Antisemitism on campus and Israel education were among the topics addressed at this year’s RISE Conference, an annual gathering for alumni of Passages Israel trips. More than 100 people from across the United States and Israel gathered near Dallas last weekend for the second annual conference, an opportunity to “re-encounter Israel,” experience spiritual growth and professional development.
Passages’ mission is to strengthen the faith of Christian college students and to equip Passages alumni to be allies to the Jewish communities on campuses around the country. According to a 2021 ADL-Hillel International survey on Campus Antisemitism, one in three Jewish college students personally experiences antisemitic hate crimes while at school, including being targeted on social media, harassment by professors and students while in class, and being excluded from campus organizations because they are Jewish. The ADL’s annual Campus Report found that 350 anti-Israel incidents were reported on college campuses across the United States during the 2021-2022 academic year. No campus has been immune from antisemitic vandalism: swastikas painted on dormitories, mezuzahs ripped off doorways, holiday decorations and sukkahs damaged and torn down, and flyers equating Birthright trips with genocide.
“The last year has seen a rise in antisemitic activity in the US, particularly on college campuses, where this type of hatred is unfortunately prevalent,” said Serene Hudson, Vice President of Israel Engagement. RISE not only provided education for individual advocacy but also a vital community that gives students courage and strengthens allyship with Jewish campus partners, Hudson explained. “We stressed the importance of speaking out against antisemitism whenever we witness it – no matter where it comes from, and gave our students the tools to do so. Examples such as expressing written support online for Jewish friends and confronting antisemitism when it appears – in our churches or among our families and friends – rather than only joining mass campaigns against celebrities in the public eye.”
Attendees heard from a range of speakers, including Passages leaders Scott Phillips, CEO, and Rivka Kidron, Passages co-founder; Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists for Israel, an advocacy organization that works to prevent the spread of antisemitism through art; devotional singer Jon Guerra; and executive coach and motivational speaker Ryan Leak. Passages also hosted three other Israel organizations, Israel on Campus Coalition, StandWithUs and CAMERA, to increase collaboration in responding to antisemitism on campus. They said the conference left them with a deeper understanding and love for Israel, renewed strength in their own faith, new friendships, and tools for their professional development.
Passages brought a total of 620 multi-denominational, ethnically diverse students from 23 universities, student groups and fraternities to Israel in 2022.