Student group aims to educate on Israel, welcomes all

Panthers for Israel, a student organization that aims to educate students about Israel, hopes to spread awareness by spreading hummus.

The group, which held a hummus and falafel meet and greet last week, hosted a seminar on Sunday — led by Gregg Roman — discussing the events of the summer in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Fifteen people attended the event in the William Pitt Union. 

“I am not here to talk about politics or different positions, or whatever you want to call it. I am here to focus on the facts,” Roman said in an introduction to the discussion, which began at 7 p.m. and lasted until 8:30 p.m.

Roman is the community relations counsel director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and has held similar seminars at 60 different college campuses from New York to Georgia. 

Roman summarized the events of this summer when tensions heightened between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian political organization, resulting in ground and air attacks from both sides and ending with military and civilian deaths.

For Meital Rosenberg, the tension over the summer increased her involvement with spreading awareness and knowledge about Israel. 

“Before, if you were Jewish and didn’t really affiliate with Israel, it wasn’t unusual because it wasn’t really on your radar,” said Rosenberg, a sophomore economics and political science major. “But now, people assume that you know about it or have some opinion about it.”

Rosenberg is the head of the political sect of Panthers for Israel, a club founded in 2013 that aims to promote education and awareness about Israel politically and culturally. According to Rosenberg, the club members want to “give people more than just what you read about in the headlines.”

“We want to make it more personal,” she said. 

Panthers for Israel remodeled itself this year. Last year, the group was two separate entities, one for cultural awareness headed by Amy Richman and one for political action, led by Rosenberg. This summer, Rosenberg and Richman collaborated to create the single Panthers for Israel club that exists now. Rosenberg said that neither of them had the ability to run the group on their own, so it made more sense to come together as one group. 

Although they will be working together, the two leaders also have separate responsibilities.

Richman, a sophomore global management major, is responsible for facilitating on-campus cultural events to connect Israel with students.  

Rosenberg said the group has a lot of events planned for the future, including a possible hookah night, Israeli dancing and Israel trivia. But Rosenberg also wants to host events with other organizations on campus.

“I hope to do collaborative events with different groups to educate people with what’s going on, and [I hope to]interact with people that aren’t Jewish — people that only see what’s given in the headlines,” Rosenberg said. 

For Dana Sufrin, a junior business major, the group has already become like family. Sufrin has attended every event.

“It was nice to have a bit of Israeli culture after being gone for the summer,” Sufrin said. “It felt like home.” 

Richman said the student body seems interested in getting involved with Israel.

“We would love to have more people get involved, Jewish or not Jewish, pro-Israel or pro-peace. We welcome you with open arms,” she said. 

Rosenberg agreed that everyone is welcome.

“We are supportive of different views and different opinions,” Rosenberg said. “We try to leave politics at the door, and instead talk about why this is important to us as individuals and as Americans.” 

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