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Conference encourages Israeli-American students to embrace their identity

Ohio State is set to be one of more than 30 universities in attendance at the first Mishelanu National Conference in Los Angeles this weekend.

Mishelanu, which translates to “one of us” in Hebrew, “promotes an active and strong Israeli-American community on college campuses,” according to its website.

More than 150 students from 33 campuses are scheduled to participate in the conference, which will consist of 2 1/2 days of sessions about topics facing Israelis in America and abroad, said Miriam Alpern, the chief marketing and communications officer at the Israeli American Council, which is hosting the Mishelanu conference.

“The Mishelanu program was started to provide Israeli-American college students a place where they can connect with their culture to strengthen their connections to their identities,” Alpern said. “It was started as a way to preserve their cultural identity and to provide them a home away from home.”

While there are many topics and speakers at the conference, Alpern said the main goal is to help people embrace their identity.

“The IAC was formed to not only bring our community together, but the primary driving force is to ensure the next generation preserve their Israeli backgrounds,” she said. “Most importantly, that they always continue to support the state of Israel.”

Nofar Golan, the Israel fellow at the OSU Hillel-Wexner Jewish Student Center, said she will be attending the conference and is most looking forward to hearing views from students outside of OSU.

“This conference is a great opportunity to meet more people than usual since it’s not only OSU,” Golan said. “Columbus has a very small Israeli-American community but statewide and nationwide, it’s much larger.”

Three OSU students and Golan are expected to attend the conference.

“All the speakers sound extremely interesting,” Golan said. “The thing that is most important to me is being able to hear different opinions and see how the students will react to the differences between Israeli-American communities at the different schools.”

Tomer Elias, a third-year in economics who grew up in Israel, said although he will not be able to attend the conference, he thinks the event will have an important impact on Israeli-American students at OSU.

“I think this conference, from the perspective of OSU, will give students more of an awareness that there are Israelis here,” Elias said. “I think a lot of things Israeli-related kind of get pushed aside, and that’s a big thing we’re trying to change.”

Among the speakers at the event will be Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles, David Siegel, who is set to address current events in the Middle East and beyond in the closing keynote, according to an IAC press release.

Alpern said she hopes that students come away from the conference inspired to become more involved in their communities.

“We want our community to be actively involved in the American community, giving back to the American community at large,” she said. “We want to share the love and essence of how we feel about our homeland with everyone else.”

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