Shalhevet AIPAC Delegation to double in 2018 thanks to scholarships


Katia Surpin

PANEL: Students in the AIPAC fellowship program heard from parents Steven Kupferman, Joseph Englanoff and Matthew Lefferman about their experiences in AIPAC and why they think it’s so important.

The number of students planning to attend the spring AIPAC trip is expected to more than double this year, from nine students last year to 20 this March, thanks to anonymous donors who are providing both full and partial scholarships to subsidize the $1,500-per-student cost.

According to Admission Director and Firehawks for Israel adviser Ms. Natalie Weiss, all 20 students have been awarded either full or partial scholarships for the trip to Washington D.C. next march.  Partial scholarships are $500 each and full scholarships are $1,500 each, she said.

“We are all thrilled that more students are going on AIPAC,” Ms. Weiss said in an email interview with the Boiling Point.

“It’s an incredible learning experience.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be at a conference with 18,000 people, the majority Jewish, who are interested in ensuring the strong partnership between the U.S. and Israel.”

She said the total amount being donated would be about $20,000.

Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal said the school had been wanting to increase AIPAC participation for some time.

“As we have been strategizing and working through these ideas, donors came forward to ask if they could support our efforts,” Rabbi Segal said in an email. “We worked with them to develop this idea more fully, and the donors were happy to sponsor it.”

To get the students ready, Shalhevet has started a 12-session course about political advocacy and AIPAC’s mission. The 10 students who are receiving a full scholarship have already started the course, which is required for them and optional for the other 10. The course meets at Shalhevet a couple Wednesdays per month through February.

Alumna Liat Distler (formerly Liat Menna, class of 2014), who was involved with Firehawks for Israel while at Shalhevet, is teaching the course. Liatt attended UCLA and is now an analyst at a mortgage bank.

“Israel advocacy really at it’s root is just being knowledgeable about what you’re talking about,” Liat said in an interview. “ As … someone who was involved in Israel advocacy on campus from the get-go of my college career, I realized there weren’t enough people like me who were really passionate about Israel.”

She said her goal would be to get Shalhevet’s students comfortable talking about issues that are discussed on campus, especially the ones that backers of Israel may not have heard discussed before.

“This is definitely a part of my advocacy — being able to pay it forward and share my experiences and learn with the students,” Liat said. “Just as much as they are in the class learning from me, I’m learning from them.”

Freshman Jack Resin hopes that through the program he will become further educated on Israel advocacy. He looks forward to learning from Liat.

“I don’t expect to be an expert by the end, but I want to be able to know what kind of arguments I am going to potentially have to go up against,” Jack said.

“It’s not a one-sided issue. I know that I’ve seen stories from one particular side and I want to see it from both sides.”

Senior Rosie Wolkind will be going this year for the first time.

“For a while I felt that Firehawks for Israel, while it’s an amazing club, hasn’t been focused as much on the advocacy education aspect,” said Rosie. “I hope that this will give me a good starting point to really use next year, wherever I’m going.”

Ms. Weiss said that the larger delegation would follow the same program as in previous years, which in the past has included visits with members of Congress.  Next year the group may go earlier, to be in Washington over Shabbat, she said.

She said hopes the scholarship program will be able to continue in future years.