Rising antisemitism after the October 7 attacks in Israel was the impetus for United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Konikoff Center for Learning and Jewish Community Relations Council to organize Empowering Students, a three-part series designed to help participants navigate misinformation and address antisemitism, particularly on high school and college campuses.
Mark Rotenberg, vice president for University Initiatives and General Counsel at Hillel International, started the series by addressing rising antisemitism and misinformation, focusing on college campuses. Rotenberg emphasized proactive measures to create safe and supportive environments for students. Through programs such as Hillel International’s Climate Initiative, attendees were encouraged to contribute to fostering positive change within their communities.
Mike Goldsmith, Regional Security Advisor for Tidewater’s Secure Community Network (SCN), shared strategies for enhancing personal safety through a Be Aware training. Goldsmith provided students practical tools and resources to stay informed and safe.
The series concluded with an online presentation by Ambassador Brad Gordon, a seasoned expert in Middle East affairs. Ambassador Gordon gave students a comprehensive overview of Israel’s history in a fast-paced hour, including insights into the geopolitical landscape, helping attendees gain a deeper understanding of the historical context leading up to the war between Israel and Hamas, empowering them to engage with these complex issues with confidence.
“The Empowering Students series was an extremely important part of my winter break,” says Danial Watts, a junior at Virginia Tech. “After a semester experiencing and hearing about increased antisemitism, this series was the perfect thing to be a part of. Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of the history of Israel, the region, and the conflict, I also gained valuable skills and knowledge to combat antisemitism and educate others on my campus. I hope to be a part of more events like this in the future!”
Ambassador Gordon will be in Tidewater as a part of UJFT’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Simon Family JCC, and community partners’ Israel Today series on Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30 pm. “Beyond the Headlines: From the Warfront in Gaza to the Frontlines on Capitol Hill” will address the most pressing issues facing Israel’s security and American Jews’ critical role. Learn more or register at JewishVA.org/IsraelToday.
To access some of the resources shared with students during the Empowering Students series, visit JewishVA.org/EmpoweringStudents.