Empowering Students to Stand Up for Israel

Tags: Federation, Video, Campaign

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My name is Nicolle Simonovic. I go to John Carroll University and I am one of the co-chairs of the college campaign.

It’s been inspiring to reach out to other college students and talk to them about something we don’t really think about much – philanthropy.

I reached out to someone who was on his gap year in Israel – we knew each other from high school even though we were four years apart. I sent him a note on Facebook and he quickly replied saying he’d love to pledge. Then, he thanked me for what I was doing. He reinforced that what we are doing is for all of us.

I didn’t expect to be thanked.

My interest in reaching out, asking other college students to get involved and give to the Campaign for Jewish Needs, it started over the summer when I was a Cleveland Hillel Intern at the Federation. I realized, this is not just about creating a strong Jewish Cleveland, but also about a strong Cleveland, a strong Israel, a strong everywhere!

Being a campaigner was a way for me to make a difference for our whole community. I am an example of a lot of the work the Federation supports. Of any agency, I can give you an example of how the Federation had an effect on someone in my family.

K-12 I went to Mizrachi. I worked with the Jewish Education Center at Agnon, now the Mandel Jewish Day School. I intern with JFSA's YouthAbility program. And, JFSA provided support for my grandparents, who are Holocaust survivors. At different times, they received care at both Montefiore and Menorah Park.

And I would not have felt support on campus without Hillel.

On my campus, I have a supportive group of people who understand me. And, I am grateful.

There have been incidents on campus. People say things. Anti-Israel, anti-Semitic things. And we turn to Hillel and they help us.

There was one time when a student started yelling at me, really attacking me about Israel. I just stood there, I couldn't respond. There was nothing to say.

I knew what to do in that situation because I was prepared for it. I had been to an Israel advocacy workshop with the former Deputy Consul General of Israel, Elad Strohmayer.

What I learned from him, and from sessions with Federation’s Community Relations Committee, is that this is where the resources are for me – and other students like me.

We can prepare ourselves, so we know what to do and how to handle threatening situations on our college campuses. I want to say thanks for providing that.

It’s our campaign dollars that go to these kinds of programs that are helping students like me feel safe. These programs empower me to stand up for Israel and for the Jewish people.

I know it’s not always going to be easy for Jewish students. My research work as a psychology major is on anti-Semitism on college campuses. I understand what we are facing.

This is a time when we are building our identity. It’s critical that we feel safe to express and explore ourselves.

It takes each one of us, each individual person, to help keep our future strong. And I try to contribute to that because I am excited for the future.

There’s a lot to be excited about.

Stories like Nicolle's are made possible by your generosity to the Campaign for Jewish Needs. Join us as we aspire to leave no community member behind in Cleveland, Israel, and 70 Countries around the globe. Donate today.

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Learn More: Federation, Video, Campaign