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Jerusalem Fellowship Trains Students to Foster Jewish Community, Confront Campus Antisemitism

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Since October 7th, many U.S. college campuses have become dangerous places for Jewish students.

One organization in Jerusalem is preparing a new generation to stand up for their faith and stand against antisemitism.

At Hebrew University recently, several young Jewish men about to attend college in the U.S. celebrated as they took a prize for the best proposal to promote Jewish life in a program modeled after the hit series, Shark Tank, sponsored by the Nitzavim Fellowship.

The competing students, young men, and women, spent a gap year in Israel between high school and university.

Aiden Malkin, who was with the winning group, will attend the University of Maryland.

He told CBN News, "Our aim is to involve Jews who just aren't really connected with the Jewish community at Maryland."

Student Lea Septimus also competed with a different project. She told us, "My project, 'Soup for the Soul,' was about broadening the Jewish community by showing that we're really inviting and caring. We take care of one another. Even outside the Jewish community. We're taking care of you."

The competition culminated in the program by Nitzavim Fellowship. Mark Sanders with the fellowship explained, "The word 'Nitzav' in Hebrew actually means, stable, really fixed, solid. So, we're here celebrating the completion of a course of advocacy and Jewish leadership skills."

Sanders added, "So, we have 80 students that are going back in the fall to 30 different secular campuses, and their objective – and they're targeted and they're ready, and their plan is not just to be Jewish students. They're here to be Jewish student leaders, and they've all come up with some kind of a way to make a meaningful difference in Jewish life, Jewish learning, Jewish identity on campus."

Former Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum supports the project and was on hand for the competition.

She told us, "It's just a very wonderful thing when you think that these students are here on their gap years. They know what's raging in America, which is a whole lot of antisemitism on campus. 

Hassan-Nahoum continued, "And so, this organization has invited these students to come up with innovative ideas to try and go back to college, go to college, and combat antisemitism – create more community for them to feel safer. I think it's incredibly creative. It's sad that they need to think this way, but this is where we are."  

The violent anti-Jewish demonstrations worldwide, where Jews on campus were physically threatened and heard shouted slogans such as "Long live Intifada!" and "Genocide!", are not lost on the competitors preparing for university life.

Rabbi Adi Isaacs founded Nitzavim Fellowship to empower gap year students to grow in confidence and inspire change on their campuses.

"Tonight was really amazing, (an) unbelievable celebration of students that are here in Israel about to go to college campuses next year," he stated. "We know what college campuses are like in America in antisemitism, anti-Israel sentiments.  But these students just seeing them after a full year of getting ready to go onto college campus and celebrate together of their accomplishments and their passion, it's unbelievable."

Natanya Greif, the director of the fellowship noted, "They know that they're not facing an easy battle.  We tell them that there's a battle going (on) in Israel and there's also a battle on college campuses and it's very different. We encourage them to stay. But if they do go, they need the tools to do so. They need the proper tools to stand up for Israel – to be a strong ambassador for Israel, for the Jewish people, to just be united, Jews together on campus."

The tools taught and practiced are very timely.   

Greif explained, "We've been starting something recently is starting off every class spewing out things we've seen trending on social media: 'Israel is baby killers,' 'Israel is committing genocide,' or 'white colonists,' and breaking down each claim and how to respond. If someone walks by you in class and yells that in your face, how do you respond?  When to have a conversation.  When not to have a conversation. Simple things like that."

Kayla Kupietzky, who is headed to Columbia University in New York City, says the program prepared her for her next semester.

 "I'm just very grateful for Netzavim," she told us. "When I started and heard about this program, I knew that there would be antisemitism in college and I knew that going to a secular college was going to be hard. But I never thought something like October 7th would happen and all the more so is Netzavim important. Now I have a cohort of students not only at Barnard and Columbia with me, but colleges all around America who will be there for me if I have any questions or need any support, and will always be there to work together to combat antisemitism and bring more Jews closer to Judaism."
Aleeza Ben Shalom, the Jewish Matchmaker seen on Netflix, served as one of the four judges.  

She declared, "I was very impressed and it was so much fun. I love this. I love I love energy. I love ideas. I love inspiration. I love that students want to make a difference and they have an idea that they're going to follow. That to me, that's the golden nugget. Like, if you know who you are and you know what you want, you can chase it and make it happen."

 As these students head off to a potential lion's den this fall, they too, like Daniel of old, can look to the God of Israel to sustain them.

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CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world. Chris first began reporting on the Middle East in the mid-1990s. He repeatedly traveled there to report on the religious and political issues facing Israel and the surrounding Arab states. One of his more significant reports focused on the emigration of persecuted Christians