a main mission of AIPAC. The key to lobbying, we were taught, is to build a personal connection to the representative, and maintain that relationship in the future. When meeting with a member of Congress, it is critical to find a unique way to stand out. For us, that would include sharing why our connection to Israel is personal, thereby hopefully making it important to our government. As students, our impact on Congress is substantial. Because we are not of voting age, the sincerity of our concerns is clear to them. AIPAC trained us to use our leverage as campus leaders to make personal connections to our representatives by working on a campaign, getting an internship or involving our school’s student body.

AIPAC knows how important it is to remind student activists, who are coming of age in partisan times, that bipartisan support for Israel is crucial. A speaker noted that the political pendulum constantly swings back and forth, and our goal is to be on both sides. To me, this lesson stood out because it genuinely put the politics aside, and united every student there in support of the sole reason for our presence at the conference: the U.S.-Israel relationship.

By training young political advocates in D.C., Summer Saban inspires mobilization initiatives to bring back to campus, including lobbying district offices, creating semester plans and forming a student cadre for our AIPAC clubs. During a session, they showed us that by simply going to AIPAC.org on our phones, one click of a button can send an email to our representatives, thereby taking action in a simple yet effective way. Our Kushner delegation sought to add that to our weekly meetings at school, because the entire purpose of our club is to enable direct positive change to the U.S.-Israel relationship, and I firmly believe AIPAC provides us with the means to do so.

Having been a part of the largest student delegation in the country at the AIPAC Policy Conference, I feel grateful to Kushner for the opportunities I have already received. Because of these, there were certain sessions, such as how to recruit a large club, which were unnecessary for us, giving us the chance to formulate a detailed plan for the 2019-2020 school year.

Through the vigorous education on American-Israeli affairs we received at Saban, we are better able to advocate for Israel using intuitive and respectful dialogue, debate and engagement. Among other things, the students received a briefing on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on and off campus, the Israeli political system and its elections and Iran’s nuclear program. We are now armed with appropriate knowledge that we can use as a means of power, because ultimately, the greatest weapons we have are the facts.

Over the years, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have become intertwined, and are often viewed as a singular issue. With correlative problems comes correlative solutions and student activism is an essential effort in combating both.

By Hannah Kirsch


Hannah Kirsch is a rising senior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston and a summer intern at The Jewish Link.

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