By: Daniel Cohen
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
That saying certainly applies to pro-Israel students in the Midwest. When temperatures reached frigid negative degrees last week, students at several campuses braved the elements and went out to table for their Israel group, or the “I Vote Israel” campaign.
Ilan Sinelkinov at the University of Minnesota led tabling with five students for over two hours out on the quad in Minneapolis, while tabling was planned for Western Michigan University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At the University of Colorado-Boulder, students (wisely?) chose to table inside and avoid the cold. Slightly warmer-temperature schools like the University of Texas-Austin and Vanderbilt University also had tabling – Vanderbilt actually won the online voting competition for the “I Vote Israel” campaign.
Cold-climate tabling can lead to great rewards, because very few other students table in the harsh elements, meaning there is less competing influence for passer-bys’ attention. Also, when a cup of hot chocolate beckons, as Blue and White Forever used during tabling last year, students find it difficult to say no.
Generally speaking, it’s good to go where the most students are in order to reach the broadest audience. But while following the crowd may help for reaching a large audience, it is going to take something very creative – or brave – to really capture their attention.
Cold tabling is one way to accomplish this. For the more temperature-sensitive pro-Israel students out there, however, social media can provide a comfortable way to stand out.
Students at Northwestern University have produced a biweekly Israel update email that they send to student leaders. The email is sent to roughly 200 student leaders, and provides current updates on Middle East affairs, as well as analysis. In an effort to reach more students, they are now making plans to create a second newsletter, which will focus on positive humanitarian efforts by the Middle East’s sole democracy. This, they hope, will enable them to reach 100 more students by the end of the quarter – and provide a way for students to connect to Israel other than through a political lens. Pre-med groups, environmental groups, women’s groups, and cultural groups are all part of this new target demographic.
Meanwhile, at UT, four students are part of a new social media committee and will serve as interns for the Texans for Israel group – one will blog, one will run the Facebook page, one will run the twitter, and one will create videos (such as the University of Michigan’s “I Support UIsrael” student-created film last semester). Between the four of them, they hope, social media outreach will continue to grow.
But one of the most successful uses of social media lies once again with the University of Minnesota, whose facebook group has 645 members – a regional (and likely national) high. This enables high attendance at events, and high visibility on campus – things which make tabling in the cold worth it.
Many challenges stand in the way of a pro-Israel student and a successful semester. But through creative thinking and some Israeli grit, they can, in the immortal words of Tal Ben-Shahar, turn adversity into advantage and thrive in the desert… or frozen tundra.
Be a part of the pro-Israel renaissance – order your Israel Peace Week materials TODAY!!! Set for Feb. 25-March 15, pro-Israel students across the country will be trying to repeat their successes from last year, when over 70 campuses signed up and made Israel Peace Week – for the first time – larger than Israel Apartheid Week by a significant number!
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