StandWithUs has announced the 2021-22 Kenneth Leventhal High School Interns and Emerson Fellows.
The Kenneth Leventhal Interns are: Benjamin Rosenfeld, junior from the Catlin Gabel school; Mazzi Katzen, senior, Lakeridge High School and Suretta Plawner, a senior at St. Mary’s Academy.
Sophomore Rayna Davis is the Emerson Fellow at the University of Oregon.
150 students were selected in each program from 150 schools throughout North America.
Created in 2012, the internship selects and trains student leaders from high schools throughout North America to educate about Israel at their schools and to combat antisemitism.
During the two-semester program, Leventhal Interns, who are juniors and seniors, identify the educational needs at their schools as they pertain to Israel and to antisemitism, whether they are rooted in misinformation or disinformation, ignorance or outright hatred. Then, working with their StandWithUs regional high school coordinator, they develop a vision to meet those needs through relevant and practical educational programming.
Founded in 2007, the year-long fellowship recruits, trains, educates, and inspires pro-Israel student leaders on campuses throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil. They form a network of pro-Israel student leaders who inspire their peers and collaborate with other student communities to run effective educational events about Israel and combat anti-Israel campaigns and rhetoric.
Students in both programs attended a virtual training conference in August and will participate in StandWithUs “International Conference: Israel in Focus” in January.
Aviv Attia continues as the StandWithUs Northwest high school speaker and Matthew Levin is the Northwest senior campus coordinator. Randy Kessler is StandWithUs Northwest executive director.
Mazzi Katzen hopes to “use the resources and knowledge that StandWithUs has provided me to make a difference in my local community by teaching others what I have learned and combat any hate or antisemitism that arises.”
Suretta Plawner joined because, “I felt overwhelmed by all of the conflicting opinions about Israel being pushed at me. I wanted to explore my personal connection with the country in a supportive environment. This program is a unique experience to gain skills to combat antisemitism and meet other Jewish teens across the nation.”
Benjamin Rosenfeld offers that when he first visited Israel with his family, “I came away with a deep appreciation for the culture and I learned a great deal about Judaism and the history of Israel. Back in Portland, I became more aware of anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric, including on social media. I knew the internship would be perfect for me, because it would help me improve my Israel knowledge, teach others in my community, and combat antisemitism.”
Rayna Davis experienced much antisemitism when she switched from a Jewish day school to a public one. “I hated the feeling of being isolated and attacked for being proud of who I was and for sticking up for my homeland,” she recalls. “I joined the fellowship with the hope of educating others about Israel and antisemitism, thereby making a difference in the way people feel about Israel and the Jewish people. This has always been a huge passion, and I felt the fellowship was a perfect opportunity to grow, learn, and make a difference.”
Her overall goal is to “raise awareness of the issues surrounding Israel and antisemitism on campus. I would love to start open monthly discussions where people can come and learn and talk because I feel a huge issue is that people don’t listen to each other.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs observed that, “while historically Jewish teens were motivated to join the internship because of their desire to learn about Israel, the additional motivation for the 2021 – 2022 class is the intensified challenge of antisemitism in local communities and across North America. We believe this is a reflection of current events, and also, sadly, the nature of rising antisemitism on social media.”