Over 150 Jewish college students and 30 on-campus professionals recently gathered in Miami for the 2012 Young Zionist Leadership Conference.
The unique initiative, sponsored by the World Zionist Organization, brought together campus activists from across North America for three days of Zionist programming, leadership training, and professional development. The young leaders were given the opportunity to discuss Zionism, debate its relevance, and express and challenge their ideas of what it means to be a Zionist in North America.
Representatives from a variety of Hillels, pro-Israel organizations, and Jewish and Zionist youth movements came together for three days of educational seminars, hands-on workshops and incredible speakers.
The young leaders who attended the conference told Arutz Sheva that they were very happy to attend and not just network with other young Jews, but also to teach them what they’ve learned and to learn from them.
“I am here both to network and meet with Jewish students, but also to reconnect to the idea of Zionism and the passion around Zionism and hopefully learn some things that I can take back to campus to work with my students,” said Avital Kranz, southeast campus coordinator of the David Project.
Dana Mandler from HaShomer HaTzair USA said, “Often in New York, where I come from, we aren’t given the opportunity to express our Zionism, and also we don’t have many spaces to engage in dialogue with people who have opposing opinions, to engage with other youth at all.”
She added, “This is really the first time I’ve felt that I’ve been given the space to challenge my beliefs and to challenge the beliefs of people who also feel connected to Israel, who feel that Zionism is a huge part of their identity.”
One of the most touching moments of the conference was when the 150 young Americans who attended gathered to sing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, on the beach.