The Impact of Israel Inspires: Over Ten Years Later
By Stephanie Schwartz ‘04
It is hard to believe that Israel Inspires began 11 years ago this summer. At the time, it was impossible to imagine that something so small and so local would have such a broad impact and garner so much support. But as plans moved forward, it became clear that Israel Inspires was different: we hired a media consultant, developed a logo and created
t-shirts, and discussed plans to build a sukkah on top of a hotel roof.
In the summer of 2003, I was a rising Douglass College senior. I stayed on campus that summer to assist with Douglass orientation activities and intern at the Eagleton Institute. It started out like any regular summer – students moved off campus and the pace slowed. But very quickly it became clear that it would be no ordinary summer.
One day after my internship, I popped over to Rutgers Hillel to discuss the ongoing tide of anti-Israel activity on campus. Some of the activity centered on the Douglass campus and I was in the thick of it. I can’t remember the specific catalyst, but before I knew it, a group of students began to hold daily closed-door meetings with the Rutgers Hillel staff. Just like that, Israel Inspires was born. At first it was an ambitious campus event, but it quickly took off and garnered national attention.
I did not realize it at the time, but my experience with Israel Inspires had a tremendous impact on my life. Being involved during my senior year cemented my passion for Israel advocacy. After graduation, I moved to Washington, DC to focus on Israel advocacy, first at the Hillel International Center and then at AIPAC, where I spent 6 years managing fundraising and grassroots activity in the Washington area. My college boyfriend and fellow Israel Inspires coordinator joined me in Washington and we were married several years later. In hindsight, my career path and personal life were shaped by the events of that summer and everything that followed. I will always remember that time on campus – the excitement, the challenges, and ultimately, the impact.
Stephanie and the Israel Inspires Team ’04 will be honored at the Rutgers Hillel Annual Gala on Tuesday, June 17th. Rutgers Hillel is proud to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leadership and the Israel Inspires Team ’04 is a true testament to that.