Israel advocacy organization Hasbara Fellowships, which recruits and trains American and Canadian college students to become pro-Israel activists on their campuses, raised $1,000 this past summer for a soup kitchen in Sderot, a southern Israeli town often hit by rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip.
The fundraising effort went toward purchasing 30 shopping carts for the soup kitchen.
A group of approximately 75 college students training to become Hasbara fellows went on a training mission in Israel from May 22 to June 7, and, while volunteering in a soup kitchen in Sderot, one of the students felt compelled to raise money for the food program, ultimately persuading other students to give.
“When we were there, we noticed that the residents who were going to the soup kitchen were bringing with them these dilapidated carts, and many of them were elderly people,” said Atara Jacobs, community and public relations coordinator at Hasbara Fellowships. “Instead of buying one or two beers when you go out at night” the student asked other students to contribute to the cause, Jacobs said.
From June 12 to 28, a group of 45 Hasbara fellows continued the fundraising effort. After purchasing the shopping carts from a local store, the group presented them to the soup kitchen.
UCLA student Matthew Farajzadeh, Los Angeles resident Leah Naghi, who attends Brandeis University, and several other students from California were among the students on the trips who participated in the fundraising effort.
Since its inception in 2001, Hasbara Fellowships has taken 1,800 students on such trips in Israel, according to the organization’s Web site. The trips are deeply discounted, Jacobs said, but she explained that the organization is selective when choosing candidates for its program.
We “seek students who are showing Israel activism, whether they have leadership roles on Hillel or already in Israel groups, on campus,” Jacobs said. “These are really the stand-out students. It’s not typical college students who want a relatively inexpensive trip to Israel. It’s student who become leaders.”