I have enjoyed reading about the work the J street does. I think that they fill an important role. I also think that they are a new organization working to solidify their goals and ideals.
As a board member of the J Street U program, I can say that the brand new organization is very exciting and has tremendous potential for creating change. I began working with J Street U staff and resources when it was not J Street U yet, but the UPZ--a similar organization which provided resources and networking to campus groups advocating for Middle East peace. Through the UPZ, I brought to my campus excellent speakers from all over the country, as well as from Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. I also was able to include my campus in the national "We Can't Wait" (for Middle East peace) campaign, which was very successful. When the UPZ became the campus branch of J Street, it brought along all its resources, connections, and established campus groups. Combined with the existing breadth and growing influence of J Street, J Street U has been able to provide even more for students who want to both educate and advocate autonomously on their individual campuses AND be part of a broader movement to create real change. So far, J Street U has been a huge success, with more resources and campus groups than when it was the UPZ...and with excellent guidance and encouragement from J Street. J Street U is still in the process of defining itself as both a part of J Street and a student-led movement, but again, J Street is providing the guidance and encouragement we need.
My name is Noa Baum, I travel all over the country and perform in many universities with a show that aims at introducing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through personal narrative. Everywhere I go I meet young people who feel there is no place on campuses for their voice - people who love Israel but want to see another future. who feel being pro-Israel means also being Pro-Palestinian. They are looking for a place where they can learn but also express their concerns, questions and doubts without being labeled "anti-Israel". J street and it's fabulous education fund are stepping in to fill this need. I had the privilege of presenting at the J street conference and meeting many of the wonderful staff and volunteers. What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is the energy and dedication of everyone involved. the staff that I met were incredibly knowledgeable and extremely competent. It was inspiring to see them in action. I know that if this organization gets more financial support their impact would be greater. They could engage thousands more students in this cause, train more student leaders, provide countless educational opportunities, run free or reduced rate trips to Israel and Palestine, and more! The J street Education Fund is a much needed ray of hope that can support a just and sustainable peace in Israel/Palestine.
My name is Aimee Mayer and I am one of the members of J Street U's National Student Board. I have been fortunate enough to work with J Street U since the very beginning. J Street U as an organization seeks to provide a strong new voice to the debate about Israel and the Middle East. Its inclusiveness and willingness to engage with people of a wide variety of backgrounds is incredible and refreshing. As a board member, I have personally seen how student run it really is. All important decisions are completely based on student needs and student input. The policy statements and mission statement are written by the Student Board. It really is an organization for us and by us. Every student, not just the board, is asked to give feedback, suggestions, and policy input through a variety of means (conference calls, notecards or post-its during conferences, emails, etc). On individual campuses, J Street U does fantastic work, and individual groups can count on the support and advise of J Street U staff in planning their events, trying to secure funding, and more. Events cover a wide range of topics. At the University of Maryland, where I am President of J Street U, we just ran an event called "Of War and Water" which discussed the water crisis in the Middle East, how climate change may exacerbate this, current cooperation efforts surrounding water amongst Israelis and Palestinians (as well as other countries in the region), and the outlook going forward. Earlier in the year, we had a Party for Peace, which in addition to great music and food, featured OneVoice activists from Israel and Palestine who spoke with students about their experiences and peace education and advocacy work in Israel and Palestine.
When I heard about J Street, I knew that it was a breakthrough organization with a much needed message. As a young Jewish activist on Arab-Israeli issues, and a student of peace and conflict resolution, I had previously felt that my perspective was not being represented by other Jewish institutions. While I was advocating for looking at the conflict critically and reaching out to dialogue with all parties to develop a nuanced understanding, everywhere else I looked I saw only polarization. From personal experience, I have found that J Street has created a surge in interest and participation among my Jewish friends and peers who previously felt disconnected. At the J Street conference I have had the privilege to see the 250 youth from dozens of campuses who came to support J Street’s call for a new approach. They were excited to be there, really excited. Finally – seemed to be the sentiment echoed over and over – finally, after so much polarization and no progress, there is a movement that we can be a part of, a space where we can have a real dialogue and take effective action in pursuance of the goal everyone says they want – peace. It is through a movement like this, that has the best interest of Israel at heart and that opens the conversation, that we can finally make progress in the efforts toward a resolution. I am very proud to be a part of J Street and J Street U and I expect they will make be making a great impact on the way we view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am confident it will be a positive one.
J Street has been a breath of fresh air when it comes to Israel's relations with the US and the middle east. I helped them prepare for their conference doing menial tasks, however it gave me an insight into how hard everyone there works and how passionate they are about making clear J Street's goals to the public. I was impressed by the speaker diversity and notoriety they secured for the conference, as well as the high attendance and all with a limited staff. I followed the conference via streaming coverage on the web. The conference gave a feeling of hope about the future of the middle east after seeing J Street's solidarity with President Obama's views in that region. J Street is mobilizing the public, giving us a megaphone so we can compete with the conservative Israel lobby that has too long controlled policy on Capitol Hill.
I support Jewish values that teach us to love the stranger and oppose oppression. The security and strength of Israel is tied to the well-being and healing of Palestine, and I am delighted to support an organization that recognizes this interconnection. J Street, in its promotion of peace, justice and a two state solution to the conflict, is such an organization.
Suddenly, a bright spot appears on the Jewish political front in America. One that perfectly captures my love of and concern for the future of Israel, yet one that realizes that Israel's future is most secure without the occupation and as a democratic Jewish state. J-Street and their educational arm is doing crucial work for the future of Israel and for the Jewish community of the United States.
Having interned with J Street this past summer and currently organzing a J Street group on campus, I have been able to see the growth of the J Street Education Fund from a seedling to a vibrant, relevant, and useful campus organization. Participating in the student portion of the J Street Conference this past October, I was able to see the hundreds of students passionate about the pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda, and how successful they have been in programing, education, and advocacy of this narrative with the help of J Street Education Fund on their campus. Considering how nre this organization is, I am impressed by its wisom regarding how to deal with opposing and complementary groups on campus, how to talk about our narrative to other students, and how to organize useful events and a well-functioning chapter. I am proud to say that I am working with others on my campus to make my college a powerful node in J Street U's network, a networking which provides students like myself with hope for a better Israel.
Working at J Street was an incredible experience. The level of commitment across the organization to helping Israel find peace was astounding. Additionally, everyone on staff-from Jeremy Ben-Ami down-was personable and made an effort to know everyone there. This made for a great working environment, and I personally believe is related to the tremendous success this organization has had over the last 19 months.