The World Jewish Congress and the Israeli Consulate in New York awarded three student teams $5,000 each in grant funding for their winning proposals at the 6th annual Campus Pitch Competition, held virtually for the first time on 16 February.
During the ceremony, the winning teams - Karen Shalev from Worcester State University, Lika Torikashvili from Bennington College, and Sruli Fruchter and Deborah Coopersmith from Yeshiva University - had an opportunity to share the motivations behind their initiatives and formally accept funding to launch their projects into fruition.
The Campus Pitch Competition calls on students from across the globe to submit new and innovative campaigns, events, and programs to better their local Jewish student community. The competition historically has focused on initiatives that showcase Israel, combat BDS and antisemitism, and promote interfaith dialogue. This year, despite the restrictions introduced by the COVID- 19 pandemic, dozens of teams from countries around the world submitted powerful and meaningful new ideas, including a renewed emphasis on the importance of strengthening the Jewish community amid the physical distance caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Israel Nitzan, Acting Consul General of Israel in New York, opened the ceremony saying, “The Israeli Consulate in New York congratulates the three winners of Campus Pitch who have worked so diligently to bring an innovative approach to Israel advocacy to campus. Their work strengthens our community especially during a time when we are physically distanced from one another. We are extremely proud of their achievements thus far and are excited to see where their projects lead in the future.”
Daniel Radomski, Head of WJC Strategy and Programs, spoke of the need for renewed unity in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying "we are all in this together. We're all equal. All our zoom rectangles are the same size. And this is really how we should see it. We should see it as an opportunity to bridge, an opportunity to collaborate and that's exactly the glowing example of the three winners we have here today."
Shattering Glass Ceilings
Karen Shalev of Worcester State University presented the Shattering Glass Ceilings, provides a unique focus on the innovation and diversity that has been created in Israel. The initiative will take the form of a walk-through exhibition, addressing misinformation about Israel while displaying the true diversity within it. The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Shalev remarked, “I am so excited to put on my event, Shattering Glass Ceilings, to showcase the true diversity of Israel. This event allows nuance to be introduced into conversations about Israel while inspiring participants to shatter their own glass ceiling.”
Peace in our Schools
Lika Torikashvili Bennington College in Tbilisi, Georgia presented the Peace in Our Schools, a project aiming to teach peacebuilding to children at an early age.
Reflecting on her project, Lika said, ''I believe that in order to eradicate the root causes of antisemitism and truly promote interfaith dialogue, we need to start with educating children. That's what Peace in Our Schools is all about: working with school students in Georgia and Afghanistan and teaching them about tolerance, peace and dialogue.”
Jewish Forum for Dialogue
Sruli Fruchter and Deborah Coopersmith from Yeshiva University presented the Jewish Forum for Dialogue, an apolitical, bipartisan, and student-led think tank that fosters healthy machloket (debate) between Jewish students on pressing questions facing world Jewry. Reflecting on their winning proposal, Coopersmith and Fruchter, said, “The Jewish Forum for Dialogue think tank seeks to create a space where Jewish students can tackle the pressing questions facing world Jewry. At the Jewish Forum for Dialogue, everyone learns from, listens to, and challenges one another, creating an environment with passionate, high-caliber, and respectful machloket.”
To read more about the winners of the 2021 Campus Pitch Competition click here.