For three days, from November 6-8, twenty-seven college students and young professionals from across North America gathered at the General Assembly of United Jewish Federations of North America to discuss journalism, Israel, Zionism, and how to communicate their passions for each in an effective manner. The students were attending the 22nd annual Do The Write Thing (DTWT) seminar, a leadership track held during the JFNA GA, sponsored by the American Zionist Movement and the World Zionist Organization. The attendees were selected from an applicant pool that included undergraduate student activists, young Zionist leaders, and aspiring journalists. The elite group assembled represented each of these groups, all of whom came together to participate in workshops, listen to speakers, and gain professional experience while enjoying the experience of attending the GA.
The Do The Write Thing curriculum is broad and varied. Sessions that participants attended included workshops on effective uses of social media, Zionist history and identity, and the ins and outs of reporting and interviewing. There were also special opportunities and unique experiences that participants were able to enjoy as a benefit of being a part of this unique leadership track. In addition to attending the mainstream GA plenary sessions and breakout sessions, Do The Write Thing participants had exclusive sessions with noted leaders in the Zionist community, including Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky and Col.(res) Miri Eisin, the Israeli government’s spokesperson during the Second Lebanon War. Eisin was able to share her experiences working with the press as a representative of the State of Israel, and discussed the challenges that she faced making the case for Israel to the global media. She was also able to explain some of the intricacies that go into Israel’s media image, noting that the broad scope of Israeli public opinion is mirrored in the number of different, sometimes contradictory statements coming from different members of the Israeli government. While for many this confusion might be seen as a detriment, Eisin emphasized the beauty of Israeli diversity of thought and freedom of speech, allowing for such open dialogue and discourse.
Do The Write Thing participants were able to participate in dialogues themselves, discussing topics relating to Zionism, Jewish identity, and Israeli policy. Notably, young professional attendees had the opportunity to attend a cocktail party with Aluf Benn, the new editor-in-chief of Haaretz. After hearing him speak, they had the
opportunity to meet with him and have their questions about the current state of affairs in Israel answered. This, coupled with the opportunity to hear Ambassadors Michael Oren and Dan Shapiro address the GA from the front row of a plenary session, served as highlights of the experience for many of the participants.
Do The Write Thing brought together a diverse group of activists and leaders. In addition to benefiting from the high quality of speakers brought in to address them and the networking opportunities provided, participants had the opportunity to learn from their peers, with more experienced writers mentoring emerging leaders in the field and open discussion about how to appropriately and effectively combine passions for writing and Israel. This discussion will take on immediate importance as participants return to their home communities and bring the skills that they learned to the field, by writing for local and community publications, as well as the ViZions of Zionism blog. The American Zionist Movement and the World Zionist Organization provided the attendees with an amazing opportunity to attend one of the key gatherings of North American Jews, the GA, and put together educational programming and training that made the experience one whose effects will assuredly reverberate long after the closing session.